RIVERBANK — The City Council remains deadlocked over how to fill the council seat vacancy created by the election of Councilman Richard O'Brien as mayor.
Just as they failed to do at their Dec. 10 meeting, council members could not reach consensus Monday night on how to pick O'Brien's replacement.
"It looks as though we're at an impasse," he said. "We do not move forward on this."
O'Brien and Councilwoman Jeanine Tucker favor appointing Cal Campbell, a retired schoolteacher who finished a strong third among seven candidates for two council seats in the Nov. 6 election. He finished behind Tucker, who was re-elected, and Darlene Barber-Martinez, who was elected for the first time.
O'Brien and Tucker said their position respects the wishes of the more than 1,700 residents who voted for Campbell and the hard work Campbell and the other candidates did in running for office.
Vice Mayor Dotty Nygard and Barber-Martinez favor letting all eligible city residents apply for the appointment. Nygard said city practice is to open the appointment process to all eligible residents. Barber-Martinez said the council needs to reflect the diversity of the community.
Latinos make up about 52 percent of Riverbank's nearly 23,000 residents.
Barber-Martinez's comments were echoed by Maggie Mejia, president of the Modesto-based Latino Community Roundtable, who told council members they could face legal action to increase the council's diversity, such as through district elections.
"You already are being watched," she said. " You need to make the right decision."
In an interview after the meeting, Mejia said Riverbank has drawn the attention of labor, civil rights and legal groups. City Manager Jill Anderson said no such groups have contacted the city.
O'Brien defeated incumbent Virginia Madueño for mayor by 53 votes out of the more than 6,100 cast. Madueño requested a recount, citing unspecified voting irregularities, but called off the recount after several hours, when no results had changed.
Madueño was not at Monday's council meeting.
About a dozen audience members addressed the council on how to fill the vacancy.
The speakers included Campbell's wife, Marina, and his Latino brothers-in-law Mike and Tony Acosta. They spoke of his integrity and strength of character.
The council has agreed that O'Brien's former seat should be filled by appointment and not by special election, which would cost the city $38,000 to $57,000, according to City Clerk Annabelle Aguilar.
Council members will be forced to call a special election if they cannot fill the seat by appointment by Feb. 8. The council's next meeting is Jan. 14.
Bee staff writer Kevin Valine can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2316.