Sunday, December 3, 2023

Timeline for appointment of Beach District seat for City Council comes into focus

VIRGINIA BEACH — City Council on Tuesday discussed their role in appointing a temporary council member to the Beach District seat, formerly occupied by David Nygaard.

The saga adds an additional layer to the 2018 election, which produced contentious elections resulting in three simultaneous recounts of three city council races.

A three-judge panel vacated Nygaard’s seat on City Council after former Councilman John Uhrin filed a lawsuit, claiming Nygaard did not intend to establish a permanent residence in the Beach District after renting an apartment on 20th Street. The final order was filed at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday declaring the City Council seat for the Beach District vacant, said City Attorney Mark Stiles.

Stiles will now file a formal request to Circuit Court to have the special election for the Beach District council seat during the general election, in November.

City Council will review applications from potential appointees, create a shortlist of candidates, with the candidates City Council are considering for the appointment then being disclosed to the public.
Application can be submitted online on the city’s website or in person or mail at the city’s clerks office: 2401 Courthouse Drive No. 281, Virginia Beach, VA 23456.

Here’s the timeline:

  • Application deadline for potential appointees to council is April 8.
  • Closed session to discuss applicants and create a shortlist; release names of candidates on shortlist on April 9.
  • Public comment on shortlist will take place April 16.
  • Public interviews of candidates; closed session, make appointment on April 23.

The appointee application will include 11 questions — one for each member of City Council.

According to state law, City Council has 45 days from the time the seat was vacated to appoint an interim member of council, making the deadline for appointment May 3. Some members of council wanted to take the full 45 days, to allow for more public input, while other members believed expediting the appointment process was a better choice.

Councilman Aaron Rouse said this was the first time “someone was removed from the city council” by court order, and council should move gingerly in the appointment to allow for maximum transparency.

Related story: New City Council could be the most diverse in Virginia Beach history

Mayor Bobby Dyer said he believed it would be better to have an election in November when voter turnout would be higher.

Councilman John Moss disagreed, saying “in the House of Representatives, within 60 days, they hold an election” for a vacated seat. Moss continued, and said the House chooses to do so because “they think the people’s judgement, no matter how small the turnout, is better than a political appointment.”

“The City Council has the authority to make its appointment 45 days from today — the date of the order. After that time, the order can fall to the judges of the Circuit Court,” Stiles said.

“This is obviously a very important topic, not only to the council but to the public,” Dyer said. “It’s incumbent upon us to proceed in a way that is fair and equitable and transparent. If we can agree on that moving forward, that would be in everyone’s best interest.”

Stiles said through email Monday that “any person residing in the Beach District and otherwise meeting the requirements to serve on the City Council may apply.”

Stiles would not directly comment on whether the court order nullifying Nygaard’s election bars him from running in the upcoming special election, or from being appointed as interim-member of council.

The court’s ruling came after the City of Virginia Beach administered a historic recount of three City Council races, which included the contest between Uhrin and Nygaard.

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