By Jeffery Smith

CORNING - City Attorney Bryan J. Maggs feels the city Charter is very clear concerning how to handle tie votes in elections for all public officers, including Corning City Council members.

In the most recent November election, Michele Beckman and Kate Paterson each garnered 273 votes in their attempt to win the Ward 2 seat.

Section C2-15(B) of the charter provides that a tie in an election for city office creates a vacancy in that office as of January 1st following the election.

Section C2-16(A) then requires that all vacancies for elective offices shall be filled by appointment of the City Council. That section further mandates that the term of office of the officer appointed to fill a vacancy in the elective office shall be until the commencement of the political year next succeeding the first annual election after the happening of the vacancy - at which a successor may be elected to serve for the remainder of the term.

Maggs wrote in November, following the tie, that the city must proceed in having the city council fill the vacancy by appointment - after the new city council term begins in January 2017 - and the appointee would serve all of 2017 and be subject to an election in November to fill the remaining council term.

The City Council was expected to fill the Ward 2 council seat Tuesday night, but that didn’t happen after councilmen Steven Maio, D-1, and Frank Muccini, R-5, decided to abstain from the vote, claiming they did so because they feel the decision should be up to the 2nd Ward residents and not the city council.

In April, 2016, both Maio and Muccini, voted on a candidate to replace Lee Welles, D-2, who resigned from the 2nd Ward seat.

“I guess something has changed,” Mayor Rich Negri said. “I don’t know their thinking.”

Negri said he thought the council would vote to fill the position Tuesday and decide which candidate, Beckman or Patterson, would hold the position in 2017.

Maio said his intention is to propose a resolution at the City Council’s Feb. 6 meeting to petition Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to call for a special election for the 2nd Ward seat.

“I guess to fill the seat the (City) Council will vote to fill it or ask the governor to hold a special election,” Negri said. “When that would be held, when the seat would be filled I just don’t know.”

Councilman Jim Nelson, R-7, said the council needs to make a decision.

“I’m just pointing out to members of this council to fill their obligation to make a decision,” Nelson said

For a candidate to win the seat, they must receive a vote from five city councilmen.

During two separate votes Tuesday Negri and councilmen, Nelson, Chris Karam, R-3, and Alison Hunt, R-8, each voted for Republican candidate Michele Beckman. Councilmen Bill Boland, D-4, and Frank Coccho, D-6, favored Democratic candidate Kate Paterson.

Maio, D-1, and Muccini, R-5, each abstained from both votes.

The council voted 5-3 in April 2016, on straight-party lines, selecting Beckman, a strategic planning supervisor at Corning Inc., over Democratic candidate Paterson in an April 2016 vote to fill the position.

THE ISSUE: City Council failed to appoint a councilman for Ward 2 Tuesday.

LOCAL IMPACT: Council did not follow the City Charter and Ward 2 residents will not have representation at upcoming City Council meetings until the matter is handled.