Hours after leaving the federal court house in Newark following his guilty plea on extortion charges, Anthony Davis, 1st Ward councilman, handed in his resignation letter to the city clerk. Davis had originally stated he would depart at the end of the month.
With the 1st Ward councilman gone, now there is a vacancy in the council, which city council members can either fill or leave empty until the November 2015 elections. Because Davis’ seat became vacant after September 1st of his last year of term in office, council members have the authority to appoint someone to serve out the rest of the councilman’s unexpired term.
Some council members said they would keep the seat vacant until an election is held to decide who ought to represent the 1st Ward.
“It’s unfair to disenfranchise the voters of the 1st Ward,” said Kenneth Morris, councilman at-large. Morris said it should be the voters of the 1st Ward, who should decide, who represents them in the council, not the council members, majority of whom reside outside the 1st Ward.
“It should be someone who lives in that area [1st Ward] who decides who represents them,” said Morris.
Alex Mendez, councilman at-large, concurred with Morris. “I’d like the constituents of the 1st Ward to decide who represents them,” said Mendez. “They have the right to elect their own council member.”
It would be difficult to ensure a fair process considering the interest the rumors about Davis’ impending departure generated during the summer, said William McKoy, 3rd Ward councilman. McKoy, the longest serving council member, said the council always allowed voters to fill vacancies.
For decades, each time there has been a vacancy, the council filled them through elections. When then 1st Ward councilman Jeffery Jones decided to move to the 3rd Ward, the vacancy was filled through an election – Davis won, said Andre Sayegh, 6th Ward councilman. Sayegh further added: When Benjie Wimberly, who briefly served as a councilman, captured a state assembly seat, again the council refrained from making an appointment, rather waited on an election to fill the vacancy – Kenneth McDaniel won.
“It’s a tradition,” said Sayegh. When asked whether he would opt to make an appointment rather than keep the position vacant, Sayegh said: “I want to see what the consensus is.”
“We have to talk to the other council members, if we see a consensus we might move,” said Mohammed Akhtaruzzaman.
Council members have 30 days to decide whether to make an appointment, said Jane Williams-Warren, city clerk.
“The voters should be the ones to decide,” said McKoy.
Correction: The initial article stated that council members had 60 days to decide whether to make an appointment; the council has 30 days to make an appointment.