After years of unwillingness to appoint an ambitious candidate to fill a vacant seat on the governing body, the City Council may break with custom to fill the 6th Ward seat vacated by mayor Andre Sayegh.
Council members will consider whether to fill the vacancy during a special meeting on Tuesday night. Three people – former school board member Juan “Mitch” Santiago, educator Al Abdelaziz, and planning board member Jesus Castro – have expressed interest in the position.
Abdelaziz is the favorite for the appointment, according to insiders. Council president Maritza Davila hinted at his possible appointment at a public gathering last week.
Davila did not respond to a call for comment for this report.
Council vice president Michael Jackson said the council has not reached a consensus on a possible appointment.
Some have begun to push back against appointing someone who is expected to run in the November special election.
“Why are we appointing someone who is going to run? They need to appoint someone who is not going to run,” said Castro. “Those on the City Council that are pushing for one candidate don’t have any convictions.”
“That’s the rumor I got. They’re going to get him appointed,” said Santiago referring to Abdelaziz. “All the sudden you are changing the rules for this guy. This is wrong.”
Santiago pointed out the council appointed James Staton to fill the 1st Ward vacancy following Anthony Davis’ conviction. He promised not to run in the special election. Similarly, the council appointed Jane Williams-Warren mayor with the promise she would not seek the office.
He said the council has one set of standards for African-Americans – both Staton and Williams-Warren are African-American – and another set for others.
“Why is it that this guy’s exempt?” asked Santiago.
Abdelaziz hasn’t submitted a letter of intent. He has been working hard to build support for his candidacy in the November election.
Both Santiago and Castro have submitted letters. Their letters were submitted before Sayegh vacated the seat on Jun. 30, 2018.
Abdelaziz said he refrained from submitting a letter in a show of respect for Sayegh. He also noted the council hasn’t asked candidates to submit letters of intent for the vacant seat.
“I respect the council and their process,” said Abdelaziz. “If they want me to submit a letter, I’ll submit a letter.”
He said if the council picks him for the seat, he will accept it. He has Sayegh’s support for the seat.
Whomever is appointed to the seat will serve for the next four months.
Castro and Santiago want the council to either leave the seat vacant or appoint someone who won’t run in November.
Last month, former councilman Kenneth Morris objected to making an appointment by citing the council’s custom to never appoint someone who will seek the seat. Council members have argued appointing someone, who will run for the seat gives that person an unfair advantage over others during the election. He was the upholder of that rule. With his departure from the council, the governing body may skirt its own tradition.
The council is scheduled to hold a closed-door meeting at 8 p.m. tomorrow at City Hall to discuss the potential appointment.
“Why are you doing this behind closed doors?” asked Santiago.