VACAVILLE — Dilenna Harris’ term of office as vice mayor is still only one year long.
A motion put forward by fellow councilman Curtis Hunt Tuesday night to restore the traditional two-year term of office at least until Harris finishes her term failed to fly in a 2-3 vote with Mayor Steve Hardy and councilmembers Mitch Mashburn and Ron Rowlett voting it down.
That ended an hour-long council and public discussion of Hardy’s controversial Dec. 11 move that cut the vice mayor’s term of office to one year in the same breath that he also put forward Harris’ name to fill that position.
Hardy started Tuesday’s reconsideration of that action by saying he always supports the important roles women hold in the society, saying “There is not a sexist or discriminatory bone in my body.” He further said he has had a good relationship with Harris, who ran against him for mayor two years ago, until the vice mayor issue hit.
The mayor admitted if he had to do this all over again, he said the issue of the vice mayor’s term of office would have been talked about more after the election. He stood by his reasoning that the shorter term of office for vice mayor would give more councilmembers experience in the role. Hunt and Rowlett had previously served two-year vice mayor terms. Mashburn is now the only member who has not been vice mayor.
Tuesday night, Mashburn tried to quash the idea that he could politically benefit from being named vice mayor a year from now by saying he had no aspirations to run for mayor.
Harris said her concern about Hardy’s change in the term of office was not about her and she had no ill will against Hardy, but she said there is not a set policy for the vice mayor’s term of office and it “should not have been done on the fly as this was done.”
Several residents said they felt the lack of public council discussion before changing the term of office was inadequate and the move flew in the face of the council’s previous record of being open and honest. More than one speaker suggested that if there was to be a change in the term of office, it should be done only after Harris serves a two-year term.
“An ugly snake has risen its head,” resident Lou Derfus said of the division the move has created.
Earlier this month, residents said the move violated the Brown Act, the state’s open meetings law, but Vacaville’s city attorney said Hardy’s December action was within the law. As of Tuesday night, those residents didn’t sound too convinced and said they are considering contacting the state Attorney General’s Office.
Hunt said while he believed the mayor’s action “can be technically right, it can still be wrong.” He said it should have been spelled out better in the Dec. 11 meeting’s agenda.
“I don’t want this to be a watershed issue that changes the council,” Hunt said.
Reach Ian Thompson at 427-6976 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ithompsondr.