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Mullane wants Charter change to make appointed mayors face voters

LOCKPORT – No incoming Lockport mayor should be allowed to serve for more than a year without facing the voters, Alderwoman Anita Mullane said last week.

Mullane, D-2nd Ward, told her Common Council colleagues that she intends to introduce a measure that would prevent the situation that resulted when Mayor Anne E. McCaffrey succeeded Michael W. Tucker in February 2014.

McCaffrey was Council president at the time, which means she was also deputy mayor. When Tucker resigned, McCaffrey automatically became mayor. At the time, there were more than 22 months left in the four-year term to which Tucker had been elected in 2011.

Some voters were angry when they found out McCaffrey didn’t have to run in a special election in November 2014 for a one-year unexpired term. Corporation Counsel John J. Ottaviano explained at the time that because McCaffrey’s succession to the top job in the city was automatic, she was legally entitled to finish Tucker’s full term without facing an election. Someone appointed to a vacant office would have to run.

That’s how Mullane won her Council seat, which used to be McCaffrey’s, in a special November 2014 election to fill the year then left on McCaffrey’s two-year term in the 2nd Ward.

McCaffrey had appointed Ronald A. Franco to fill the Council seat. Franco decided not to run in the election, however, and Mullane defeated Patrick T. Feeley at the polls.

Mullane’s idea is to amend the City Charter to require someone who succeeds to the mayor’s job in the middle of a term to have to run in the ensuing November election if he or she wants to remain mayor.

What if a mayor quits or dies right after taking office? “I didn’t feel the public should have an appointment that could be almost four years. There should be an election,” Mullane said. “That’s how it is for us (aldermen).”

Ottaviano said he’ll research whether there is any provision of law preventing the change, and the Council will discuss it Feb. 24. Ottaviano said any such change would have to be approved in a general election referendum.

McCaffrey ran for a full four-year term as mayor last November, and won the race over Roger L. Sherrie.