Fullerton City Council appoints Jan Flory despite public backlash

In Local News, News
Citizens spoke out against the decision process, with many asking for a special election in November.
(Nathan Nguyen / Daily Titan)

Fullerton City Council appointed Jan Flory to fill the vacant city council seat on Tuesday, Jan. 29.

Flory has served on the Fullerton City Council four previous terms and will sit on the council until December 2020.

Applicants and audience members had mixed feelings on the unwritten appointment process that involved discussion on whether to pull straws or use scraps of paper,  a “write four, choose three” method of reducing the applicants, and a long second-round of questioning.

Angela Lindstrom, a resident of Fullerton since 1999, advocated for an election during public comments to keep things open and fair.

“I’m not saying that they are bad people or that they did this intentionally, but I do question their biases as human beings,” Lindstrom said. “It’s not only not fair to the voters, it’s not fair to those people who apply for this.”

The appointment followed after the council announced on Jan. 15 that they would begin accepting applications for the vacant position.

This past election was the first to use a district election system instead of the old at-large system. Flory will be taking Mayor Jesus Silva’s old at-large seat, which he vacated after winning the new election in the 3rd District. The at-large seats, including Flory’s seat, will be up for election in 2020, at which point all the council seats will be under the new system.

Twenty-six candidates initially applied for the position but three candidates dropped out of the race before Tuesday’s meeting. Candidates who applied to run for the city council vacancy included former councilman Greg Sebourn, city attorney Sonia Carvalho, Fullerton Planning Commission Chair Chris Gaarder and plenty of candidates from other walks of life.

Each candidate was given three minutes to present their campaign in front of the council on Tuesday evening. From the 23 candidates who appeared, each council member chose three candidates they wanted to be further interviewed. Three of the four voting council members had both Flory and Carvalho on their list, except for city council member Bruce Whitaker.

Each Fullerton city council member then formulated one question to be asked to the remaining candidates following their nominations.

Silva nominated Jan Flory following the second round of speeches. Jennifer Fitzgerald, Mayor Pro Tem for the city council, seconded the motion.

Council member Ahmad Zahra nominated Carvalho through a substitute motion that was seconded by Whitaker. However, Carvalho was denied appointment by a 3-1 final vote for Flory.

Whitaker voted against Flory being appointed.

For the city of Fullerton, holding a special election would have cost the city more than $428,000. If a new council member was not appointed by Feb. 2, Fullerton would have had to hold a special election in November 2019, which would leave the council without a member for the better part of a year.

“I think this was a fair process, as fair as it could be. I do think it’s in the best interest for the city to have an appointment at this stage because I don’t really think we have half a million dollars to throw around on an election for a one year term,” candidate Chris Gaarder said.

Despite opposition, Silva stood by the council’s appointment process and said their decision was in the best interest of the city.

“I think it went pretty well given the short time we had from opening up applications then doing the turnaround, it wasn’t going to be an easy decision,” Silva said. “I think right now having someone to help us and knowing that they’re not going to run in two years, I think that gives everyone else a fair chance to run in 2020.”

Flory will serve as on the Fullerton city council until 2020 and stated several times that she will not seek re-election. The council also heavily considered Carvahlo for the open seat, but her plans to run for council again swayed the opinion for Flory.

Flory, who will now be at the focal point of 2019’s decisions due to her appointed status, has plans for handling Fullerton’s main issues such as infrastructure, affordable housing, alleviating homelessness.

“I am gratified and honored that the council had the confidence to name me as an appointee but I think I’ve got a long track record with the city and I think they felt I would be a steady hand on the matter,” Flory said.

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