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Talladega council unlikely to call election to fill vacant BOE seat

Talladega City Hall

Talladega City Hall

TALLADEGA -- The Talladega City Council seems unlikely to call a special election to fill the city Board of Education seat vacated by the death of Mary McGhee last month.

According to City Manager Beth Cheeks, vacancies on the school board are filled according to a process laid out in a federal consent decree issued in early 2000. 

In the event that a board position becomes empty more than two years into a term, then a majority of the remaining board members may appoint someone who lives in the right district and is willing to serve. The newly appointed board member could then stand for re-election along with the other board members. 

If, however, a position on the board becomes vacant less than two years into a term, it is up to the Talladega City Council to call a special election to fill it within 30 days. The election itself cannot take place more than 120 days from the vacancy.

McGhee was last elected to the board last year. She was unopposed.

During a council meeting Monday night, Cheeks read the announcement of the vacancy from City Schools Superintendent Tony Ball, which was dated Sept. 29. After reading the announcement and the relevant part of the consent order into the record, council President Trae Williams moved on to the next item on the agenda without any discussion. 

Councilman Dr. Horace Patterson asked if any action was going to be taken regarding the special election and offered to make the motion setting the date himself.

“Personally, I don’t see any need for it,” Williams said. “I don’t want to vote on this, personally.”

Patterson moved to set a date, but the motion died for lack of a second. 

“I’m not in favor of it. I just don’t think the city has the money to do an election right now,” Councilwoman Betty Spratlin said. “It should be the board’s decision.”

Both Patterson and Williams seemed to refer to a statement made by the board during its only meeting to date since McGhee’s passing. Specifically, the board invited Councilwoman Vickie Robinson-Hall, who represents the same district McGhee did, to attend board meetings and to express any concerns specific to Ward 2 until a permanent replacement for McGhee is named, by whatever means. 

City attorney Mike O’Brien explained that Hall would not be serving as a temporary board member and could not participate in any board action without resigning her seat on the council.

“I love that,” Williams said. “She (Hall) has the pulse of Ward 2, and her opinion would mean more than ours.”

Said Hall, “I’m already the liaison to the school board. I could be a spokesperson.”

The City Council is set to meet again Oct. 26, just before the 30-day deadline, but based on the discussion Monday evening, it seems unlikely the council will act.

In the event the council does not call for an election within the time limit, the decision is then sent back to the school board, where a majority of the board members would then have to vote on the appointment of a board member who meets all the qualifications. 

Should the school board choose not to make a decision, or if the members cannot agree on a new board member within 60 days, the decision then goes to the state superintendent.

It was not immediately clear if the board would have 60 days from the announcement of the vacancy Sept. 29 or 60 days from the end of the council’s 30-day deadline for calling an election. 

Further coverage of Monday’s council meeting will appear in an upcoming edition of The Daily Home.