• March 31, 2020

Ocean City Council seat to remain vacant - Ocean City Sentinel: News

Ocean City Council seat to remain vacant

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Posted: Wednesday, February 19, 2020 10:24 am

OCEAN CITY – Council interviewed four candidates for an open Second Ward seat, but ultimately chose no one to fill the vacancy because they lacked a majority and kept the seat open.

The Second Ward council seat was vacant after former councilman Antwan McClellan resigned after being elected to the New Jersey Assembly with Lower Township Mayor Erik Simonsen last November.

McClellan left council in January, just days before he was inaugurated to represent the First Legislative District, giving council 30 days to find a candidate for his old seat. 

Ocean City’s Second Ward extends from the south side of Fourth Street to the north side of 12th Street. 

The city put out a call for Fourth Street residents interested in being interviewed by council for the seat. 

Before the Feb. 13 meeting, council adjourned and interviewed each of the four candidates for 10 minutes in private. The four candidates included Gabe Staino, Kyle Gillen, Tomaso Rotondi and Christopher Robinson. 

Councilman Keith Hartzell said that while he felt strongly council interviewed “four very strong candidates,” he couldn’t decide.

“I actually live in the ward. That puts me in a unique situation that I’ll be the only person up here who’ll pull the lever for that person. I really do believe each person brought something great to the table. I’m pleasantly surprised by that,” Hartzell said. “It would be very hard of me to make a pick.”

Hartzell said each one of the candidates should run for the seat during the May municipal election.

He urged the candidates to “get to know the Second Ward” and “find out what the people want.”

“It’s very important to me who represents me because one of you will represent me because I live in the Second Ward,” Hartzell said to the candidates who were in the audience. “It’s a ward that regards retail politics. Every council person that served there since I lived there I’ve met…. It’s a ward that you have to get out and meet people.”

Council President Pete Madden also thanked the interviewees for showing interest.

“Thank you very much everybody who came out. I think you did an excellent job,” Madden said.

Madden made a motion to appoint Staino as Second Ward councilman. Councilman Bobby Barr seconded the motion. 

Barr said each of the candidates “brought something unique to the table.”

“When you only have 10minutes to speak to them individually, it’s really hard to pick someone who when one of your best friends served and did a better job than almost anybody could, it’s really hard to choose someone to replace him,” Barr said. “This is in no way by choosing Mr. Staino an endorsement. I believe it is really up to the Second Ward voters to decide.” 

Barr said he also hopes the candidates run for office in May and bring their “unique perspective” to the campaign. 

“Mr. Staino has some unique experiences that I think he would be best to fill the position for now,” Barr said.

Madden, Barr and Councilwoman Karen Bergman voted for Staino while Hartzell abstained.

City Solicitor Dorothy McCrosson said the city statute requires a vote of four council members to pass, so the vote came up short and failed. 

Of the six remaining council members, Councilman Tony Wilson was away on business and Michael DeVlieger was ill. 

Madden asked if there was a motion to appoint anyone else for Second Ward council. When no councilmember responded, Madden said the seat would be vacant.

McCrosson said council had 30 days following McClellan’s departure to fill the seat. That deadline passed Feb. 13. 

“We’re unable to fill the seat now or if you’re unable to fill the seat now it will remain vacant until the May election,” McCrosson said.

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