It’s unfortunate city leaders chose to hold Monday’s City Council meeting under a cloud of uncertainty. The council met Monday without Councilor-elect Louie Sanchez, who defeated incumbent District 1 City Councilor Lan Sena in last month’s election. Mayor Tim Keller appointed Sena to the council in March 2020 to complete the term of Councilor Ken Sanchez, who died in January 2020.
While this election cycle’s four-year council term starts Jan. 1, Sanchez has asked to be sworn in early, citing a City Charter section that mayoral vacancy appointments are effective until the next regular election.
And he beat Sena on Nov. 2, by 1,215 votes.
City Clerk Ethan Watson had told Sanchez he needed a “certification of election” to be sworn in early; Sanchez presented one from the secretary of state on Friday.
Still, Watson — also an appointee of Keller — has declined to swear Sanchez in early, arguing the term he was elected to represent the West Side-based district doesn’t begin until Jan. 1. Sena has said she won’t step aside early. That meant the nine-member City Council met Monday without Sanchez to consider a number of weighty agenda items.
Sanchez’s attorney has said he’s considering filing a court petition — and given the confusing City Charter language, a judge’s decision is needed here. If a judge rules in favor of Sanchez, he/she should also clarify the validity of recent council votes.
Ultimately, the City Charter’s vacancy appointment language needs to be fleshed out and made clearer.
This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.