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Kapoor urged to quit early to allow voters to pick successor
Saturday, 01 August 2020 15:02

From Staff Reports

Asheville City Councilman Vijay Kapoor has said he will resign on Aug. 8, but if he resigned a few days earlier, it would — possibly — allow the voters an opportunity to chose a successor to fill his unexpired terms instead of council members making the appointment.

If Kapoor follows through with his Aug. 8 departure, “under state and local law, that means the council will choose who will fill his term through its 2020 end date,” the Asheville Citizen Times reported on July 28.

“But,” the ACT noted, “some members of the public — and now one council member (Brian Haynes)  — are calling on Kapoor to quit about four days earlier. Under North Carolina General Statute 160A-63 that would trigger a special election. 

“That is because it would be more than 90 days before the Nov. 3 election, as first reported by the Mountain Xpress.”

Kapoor, a one-term councilman, a South Asheville resident and 2017’s top vote-getter, “told the Citizen Times July 27 he will not change his planned departure date,” the ACT reported.

Kapoor was quoted by the ACT as saying, “The voters democratically chose me to serve until 2021 (now 2022) and I am going to serve as much of my term as I can,” refererring to a change in council term length last year.

To that end, Haynes, a fellow councilman, is calling for a potential election.

“I would certainly prefer the voters deciding, if that option is still available,” Haynes told the ACT. “I would also encourage Councilman Kapoor to move up his resignation date a few days if that would indeed make this possible.”

Meanwhile, Councilwoman Julie Mayfield told the ACT it would be better to have an election, but holding that and a primary would not be “reasonable or cost-effective,” given the COVID-19 pandemic and the likelihood of record-breaking voter turnout. 

She added, “Election officials are scrambling to figure out how to manage the anticipated burden of absentee ballots and how they will staff the November elections, and asking them to mobilize all of that twice simply doesn’t make sense.” (Mayfield is a candidate for NC Senate District 49.)

The ACT noted that the other four council member failed to respond to its inquiries on their stances regarding Kapoor’s resignation.

“Even if Kapoor leaves early, it’s still not clear whether there would be an election. The city’s charter conflicts with the state law in that it says the date of Kapoor quitting doesn’t matter and that an appointment would be through the end of his term, according to Branham, the city attorney,” the ACT stated.

 

On July 27 City Attorney Brad Branham said the Charter would likely take precedence. But later that day Branham sent an email to the council saying that because the issue had recently become “a hot topic” he did additional research and was convinced that the Charter was the law and must be followed over the state statute.

 

 

“In cases where conflicts of this nature exist between the state statute and a city’s Charter, it is the language of the charter that controls,” Branham said. “Regardless of when (Councilman) Kapoor vacates his seat, the council must appoint a replacement and that replacement will serve out the full unexpired term.”

 

Buncombe County Board of Elections Chair Jake Quinn, however, said he was not certain that was the case. 

 

“There appears to be a small disconnect between what the statutes say and what the city charter says,” he said.

 

Quinn said he had contacted the NC State Board of Elections for an opinion. He said he expected an answer by the end of the day July 27, but by 5 p.m. had not heard back.

 

A primary would be a “practical impossibility” because the Nov. 3 slate of candidates must be set in time to print absentee ballots and start sending them out Sept. 4, as required by law, he said.

 

Before joining the council, Kapoor gained prominence for his advocacy for South Asheville neighborhoods, pushing back against a 2016 plan to displace mobile home park residents for a multimillion-dollar apartment complex. In winning, he became the first Asian American to join the city’s governing body.

 

On the council, he advocated for employee raises and clashed with other council members who wanted to limit police funding and increase what he said was already unprecedented sums added to public transit. On March 16, he said he and his family planned to leave Asheville to be closer to his consulting work in the Northeast, and that he would stay until the city passed a budget. That process, normally ending by June 30, has been delayed by the pandemic.

 



 


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