RIVERBANK -- The City Council failed for a fourth time Monday night to fill a vacancy, which seems all but certain to go to a costly special election in June.
The council could not break the 2-2 deadlock that has persisted on the issue since Dec. 10. It has no more meetings scheduled before the Feb. 8 deadline for action under state law, after which the election is required.
"We have come to an impasse," Councilwoman Dotty Nygard said. "I really don't know how we can avoid going to a special election."
City officials said the cost could be as much as $57,000, to be fit into a budget that already is tight.
The opening is for the two years remaining in the council term of Richard O'Brien, who was elected mayor in November.
He and Councilwoman Jeanine Tucker favored appointing Cal Campbell, who finished a strong third in the November race for two council seats, or opening the process to all five losing candidates.
"They got votes," O'Brien said. "They walked the streets, paid money, put up signs, put themselves out there."
Nygard and Councilwoman Darlene Barber-Martinez have said the appointment should be open to all registered voters, which would ensure that Riverbank's large Latino population is included.
Nygard said council members "are up here to reflect our community, and our community is diverse."
Other people involved in the debate have noted that some of the losing candidates are Latino or are married to people of that background.
Barber-Martinez said Monday that she preferred to move on to the election because there is not enough time to do a proper appointment process by Feb. 8.
Critics said the election will take money from other needs, including a new roof for the city's historical museum, which was briefly discussed earlier in the meeting.
"Here we are just wasting money, taxpayers' dollars, when we could be putting them into better service," former Mayor Charles Neal said.
Monday's only vote was on a motion to appoint Campbell, which failed 2-2. The election will be scheduled "by default," O'Brien said.
"So we'll see everyone at the polls at the special election," he said.
Bee staff writer John Holland can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2385.