ROCKVILLE – The months of debating, rewriting the city charter and interviewing candidates to fill a vacant city council seat were all for naught in Rockville.
As a sign of the divide between the mayor and council is that not one person in the city of Rockville could get a simple majority on the four-person body. This means the city will have vacant seat on the mayor and council until the election in November.
The decision took place in March. After the mayor and council spent over an hour interviewing the final three candidates out of an original list of 21, not one of them could receive the three necessary votes. That led Councilmember Beryl Feinberg to conclude that finding someone in the city who could get majority approval on the council was a useless exercise.
While the mayor and council could not come to a consensus on who would be their fifth member, the fact that they could not agree was, in fact, something they unanimously agreed to.
Echoing the comments of Feinberg, Councilmember Mark Pierzchala agreed that there was no point in continuing the interviewing and voting process to fill the vacant seat.
“It’s too bad that we’ve come to this, but I do want to express my appreciation for all the preparation that they went through. And I thought as a group they did an excellent job,” Pierzchala said.
Since state delegate Julie Palakovich Carr left her seat on the council to assume office in Annapolis, the mayor and council have looked for a way to fill her seat. Since the process began in March, the mayor and council considered 21 candidates. It dropped to four candidates to finally narrowing down the list to just three: Robert J. Wright, Monique Ashton and James J. Hendrick.
But given the divides among the mayor and council, not one of the finalists could get the necessary three votes to gain the seat.
“We’re at, I guess we’d say, a crossroads or at a standstill. So I think there just (makes) no more sense to actually have another meeting or do other interviews,” said Councilmember Virginia Onley. “It would just be the four of us for the remainder of the term.”
Before the process began, members of the council said they believed they would find someone to fill the vacant seat. But with the political divide between Team Rockville, which consists of Pierzchala and Onley, and the other two members of the mayor and council, there could not be a consensus pick for a fifth member.
However, even without a fifth member, who could potentially gridlock the mayor and council with 2-2 votes, it has avoided that fate. Most importantly, the Rockville mayor and council were able to pass its budget without any tense political debates — as it normally does.
“I am too disappointed that this didn’t result in another member,” said Rockville Mayor Bridget Donell Newton. “I think the onus is now on this body to come together and to serve this city as one for the remainder of the term.”