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Anaheim Bid to Fill Council Vacancy OKd : Politics: An unsuccessful candidate still has a lawsuit pending, which could complicate the selection process. She had asked the court to halt the search for a fifth member.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A judge on Wednesday refused to order the deadlocked Anaheim City Council to halt its so-far unsuccessful and controversial efforts to fill a vacancy on the five-member council.

Superior Court Judge William F. McDonald declined to stop the council while he hears a lawsuit by candidate Shirley McCracken who is suing for the vacant seat. She was the third-place finisher in November’s council election and recently lost out in a bid for the appointment when she twice failed to win three votes on the council.

The judge has scheduled a hearing Jan. 20. This means the council, which has failed three times to reach a consensus on a candidate, is free next week to once again try and make an appointment.

“I think if the council picks someone else, they will create a bigger problem because we still have our lawsuit pending,” said McCracken’s attorney, Ronald H. Bevins.

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If the council is not able to appoint a new member by Jan. 29, they will be forced to hold a special election, which would cost an estimated $100,000 and would probably not take place until June.

McCracken is demanding that she be sworn into office as the new councilwoman because she received two votes from other council members when she was nominated for the post twice last month.

McCracken argues that two “yes” votes and an abstention cast by Councilman Bob Zemel should be enough to put her into office.

City attorneys argue that the city’s charter requires three votes to be appointed to the council.

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McCracken’s legal challenge is similar to one filed in 1989 by Cypress City Councilman Walter K. Bowman.

Bowman, who is still in office, won a court ruling ordering that he be sworn in as a member of that council. He had received two affirmative votes and one abstention when he was nominated to fill the remainder of an unexpired term. A judge voted that the abstention had to be counted as a “yes vote.”

The Cypress council did not fight that legal ruling.

It also might be difficult to find enough support on the Anaheim council to fight a legal decision if McCracken is successful in court because she was the first choice of Mayor Tom Daly and Councilman Frank Feldhaus, both of whom had previously voted that she be appointed.

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“I have conflicting emotions on this because I am a big fan of Shirley McCracken,” Daly said. “I think she would make an excellent member of the council. But there was less than a majority willing to appoint her, and there are other people I’m willing to nominate as well.”

Because it was clear that they would not be able to muster a third vote in favor of McCracken, the two supported the nomination this week of Paul Bostwick, who came in fifth in the November election. But Bostwick too received only two votes.

“I thought Shirley was a good candidate,” Feldhaus said. “But I respect the other council members and how they feel. I want to go on and try and find someone that they can go along with so we can avoid a special election and get someone on that council.”

Zemel, who had abstained when McCracken was nominated in pervious weeks, voted against Bostwick’s nomination. Zemel nominated Steve Bristol and Cheryl Perriera. Both received one vote each.

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Councilman Lou Lopez has continued to stay out of the political fray by favoring a special election.

Zemel is angry about McCracken’s legal challenge, which he contends could prevent the council from meeting the Jan. 29 deadline to select a new member or face a special election.

“Here we have this impending deadline, and for her to even try and obtain a restraining order shows she certainly has her own self-interests at heart,” Zemel said. “It just seems odd that someone so concerned about Anaheim would turn around and sue her own city.”

The vacancy that has caused a political storm in Anaheim is due to a change in the city charter, which changed the way voters elect the mayor. In the past, the mayor was elected by the public from among sitting council members and served a two-year term.

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Beginning with November’s election, the mayor was elected at-large for a four-year term. When Daly was reelected in November for the mayoral post, he was in the middle of his council-mayor term.


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