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Eleven Kent residents have submitted applications to fill a vacant Kent City Council seat, but one of them does not expect to be selected, or even given an interview at tonight's council meeting.
Kent's Law Department first ruled Kent Planning Commission member Melissa Long ineligible for an appointment to council in February after she applied to replace former at-large Councilman Erik Valenta, who moved to North Carolina. At issue was a 1995 amendment to the city's charter that prevented the city from hiring a member of the Kent Planning Commission, along with three other volunteer boards, until six months after the board member ended his or her service.
Long submitted an application with the city to fill former at-large Councilman Robin Turner's seat earlier this month, even though the charter language barring her appointment remains intact. She said she applied as a reminder to council that she believes the charter amendment that bars her appointment is unfair and needs to be changed.
"I hope that (my application) will jar council's memory that they do have the ability to open the charter and rectify the issue," Long said.
The charter amendment that prevents council from appointing Long, in the "Conflict of Interest" section of Article II, reads "No present or former member of the City's Assessment Equalization Board, Planning Commission, Board of Zoning Appeals or Charter Review Commission shall, during his or her public service or for six months thereafter be appointed as a city employee or be hired by the city as an independent contractor."
Long, formerly the mayor of Cortland in Trumbull County, challenged Councilman Garret Ferrara in November 2011 for his Ward 1 seat, but lost in a close election.
In a February letter to Long, Kent Law Director Jim Silver wrote, "The Charter Review Commission that recommended the change in 1995 apparently didn't recognize the awkwardness of your being able to run for election to City Council, but not be able to be appointed." Silver went on to note that he was "stuck with" the language of the amendment as written.
Long said although she disagrees with the charter amendment, she is not preparing any kind of legal challenge.
"(My application) is very friendly," she said. "It's saying, I realize I will be told by the law director I'm ineligible."
Kent City Council will meet to interview candidates for Turner's open seat tonight beginning at 6. After the interviews, council members will select a replacement by casting ballots, then hold their regular November council meeting.
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Kent is such a troubled place.
I personally don't think it's wrong. Appointing a council member is far different than a council member running and being elected by voters. The conflict of interest is not someone like Melissa Long being on council, the conflict of interest is city employees selecting fellow city employees to fill a vacant, non-voted council seat like this. It's not THAT she's on council that's the issue, it's HOW she can get on council.