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Filling vacant Ward IV council seat could take weeks
July 02, 2014 Jerry Purvis   

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With Jill McFarland’s announced resignation from the Gering City Council, the process to find a replacement could take several weeks.

The council passed a resolution in 2007 outlining the process, but the first step is that the position must be declared vacant.

“By state statute, if an incumbent wishes to resign, they have to give notice of resignation to the city council,” said Gering City Clerk Kathy Welfl. “We aren’t looking at Jill’s letter to the citizens of Gering as a resignation to the council. So as far as we are concerned at this moment, she hasn’t resigned.”

Welfl indicated that until McFarland gives written notice to the full council of her resignation, she’s still a council member according to state statute.

Last week, McFarland emailed her resignation letter, addressed to the citizens of Gering, to council members Larry Gibbs and Rebecca Shields, along with the media. A copy was also forwarded to Welfl.

Both Welfl and Gering Mayor Ed Mayo have advised McFarland she needs to submit a letter of resignation before the council can declare the seat vacant. But as of Tuesday, they haven’t heard anything.

If McFarland submits a formal letter of resignation in time to be included on the council agenda, it could be considered at the July 14 city council meeting. The requirements of the 2007 resolution would then be followed and the vacancy must be filled within four weeks.

Public notice of the vacancy would be published in a legal newspaper asking for interested persons to submit their qualifications for the position. In this case, applicants would have to be legal residents in Gering’s Ward IV. Interviews would then be set up with interview questions approved prior to the process.

Welfl said there are 28 days between July 14 and Aug. 11 council meetings. “We thought it would be rushing it to make a decision by the July 25 council meeting,” she said. “That would have required us to get the notice out, do the interviews and make a recommendation all in nine business days.”

She added that if the city takes the entire four weeks to complete the process, there will be time for people to prepare their letters of interest and go through the interview process. So a recommendation for a replacement could be ready for council consideration at their Aug. 11 meeting.

“The council might change that schedule or call a special meeting before Aug. 11, but I can’t speak for them,” Welfl said. “But they’ll probably recommend taking the four weeks to complete the process.”

The person named to the fill the council seat would serve until the last meeting in November, as a new council will be sworn in at the Dec.8 meeting.

McFarland is currently on the ballot for re-election to the Ward IV council seat. Her opponent is Phillip Holliday. She can have her name taken off the ballot, but must sign a declination of nomination form with the county election office, officially requesting her name be removed.
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