Irvine Befuddled by Election Laws : Politics: Council can't solve a problem that would leave the mayor's job and two council positions unfilled. Attorneys are divided on how to proceed.

The so-called "gap problem" in Irvine that could leave two City Council positions unfilled for three weeks and the mayor's position open for one week remained unsolved Saturday.

The City Council had scheduled a special meeting Saturday morning to try to temporarily resolve the problem, which is caused by differing interpretations of city election laws. But because two city attorneys still disagree on what action to take, the council canceled the meeting, Mayor Larry Agran said.

The council will grapple with the problem at its July 10 council meeting, Agran said.

The problem arose Tuesday when the council was scheduled to certify the June 5 election results. Certifying the election would end the terms of council members Cameron Cosgrove and Edward A. Dornan, according to a report by M. Stephen Coontz and Franklin J. Lunding Jr., attorneys hired by the city to review the election laws.

But the wording of the law would not allow councilmen-elect Art Bloomer and Barry J. Hammond to take office until July 20, leaving a three-week gap with two members missing from the City Council.

Additionally, Agran's term expires July 12 and Sally Anne Sheridan would not take over as mayor until July 20. The matter is further complicated because Sheridan is a council member, and her taking over as mayor leaves her council seat open.

Election laws adopted by voters two years ago state that the third-highest vote-getter in the June 5 council election, Mary Ann Gaido, would take Sheridan's council seat.

Solving the uncertainties in the council elections will require that sections of the city election laws be rewritten, attorneys for the city agree.

But at last Tuesday's City Council meeting, Coontz and City Atty. Roger Grable disagreed over how best to solve the problem. The council asked the two to try to work out their differences and come up with a solution to the election-gap problem by Saturday.

The attorneys "failed to reach agreement on the issues," Agran said. Coontz and Grable are expected to meet again Monday to continue discussions, he said.

Grable had argued that council members should simply delay certifying the election until July 10, which would shorten the gap to its minimum length. But some council members argued that the council should fulfill its duty to certify the election quickly.

"I'm very uncomfortable with just putting this matter off with the hope that delaying the matter will solve it," Agran said.

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