More notice needed in filling city council seat

When it comes to government, there is a significant difference between what can be done by law and how it should be done as representatives of the public interest.

Iron Mountain officials recently provided an example of something done legally, yet in many ways wrong in terms of public perception about open government.

The council tonight will seat a new member: Scott Celello, the former Dickinson County sheriff and Democratic candidate for the 108th District state House seat won by Republican Beau LaFave.

The choice of Celello is not at issue here. His service as sheriff indicates he may very well be a good pick; he drew considerable support in the November elections.

No, the issue is how the city went about filling this vacancy.

No mention was made of council member Brad Coe’s resignation — he apparently indicated he was moving to Breitung Township — at either the Jan. 2 or Jan. 16 regular council meetings.

To be fair, the city did advertise the vacancy in The Daily News — for one day Jan. 11, in the classifieds on page 3-B.

The notice of the special meeting Jan. 26 to choose a new city council member then was placed on a bulletin board in City Hall but not more widely or publicly posted.

Celello was chosen among three candidates at that meeting as the only one “qualified to accept the position” — the other two were not registered voters, Mayor Dale Alessandrini explained.

But would other qualified candidates perhaps have stepped forward had the vacancy been more openly circulated?

The city did meet its legal requirements for notifying the public about the vacancy and having a new council member in place within 30 days.

But a position of this significance usually prompts at least a statement at a meeting that an elected representative is stepping down — if nothing else, a “thank you for your service” to the outgoing office holder.

What, in the end, would be the harm in giving more public notice before the council decided who would be its newest member?

It raises questions why this was handled in such a quiet manner. And how open the city will be in other matters of public importance in the future.