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Council deciding on how they will fill vacant seat
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It has been nearly a month since newly-elected councilman Ruben Sandoval passed away unexpectedly just two days after he took the oath of office. 

And tonight his colleagues will figure out exactly what to do with the nearly two-year long stint that hangs in the balance as a result. 

Sandoval, who held the distinction of being the most educated person ever elected to the Lathrop City Council – he held a bachelors degree in computer science, masters degrees in business and human resources and a doctorate in organizational studies – said the night of his swearing in that he planned on focusing how the city markets itself to businesses in order to attract better, higher-paying jobs for residents so they don’t have to continue to rely on the long commute to the Bay Area. 

The council will have to decide between going with what has been their standard operating procedure in the event of an opening on the council during recent elections – appointing the next leading vote getter – or accepting applications to move through with the interview and appointment process, which was last done to appoint Mark Elliott to serve the remainder of the first half of the term vacated by Omar Ornelas when he resigned just one year into his four-year term. 

If they so choose, the council could also hold a special election on June 6, but that option would end up costing the city $50,000 and because the item was not budgeted for, would come out of the city’s general fund reserves. 

If they council were to go ahead and appoint the next closest in the line of candidates during the last election, Elliott would once again serve the City of Lathrop through the fall election of 2020. He lost to Sandoval by less than 200 votes, and had to wait until the election was certified to know whether the lead that he held from the unofficial final tabulations would hold. Thousands of provisional and absentee ballots throughout San Joaquin County were counted over the period of three weeks following the election. 

While either of the two appointment options would make the person selected a full member of the council, because of California election law changes they will only get to serve until the next regularly scheduled election. Ornelas, who was appointed to serve the term vacated by Lathrop Manteca Fire Chief Gene Neely when he was unable to take his name off of the ballot, was the last person to serve a full term by appointment in the city’s history. 


To contact reporter Jason Campbell email or call 209.249.3544.