SALISBURY – The Wicomico County Council will seek legal advice for how to proceed in appointing a nominee to the legislative body following a tie vote this week.
On Tuesday, members of the Wicomico County Council had before them a resolution to appoint a nominee to the vacant District 2 seat. The resolution, however, did not pass after a tie vote between candidates Joseph Collins and Austin Whitehead.
Two months ago, the Wicomico County Republican Central Committee began the process of seeking qualified candidates to fill a vacancy on the council created by Councilman Marc Kilmer’s resignation. Kilmer announced he was stepping down from his position to return to his home state of Idaho.
Since Kilmer is a registered Republican, the committee sought Republicans residing in District 2 who were interested in being nominated for appointment. And after reviewing more than 20 candidates for the position, the committee in June submitted the names of four nominees – Nicole Acle, Julie Brewington, Joseph Collins and Austin Whitehead – most qualified to fill the seat until a special election is held in 2020.
After holding interviews with the four candidates, the council this week introduced a resolution to appoint one of the nominees, but not before a motion was made to table the resolution.
“Can I make a motion to table this based on some concerns from residents?” Councilman Larry Dodd asked.
The motion, however, failed with Council President John Cannon and Councilmen Larry Dodd and Joe Holloway in favor and Councilmen John McCain, Ernie Davis and Josh Hastings opposed.
Holloway then made a motion to appoint Collins to the District 2 seat, which also failed with Cannon, Dodd and Holloway in favor and McCain, Davis and Hastings opposed.
In a final attempt to select a candidate, Hastings made a motion to appoint Whitehead, which ultimately failed in another 3-3 vote.
Cannon told the council he had hoped the resolution would be tabled to allow officials to address residency concerns that were brought to the council on Monday afternoon.
“There is a significant concern over residency in regard to some of these candidates, and that has created a bit of a conflict with the council …,” he said. “In my opinion, we don’t have sufficient legal advice to make an educational decision that we feel is safest for the county and for the residents of District 2. With that in mind, want to make public aware of where council is on this.”
McCain, however, disagreed with Cannon. He pointed out that the Republican Central Committee had submitted the names of four qualifying candidates.
“All four candidates have been qualified,” he said. “I don’t see why we can’t make an educated vote.”
After a motion to appoint Whitehead failed, and with no other motions on the table, the resolution did not pass.
Officials said the council has until July 30 to select a candidate to fill the vacant position.
“If we don’t come to a conclusion today regarding the four candidates, it would be our obligation to go back to the Republic Central Committee and ask them to return to the council with additional submittals for us to reconsider,” he said. “Unfortunately, what that does is take out of play the current four candidates we have. It would start the process all over again.”
McCain questioned if the council could continue as a six-person body until an election is held.
“If a decision can’t be made then a decision can’t be made,” he said.
Cannon, however, said the council needed to move forward with a decision.
“Hopefully we can have a special session between now and July 30 so we can have some sort of resolution,” he said. “I think we need to move forward with the next year with seven council members, not six.”
In a separate interview, Cannon declined to name the candidate whose residency was questioned or comment further on the issue until it could be explored. He noted, however, that the council will continue to seek legal advice on how it should proceed in selecting a candidate.