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Syracuse council vets candidates to fill empty seat, some question process

Tom Magnarelli
The Syracuse Common Council.

The Syracuse Common Council will narrow down a list of resumes to three candidates before voting to fill an empty council seat. That process is still being criticized by some who are calling for more transparency.

Former Green-party candidate for councilor-at-large Frank Cetera said there is a lack of public input into the appointment of the vacant seat. He tried to speak about it at Wednesday's council meeting but was shot down.

“It’s unfortunate that the council has decided not to allow this discourse as a part of the public record,” Cetera said.

Cetera said the council already failed their own process when Councilor Khalid Bey proposed appointing Lanessa Owens-Chaplin, before all of the other resumes could be vetted by the council.

“Not publishing a timeline as a part of that process, in my opinion, makes the process incomplete as well,” Cetera said.

Bey put the vote on hold but he said he is hoping to get it done soon. Bey said Owens-Chaplin is a lawyer with New York State Legislature experience working for Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie.

“That’s a very powerful connection to have,” Bey said. "She's written legislation. She's worked in caucuses. She is accustomed to preparing documents. She knows the process for things being developed that hit the floor. She worked for Volunteer Lawyers Project." 

Council President Helen Hudson said the process of selecting the right candidate to fill the seat she vacated is meant for the council and not the public.

“The people had a chance in November and that was called a public election,” Hudson said.

And the people will have another chance this November because whoever is selected will have to run for the seat this year and again next year.

Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.