BLUE EARTH - With the unexpected death of Councilman Dick Maher and Councilman Rick Scholtes moving out of his ward, Blue Earth City Council has two seats to fill.
Scholtes submitted his moving announcement, which has been expected for months, on May 7, along with his resignation. Coincidentally, he moved into Maher's ward. Scholtes has expressed interest in finishing out Maher's term.
Since Maher had less than two years left in his term, the council can appoint someone to his seat. Scholtes has more than two years left, so the city must hold a special election to fill his spot, but can temporarily appoint someone to fill the slot until the next election.
City Attorney David Frundt said they could wait until either the primary election or the Nov. 2 election, or choose to have a special election any time in between. Frundt said the council does not have to appoint someone to Maher's seat, but must for Scholtes' position.
The two open seats already may be posing problems for the council.
With the council reduced from seven members to five, City Administrator Kathy Bailey said there is an issue ordering a feasibility study for reconstruction of 10th and Galbraith streets. A four-fifths vote is required to proceed, so six of seven members would have to vote yes.
Councilman Dan Brod disagreed with Bailey's assessment. He said the four-fifths requirement changes upon deaths and vacancies the number of council votes needed. The city attorney will research the issue for the next meeting.
Another issue with the vacancies is Scholtes' desire to fill Maher's seat. Brod wanted clarification on a statute regarding whether an elected official could fill a seat on the same board. Frundt said because Scholtes has resigned and will not be one of the decision-makers, he would be eligible. If Scholtes hadn't resigned and was interested in Maher's seat prior to his move, then he would not be eligible.
The council unanimously approved recognizing the two vacancies. It also approved advertising for applications for Scholtes' seat. Applications are due by June 7 for the Ward 3 seat, and the term would run through the first council meeting in January.
Mayor Rob Hammond said Maher's seat would remain open until the council makes a decision. The council made no move to fill the Ward 1 seat.