In a move Councilman Mervin Money said was aimed at stopping him from becoming mayor, a split City Council voted last week to require Money and his chief ally to run for reelection five months earlier than scheduled.
The mayor's position has traditionally been rotated among council members each April. The council named John Van Doren mayor last April and Money had been waging an increasingly bitter fight to keep Van Doren from serving a second consecutive term.
Van Doren has not said whether he will seek a second term as mayor, but has said that it may be better to postpone selection of a new mayor. He and two other council members voted to move up the April, 1988, council election to this November.
Because of that decision, Money and Councilman James Coughlin, the other member of the minority faction, face reelection this fall rather than in April, 1988.
Van Doren conceded that the decision "could have an effect on the issue of mayor. We could reorganize (pick a mayor) now, but November is not that far away. There is no law that says we have to reorganize every year."
Money, who had previously accused Van Doren of maneuvering to retain his post, said: "I do think it is a way of keeping me from being mayor."
But Van Doren denied the allegation, saying that the change was made only so that, from now on, council elections and school board elections can be held at the same time.
Council elections have been held in April of even years, school board elections in November of odd years. The 3-2 decision Tuesday means that both elections will be conducted in November of odd years.
Money was passed over for the mayor's position last year even though he was mayor pro tem at the time. Since he still holds the council's second position, Money has contended that he should replace Van Doren.
The tradition of rotating the mayor's position among council members was approved in a resolution Tuesday.
"We did agree that in the future the council should have a rotation system, but the mayor will still have to be elected (by the other members)," Van Doren said.
The formal rotation agreement "was a token gesture to answer Merv's concern," Van Doren said. But he added that "the system of rotation can always be broken, and I won't support Merv as mayor."
Until an upset victory last April by newcomers John Hitt and Terry Michaelis, who defeated longterm incumbents J.A. Montgomery and the late Carlyle Falkenborg, Van Doren had often been on the losing end of many key votes. Van Doren had been on the council for eight years, serving twice as mayor pro tem but never as mayor.
Van Doren, Hitt and Michaelis joined forces to become the new council majority and were able to make Van Doren mayor. Money and Coughlin have often sided in losing causes.
"John (Van Doren) was mayor pro tem twice, but the council felt he was not a team worker," Money said. "Each time he said it was not fair that he did not go on to be mayor. Now he said there is no guarantee the mayor pro tem will get the job."
Money said he resents the fact that he will not have as much time as he would like to prepare for his reelection campaign this November. He said he has not decided whether he will run for office again.
Coughlin said that a study should have been conducted before the council decided to hold the school board and council elections at the same time. "I wanted to ask the school board's opinion and consider the possibility of both elections being held in April," he said.
"I felt the issue should be analyzed and discussed, so I objected to proceeding at this time."
Coughlin said he does not know if the move was political in nature. But he is applying for the position of city attorney, which will become vacant when William Camil resigns in June. Coughlin cannot seek reelection if he gets that job.
In defending the decision to hold the elections in November, Van Doren said that ultimately each of the five councilmen will lose five months from his current term. It will just happen first to Money and Coughlin, he said.
Consolidating school board and council elections will increase voter participation, though not necessarily save money, Van Doren said.
"The important thing is getting local elections together," he said. "It is not appropriate to ask the school district what we should do."
Janet Wight, school board president, said the consensus on the board was that consolidation was a good idea.
"As far as our not being consulted, we realize that time was of the essence, and I will just leave it at that," she said.