By Michael R. Moser
Cumberland County commissioners Tuesday night took the first step toward filling the Second District vacancy on the commission created when former commissioner Robert Safdie tendered his resignation last month, citing health reasons.
With Safdie's resignation letter in hand, the commission voted unanimously to declare the seat vacant, an action that is required before the next step in filling the empty seat can be taken. Public notice — under state law — must be published announcing the vacancy and setting a deadline for citizens to submit letters expressing an interest in filling the unexpired term.
"Whoever is appointed, will serve out the remainder of the term, which runs through August 2014," First District Commissioner and County Parliamentarian Harry Sabine told his colleagues. "We have to, by law, fill the vacancy within three months."
The public notice will include information on how and where to submit letters of interest. Sabine suggested that any interested person — living in the Second District is a requirement — should include with their letter of interest a resume and other supporting information for the commission to review.
As in the past, interested citizens will be allowed to address the commission — or have a representative do so for them — with a limit of 10 minutes per person. The commission will then, during the same meeting, select a replacement to fill the vacancy, Sabine said.
"I will nominate all who submit a letter, because I think that is the fair thing to do," Sabine said. A vote will be taken and if a candidates does not receive nine votes, the person receiving the least number of votes will be dropped from consideration and a second vote will be taken.
The process will continue for as many votes as it takes for one candidate to receive the required majority of nine votes.
Commissioner Nancy Hyder, who also represents the Second District, put aside rumors that she already had her mind made up as to who support to fill the vacancy.
"I have only talked to two people, only two people have asked about it, and I am not supporting anyone tonight, contrary to what is being said out there" Hyder said. "I plan to meet with Mr. Safdie for his input because I feel I owe him that much."
Hyder also took a moment to praise her colleague, stating, "He has always wanted to do what was best for the county, and especially what was best for the Second District."
All votes must be taken in public, Sabine added, stating that state law prevents secret ballots from be used in the process.
The reason nine votes are required instead of ten is because the vacancy leaves 17 on the commission, with nine making up a majority. Once elected, the new county commissioner will take his seat immediately.