The Georgia General Assembly will consider legislation which would allow the mayor to fill Brookhaven City Council vacancies by appointment. 

Currently, if there’s a vacancy in the City Council, a special election will be held. The bill, sponsored by state Rep. Matthew Wilson (D-Brookhaven), would allow the mayor — currently John Ernst — to appoint council members in the interim until that special election. 

If there were more than 12 months left in a term, the mayor would be able to appoint a replacement until the special election. If there were less than 12 months left in the term, the mayor would still be able to appoint someone, but there would be no special election and that person would serve until the next regular election. 

Those appointments would be subject to the approval of the rest of the council. In the event the mayoral seat is vacant, the City Council could appoint someone. 

This legislation was introduced last year in HB 695. Along with filling city council vacancies, that bill also addressed the possibility of unlimited term limits for the mayor. The General Assembly passed that bill, but state Sen. Elena Parent (D-Atlanta) made a last-minute change to include the mayoral term limit issue as a referendum so citizens could vote on the issue in November’s election. 

About 55.1% of voters went against the referendum during November’s election, according to county data. Due to a drafting error in the bill, when the referendum was voted down so were the proposed rules for filling City Council vacancies. Due to that drafting error, Wilson is re-introducing the vacancies legislation. 

Wilson said the bill would be helpful for a smaller City Council such as Brookhaven, which only has four council members, to make sure a quorum can always be reached for a meeting. 

“This bill is part of the city charter review commission’s recommendations to ensure we have continuity in city government, letting the council continue to meet and consider business in the event of more than one vacancy,” Wilson said in an email.

The original bill, HB 341, was abandoned because it did not go through the proper procedural process through the DeKalb County delegation. According to Wilson, an identical bill was expected to be introduced and vetted by the DeKalb delegation. 

Sammie Purcell is Associate Editor at Rough Draft Atlanta.