Longtime Pequot Lakes City Council member Jerry Akerson, re-elected in November, hasn't been sworn in or attended a council meeting yet this year for personal reasons.
A three-member council took up the matter at its meeting Tuesday, April 2.
City Administrator Nancy Malecha said Akerson hopes to be back for the June council meeting. Reached by phone, Akerson confirmed that hope.
With council member Cheri Seils also absent April 2, the three remaining members decided to talk about this issue again at the May meeting to get Seils' input. Mayor James Tayloe and council members Scott Pederson and Mimi Swanson indicated they would encourage Akerson to resign if he doesn't return to the council in June so the council can move forward finding a fifth member.
Malecha cited a statute that says a vacancy can be declared if a mayor or a council member is unable to serve or attend meetings for 90 days because of illness or refusal to attend meetings. The statute says the council could fill the vacancy for the remainder of the unexpired term or until the council member resumes duties and attends meetings.
Thus, Malecha said the council has three options:
• Do nothing and wait for Akerson to return, which is anticipated in June.
• Because of Akerson's ongoing illness and resulting absence, declare a vacancy and appoint a temporary officeholder until Akerson is able to resume duties and attend council meetings.
• If Akerson gave a written resignation, the council could declare a vacancy and appoint a council member until a November 2020 special election could be held.
The council decided it didn't make sense to appoint someone for just one month, if Akerson intends to return in June. Pederson was concerned that there's no guarantee Akerson will return.
"He hopes to come back, and that's our hope too," Pederson said, noting he wasn't speaking against Akerson or his situation, but about the council only operating with four members.
Malecha said the council can't force Akerson to resign, and it can't hold a special election to fill his seat if he hasn't resigned.