EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

May 15, 2013

City still unclear on filling Graziano's seat

METHUEN — More than a week after a School Committee member resigned, officials are still unsure of exactly what the charter requires to happen next.

Former School Committee member Robert Vogler likely would be next in line for the committee seat vacated when former member Mark Graziano resigned last week, but Mayor Stephen Zanni said the staff is still trying to determine what it would mean for the upcoming election.

City officials reviewed the charter and dug back more than 30 years to find similar cases for an interpretation, Zanni and City Clerk Christine Touma-Conway said. Touma-Conway said they determined that the charter would require the School Committee to offer the seat to Vogler, who would be free to choose whether to accept.

But it is unclear whether accepting that seat would preclude Vogler from running for a full term in November, as he has indicated he wants to do.

“What was decided was it has to be 20 percent of the number of people voted, and the next person in line who got 20 percent of the people was Mr. Vogler,” Touma-Conway said yesterday.

Officials scrutinized one sentence in the charter that outlines how vacant seats are filled. The charter specified that the committee would appoint the defeated candidate from the most recent election with the most votes and “who received at least 20 percent of the total votes cast for the office....”

Touma-Conway said she was trying to determine whether that meant 20 percent of voters, who each get six votes for School Committee, or 20 percent of the total votes cast for School Committee, which in a six-person race could be difficult.

None of the eight candidates in the 2011 election received 20 percent of the total votes cast. The top vote getter, Deborah Quinn, received about 14.3 percent of the total votes cast, not counting blanks. “Nobody got even close to that (20 percent),” Touma-Conway said.

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