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Neely resigns from elected council seat before taking oath of office
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LATHROP – It’s 2007 all over again for the Lathrop City Council, although the names are different this time.

An elected member of the council resigns after barely warming up their seat or, in this case, even before they are officially seated to their post.

In a letter to City Clerk Mitzi Ortiz, a copy of which was obtained by the Bulletin Wednesday, Gene Neely who won the second council seat in the Nov. 2 elections officially submitted his resignation “effective immediately.”

“I will not be able to accept this position due to recently being appointed fire chief for the Lathrop-Manteca Fire District,” stated Neely in his letter.

“After careful consideration and research with various legal counsels, it has been determined that taking both offices may cause for these two public offices to be incompatible. It is in both my best interest and that of my fellow community members that I have decided to remain serving as the fire chief to avoid any disarray, and continue having the ability to serve the public on the safety front,” he further explained.

He expressed his appreciation to the community for supporting his candidacy and run for council office, and offered his “best wishes to the newly elected and standing officials of the great City of Lathrop.”

With Neely’s resignation, the council will be back to having one vacant seat right after newly elected J. “Chaka” Santos and just re-elected council member Sonny Dhaliwal are sworn in at the start of the meeting on Dec. 6. Santos succeeds Mayor Kristy Sayles who failed in her bid for a third term in the Nov. 2 elections.

One of the first actions of the newly configured four-member council will be to decide how the vacant post caused by Neely’s resignation will be filled. City Manager Cary Keaten said the four council members will decide how they want to do that. They have three options, Keaten said.

First, they can appoint someone to the open position and decide what process they want to use to make that appointment. Second, they can decide to hold a special election which would cost the city a certain amount of money that the council would need to approve. And third, the council can decide not to do either one of the above and wait for the next general election on November 8, 2011 for the people to decide on who should be the fifth person on the council.

It’s 2007 all over again for the Lathrop council
While the main players are different this time, this was the same scenario that unfolded in December 2007 when then-council member Felicia Cherry resigned one year to the date of her election. The council decided to fill her vacant seat and complete the remaining three years of her term by holding a special election on June 3, 2008.

Among the candidates who stepped forward as a contender for that elected position was former councilman Robert K. Oliver who had announced his retirement two years prior. But he emerged as the winner which swept him back to City Hall.

Less than two months later, Oliver’s supporters convinced him to run for mayor against Kristy Sayles who was seeking a second term of office as mayor. Sayles eventually won, and Oliver continued on to complete the unexpired term of Cherry as councilman until he retired for the second and final time in March 2010.

His resignation again left a vacancy on the council. Instead of appointing someone to his seat, the council opted this time to leave the post open and save the city the roughly $20,000 cost for a special election and wait until the November election to get his replacement.

The two other members of the present council besides Santos and Dhaliwal are Christopher Mateo and Vice Mayor Martha Salcedo whose terms will expire in two years.