Aberdeen Mayor Patrick McGrady, third from left, said Monday he'll nominate Sean DeBonis to fill the fourth seat on the city council, declared vacant because of a tie vote between DeBonis and former Councilman Stephen Smith in the Nov. 3 city election. It will still be up to the other council members, from left, Melvin Taylor, Sandra Landbeck and Tim Lindecamp, to approve the choice of DeBonis.
Aberdeen Mayor Patrick McGrady, third from left, said Monday he'll nominate Sean DeBonis to fill the fourth seat on the city council, declared vacant because of a tie vote between DeBonis and former Councilman Stephen Smith in the Nov. 3 city election. It will still be up to the other council members, from left, Melvin Taylor, Sandra Landbeck and Tim Lindecamp, to approve the choice of DeBonis. (MATT BUTTON AEGIS STAFF / Baltimore Sun)

Aberdeen will continue to have its vacancy on the city council until at least Dec. 21, that's when Mayor Patrick McGrady says he plans to appoint Sean DeBonis, one of two candidates who tied for the fourth and final seat in the Nov. 3 city election.

"My intent is to nominate Sean DeBonis," McGrady announced Monday night after more talk among city officials about how to resolve the tie at 655 votes between DeBonis and Stephen A. Smith, who had served on the council almost a year.

DeBonis, a first-time candidate, was supported by McGrady in the campaign leading up to the election. Smith, a retired police officer, was appointed to the council in January to finish out the term of Bruce Garner, who died last December. Smith was also making his first run for office in the November election.

Monday's discussion took place during a work session. The next Aberdeen City Council meeting is scheduled for Monday, Dec. 21, at 7 p.m.

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Gina Bantum, a former city councilwoman and the chairperson of the Aberdeen Election Board, and Mark Schlottman, another Election Board member, publicly made their case to the Mayor and three council members that the only way to break the tie and seat the fourth member is to let the voters decide.

Aberdeen's mayor-elect McGrady must nominate fourth council member, city attorney rules

Aberdeen's deadlocked fourth council seat must be treated as a vacancy, with mayor-elect Patrick McGrady nominating the fourth council member, city attorney Fred Sussman said Monday.

The debate over how to decide who gets the fourth seat has been going on for more than a month, with the city's official position being that the charter doesn't address how to break a tie, so the only way to "legally seat" the final council member is to treat the opening as a vacancy. Vacancies are filled by the mayor appointing someone and the three council members confirming the appointment.

"We believe properly seated means the will of the people," Bantum said. "We are offering you an alternative."

The city government's position, laid out again at Monday night's City Council work session by City Manager Doug Miller, is based on an opinion proffered by City Attorney Fred Sussman. Miller said there's been much back and forth, but Sussman (and Miller) arrived at that view after consulting with officials from several municipalities and with the Maryland Municipal League.

Councilman Tim Lindecamp asked Miller if he had solicited an opinion from the Maryland Attorney General. Miller responded by repeating the municipalities that had been contacted as well as the MML. He did not say whether Aberdeen had solicited an opinion from the attorney general.

"We respectfully don't agree with the city attorney," Schlottman said. "We truly believe anything else would not be fair to the citizens and the two candidates. Intuitively, this is the way it should be."

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