The Plattsburgh Town Council had to deal with this sticky situation: A judge’s ruling on absentee ballots left two men tied for a seat on the council, with the decision on who to fill it left to councilors.
We think they made the wrong choice.
The town election turned into a mess soon after the Nov. 5 vote, with legal challenges and a number of court hearings delaying the counting of 36 absentee ballots.
Democrat Michael Cashman was a clear winner for one of the two open seats with 1,244 votes. The other Democrat on the ballot, Paul Lamoy, finished with the lowest total, 1,153, in this close election.
The second seat, after the judge’s ruling, was left in a dead heat — at 1,240 votes each — between two Republicans: Tom Metz and Bill Brudvig. Both men had been instrumental in challenging the absentee ballots.
The tie left the Town Council with the right to leave the seat vacant until a special election is held this fall or appoint someone to fill the spot until that November vote.
Councilors rightly rejected the idea of leaving the seat empty; town taxpayers deserve to have a full body of representatives for the next 11 months.
What we take issue with is the Town Council’s unanimous decision to appoint Gerard Renadette, an independent, to the seat.
Town Supervisor Bernie Bassett said the council chose Renadette so as not to give an incumbent advantage to either Metz or Brudvig this fall.
Our objection doesn’t have anything to do with whether Renadette would do a good job. He is an experienced councilor who is familiar with all town issues and can walk into the position with ease.
But town residents didn’t ask for the same representation they have had in the past. Renadette was even defeated in his bid for Clinton County Legislature last fall.
Eligible constituents cast a total of 2,480 votes for the two Republican candidates. Whether their political party was a deciding factor or not, Metz and Brudvig were the people’s choice.
The Town Council could have asked the two men whether one was willing to withdraw from contention for appointment. Or the councilors could have had them flip a coin. But they were not consulted.
It is not the council’s job to worry about who might have an advantage in the fall elections. No one knows whether both men would even run again.
Bassett said it was not a partisan decision, and we have no indication that he, at least, has made past decisions with party preference in mind. But consider how it looks from the outside when the four Town Council members who snubbed the tied Republicans are all Democrats.
Had Metz or Brudvig been appointed, that appearance of political bias could have been avoided and voters could have had one of their top choices.