Faced with pending litigation, intense public pressure and a Jan. 29 deadline, the City Council will make its fourth attempt tonight to fill its vacant council seat.
Council members, who have repeatedly deadlocked during the past two months on who should take the fifth seat, are expected to consider some new candidates at their meeting tonight as they try to reach consensus.
While Mayor Tom Daly said he remains optimistic that the panel can pick a fifth colleague on its own, the city is less than two weeks away from being forced by city charter to call a special election, which would cost about $100,000.
By moving forward with the selection process, the council is ignoring a legal challenge from Shirley A. McCracken, who finished third in the Nov. 8 election and has twice come within one vote of the three votes city officials say are needed to be appointed to the council.
McCracken, 57, is demanding that she be sworn in as the fifth council member because she received "yes" votes from Daly and Councilman Frank Feldhaus the two times she was nominated last month.
Since Councilman Bob Zemel abstained from voting both times, McCracken contends that she received a majority of the votes cast. Councilman Lou Lopez wants the vacancy to be filled by an election and has voted against the selection of McCracken and three other candidates nominated by his colleagues.
Superior Court Judge William F. McDonald last week refused McCracken's request for a temporary restraining order that would have halted the selection process until a hearing on her case is held Friday.
Council members were tight-lipped about any possible new candidates who might be considered tonight.
City Atty. Jack L. White said that if the council does reach a consensus, he believes the choice will stand up in court. Before each council vote was taken, he said, it was clearly explained--both verbally and in writing--that it would take three votes to select a new council member.