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Council to run city with 4 during 2011
The vacancy in the office of mayor created by the resignation of Anthony Cannella to became a state senator on Dec. 6, will be filled by a member of the council. The Ceres City Council met in a special Dec. 7 meeting and decided to appoint Cannella's successor on Jan. 3.

Councilman Chris Vierra is expected to fill out the unexpired term.

The council considered several options to fill Cannella's unexpired mayoral term. One option was to call a special election, which would carry a cost of between $62,000 to $81,000; the second option was to appoint someone outside of the council, such as a former mayor, thereby avoiding the three appointees dilemma. The option they went with - not without its problems - is to appoint an existing council member to the seat.

Appointing a mayor from the current four members would leave a council vacancy which the council is forbidden from filling by appointment. The council vacancy would have to be filled by an election, special or regular. City Attorney Michael Lyions explained that California Government Code section 36512(c)(1) states that a city council cannot have a majority of appointed members. Councilman Bret Durossette is an appointee who was tapped to fill the unexpired term of Rob Phipps who died in December 2007. The new mayor would be considered an appointee, even if previously elected to a council seat.

Lyions said picking Durossette to become mayor would eliminate the issue of having too many appointees. Durossette, however, has stated he's not interested in the job since he's only been on the council since late 2008.

Vice Mayor Ken Lane, who is acting mayor, expressed no interest in being mayor nor did Guillermo Ochoa.

Vierra - who's served on the council the longest, since 2003, and is the only one who wants the job - argued against a special election to fill the mayor's seat. Vierra said calling a special election in June at a cost of approximately $80,000 to choose a mayor to sit until the general election in November would be a "grave waste of the taxpayers money."

Vierra also argued against appointing from outside the council.

"We just had a city manager that left, the mayor was right behind him, we're looking at a $2 million plus budget deficit and it's my recommendation that we fulfill within this group," said Vierra. "We've been dealing with the bargaining units for some six years and gone through the rocky times."

Durossette agreed, saying a newcomer mayor "could stall us in the things we're doing."

Lane agreed, saying it was "an easy choice."

Once the council picks a successor on Jan. 3, it has 60 days to deal with Vierra's unexpired council term. New legislation passed in July and taking effect on Jan. 1 would allow the city to take up to 60 days to fill a council seat or call an election. Lyions said that the city would then miss the March and June election deadlines, but could put the matter to the November 2011 election to avoid special election costs.

Operating a four-member council for nearly a year puts the panel at risk of deadlocking in 2-2 ties as well as possibly making it harder to meet with a quorum. Durossette said the council would have to "really work our tails off ... and make sure we are here on a regular basis."