After Steve Skadron was elected mayor of Aspen in 2013, he had to vacate his City Council seat. By rule, the vacancy was to be filled through an appointment process, but because the four-member council was tied 2-2 on two candidates for the position, the decision nearly went to a dice roll. That’s because earlier in 2013, the Aspen Election Commission officially came up with a way of breaking a tie in an election: Each of the candidates with an equal number of votes rolls a single die, and the highest number wins.
Rather than leave it to chance, as well as the risk of the potential for public embarrassment that could have come with an city councilman being selected by a dice roll, Skadron switched his vote from retired banker Howie Mallory to now-Councilman Dwayne Romero. Councilwoman Ann Mullins went along with Skadron, making it a 4-0 decision.
To prevent such a scenario from occurring again, City Attorney Jim True is preparing legislation that would require office vacancies to be determined by a public vote, rather than appointment. Whether the change occurs will be determined by a ballot question in November’s election.
True’s draft states that the vacancy could last as long as 120 days because the vote would be pushed to the next scheduled state, county or city election. If the vacancy were to occur 120 days or more before the next election, the council would have the option to call for a special election. The council also would have the option to appoint a replacement in the interim.
At an Elections Commission meeting Wednesday, True said his draft is subject to change before the November ballot.
“Some people may not like the 120 days,” he said. “Some people may not like the opportunity to choose someone in the interim.”
True said the 120-day window was written in to allow space between elections. He said one question that needs to be answered is how long does the council want to allow a seat to remain vacant.
The Skadron vacancy is not Aspen’s only example of a tie-breaker. In the early 1990s, Mick Ireland started his political career when he was chosen as a compromise candidate in a tie for a vacant county commissioner seat.
True said there were a lot of concerns with this most recent tie-breaker.
“A lot of people were saying, ‘We should have an election. Why aren’t we having an election?’,” he said.
The council will discuss the issue at an April 29 work session.