The Maypearl City Council appointed Barbara Pruitt as the newest council member despite a bit of confusion during the process.
Pruitt was one of five prospective candidates who hoped to fill the vacancy left by Jo Ann Mathers after she was named the city's new mayor.
Mathers was appointed as mayor in mid-May to fill the mayoral vacancy after registered Maypearl voters elected Phillip "Doc" Veltman, who passed away before the May 4 election.
The process to fill the council vacancy happened within two special meetings. During the first meeting on May 28, the council members — Johnny Coleman, Mark Partin, Lisa Ferry and Chris Coppinger — were given a list of five prospective candidates which they had to rank individually.
The five candidates — Aaron McAlister, Barbara Pruitt, Brian Lonidier, Joy Landry and Kathy Ponce — were ranked on a scale one through five. One was the voting member's first choice and five was the last choice. The candidate with the lowest score was to then be appointed as the fifth council member, explained Coleman, who is the mayor pro-tem and current acting mayor while Mathers recovers from a medical procedure.
The confusion arose when one council member did not rank two candidates, which led to a four-way tie.
"There might have been some hiccups with it just because everyone wasn't sure (of the process)," Coleman said.
That four-way tie was ultimately broken by Mathers, who did not participate in the ranking system. She, however, appointed McAlister, who was part of the tie and also one of the candidates that did not receive a ranking from one council member.
Coleman noted that, by not ranking all five candidates, the council at-large began to question the points system and outcome. He also stated that McAlister was not sworn into office at the time, as the board needed time to reflect on the process.
During the May 28 meeting, it was mentioned that one person did not put a number by two names on a ballot sheet, but it was brushed off because of a misunderstanding of the rules, Coleman said.
"It was not a shady deal. It was a simple mistake and mistakes happen," Coleman said. He added that he isn't sure why the system is used, but at that point, the council was committed to it.
Coleman is now working with city staff to decide what can be done to improve the system moving forward.
To remedy the error, the council met in a second specially called session Sunday afternoon. Mathers was not present for the meeting, so Coleman oversaw the meeting in his mayor pro-tem capacity.
The council decided to undo the ranking system and start anew with a unanimous vote, which brought them back to the beginning of having to fill the position.
Coleman said he met with the city attorney who said it was appropriate to start over because McAlister hadn't been sworn in and it was never approved for Mathers to break the tie.
"Since we didn't swear anybody in, we wouldn't be in any trouble as long as we motioned to reverse the other action," Coleman explained. "It would have been void anyway because no one motioned to have the mayor break the tie."
Coleman noted that he didn't want to attempt the ranking system again because it was confusing and other cities don't use that system.
After the ranking system was undone, Coleman nominated Pruitt to be the new council member. Coppinger seconded and it was unanimously approved.
"I was very shocked it was a unanimous decision," Coleman said.
He explained that when the council did the ranking system, he was the only one that listed Pruitt as his first-choice candidate.
Coleman said he nominated Pruitt because she was the runner up during the May 4 joint election and only fell short to him by nine votes.
"She's the only other one who filled out a packet to put her name on the ballot," said Coleman about choosing Pruitt over the other four candidates. "Why wouldn't we give it to her? She's obviously invested in the city."
Pruitt served on the city council for nearly 18 years and most recently served on the planning and zoning board.
"I think from the beginning she would be a way better candidate then I would be," Coleman said. "She's going to help. She has experience."
Pruitt was born and raised in Maypearl and looks forward to helping the city get on track.
"I'm just here to do the right thing to serve the community and the citizens," she said.
Samantha Douty, @SamanthaDouty