City Dems to meet Monday on future of vacant council seat

It’s been nearly two weeks since Stephanie Kiyak submitted a letter of resignation announcing she would no longer serve as the city of Dunkirk’s councilwoman-at-large. The process to find her replacement is well underway.

Dunkirk Democratic City Committee Chairman Frank Gawronski told the OBSERVER that some qualified candidates have expressed interest. The committee will meet Monday at Democratic campaign headquarters at 324 Central Ave.

“There may be more when we have the meeting, there could be a couple more,” Gawronski said. “I hope there are no surprises and we come out of there with a name, at least to recommend to the elected officials, I’m hoping. I don’t want to drag this thing out. We’ve got a little time, not a lot.”

The chairman expects the committee to be divided in its vote.

“All of them are good people, I think it’s going to be very close,” he added. “I don’t think anybody’s going to run away with it.”

Gawronski said he wasn’t sure how the voting would be done.

“Maybe have a vote then vote on the top two. I guess the committee will have to decide how they want to do this before they proceed. I’ll offer a suggestion and listen to anybody else who has one,” he stated. “It would be my suggestion if, right now we have three, vote on the three, determine the top two, and vote again. It’s going to be close, there’s support for all three on the committee.

“I keep hearing other names but nobody has come out. I may go to this committee meeting and find out there’s more; it wouldn’t surprise me if there were more.”

This is the third time in the last 15 years that a council member has resigned. Shaun Heenan resigned as councilman-at-large in October 2000; Chester Kozlowski stepped down from the First Ward seat in 2003 because he moved from the city; and Rose Floramo stepped down from the Third Ward seat due to health reasons in October 2011 and was replaced by Adelino Gonzalez, who has since been elected twice.

Mayor Anthony J. Dolce sought the vacant seats when Heenan and Kozlowski resigned. Dolce said he interviewed to fill the vacancy when Shaun Heenan resigned.

“I was still in college. I knew I didn’t have a chance but just to get that experience of 10 people in the room interviewing is a good experience,” he explained.

Edward “Ned” Divine got the nod over Dolce and served the remainder of Heenan’s term before winning re-election in 2001. The next time around Dolce did get the nod to fill the vacancy when Kozlowski left.

“I took Chet’s spot, that was an election year so this one is more interesting because it’s not a normal council-mayor election cycle,” he added.

Dolce served six months before running in the regular election in 2003 and explained the situation for Kiyak’s replacement.

“If the appointment is made before Sept. 20, that person would have to run for re-election this November. If the appointment is made after Sept. 20, the person will serve the remainder of the regular term, which expires Dec. 31, 2015,” he stated.

According to the City Code under Section 2-2.03, council has 30 days to fill the vacancy by appointment by a majority vote. If no decision is reached by then, the at-large – or in this case the acting at-large councilman – will fill the vacancy.

“The appointee shall serve until the commencement of the calendar year next succeeding the first general election after the happening of the vacancy, at which a successor may be elected, and the vacancy shall be filled at such election for the unexpired term. Any person appointed to fill a vacancy shall possess all the qualifications required of the office as set forth in the Charter,” the Code states.

The Code also states the replacement must be a member of the same party as the person who resigned, and may be nominated by the City Committee of that party – in this case the city Democratic Party committee.

“In the event the person vacating the Common Council office was elected with no party affiliation, the Common Council may appoint any qualified elector,” the Code also states.

Dolce said while the committee may make a recommendation after it meets Monday, council may not vote on the choice at its meeting Tuesday.

“In order to satisfy the 30-day time frame council could act, and more likely would act at the Sept. 2 council meeting,” he explained. “You never know who’s interested in these positions. Especially, last election for council there was no contested races. I don’t get the impression anyone is looking to fill the council-at-large seat from the current council.”

Council is currently composed of three Democrats, Stacy Szukala, William J. Rivera and Adelino Gonzalez; along with Independence Party member Michael Michalski.

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