LOWER TOWNSHIP — Republicans have submitted three potential replacements for Councilman Glenn Douglass, and none of them are Glenn Douglass.
Douglass, a Republican elected in 2010, was forced to resign his 3rd Ward council last week in order to collect his state pension. Douglass was retiring from the state Department of Corrections, but to collect his pension, under a 2011 pension reform law, he had to resign his council seat.
Douglass, however, said he is allowed to get back into politics one month after the Sept. 1 retirement date, and he hoped the Republicans would support appointing him to his old seat.
In 2010, Douglass won the Republican primary by upsetting the party’s pick, Brian McEwing. He went on to win the four-year term in the general election that November.
With Douglass’ resignation, the local Republican organization was tasked with picking three potential successors to fill the unexpired term and serve until the Nov. 5 election. Voters will then pick a 3rd Ward councilman to serve until the November 2014 election when the seat is up again.
The GOP organization did not pick Douglass.
“I could have been reappointed to my own seat by the organization. It’s not like I wasn’t their candidate. They just turned their backs on me,” Douglass said Friday.
Jeff Lindsay, the leader of the local Republican organization, said the Republican committee members voted to pick Erik Simonsen, a former councilman from the 2nd Ward, who had to vacate his seat in 2011 when he moved to the 3rd Ward, to fill the term and run in November. Lindsay said McEwing, who lost the 2010 primary to Douglass, received the second highest vote total while Jacqueline Henderson came in third. All three names were submitted to council. Lindsay said council has 30 days to pick one of them or the Republicans will decide who takes the seat until Nov. 5. Either way, Simonsen would run in November on the Republican ticket.
“Erik had the most votes, so he is our endorsed candidate for November. However, all three are qualified for the council. If they select any one of the three, all three are prepared and ready to take the seat,” Lindsay said.
Township Attorney Charles Sandman reads the state statutes governing the situation a bit differently than Lindsay. Sandman said the statute says council “may” appoint somebody in the interim before the November election.
“May means council has a choice. We interpret ‘may’ to mean if you don’t pick one you just wait until November,” said Sandman.
Council declined to pick one at a meeting this week. Lindsay said if council does not pick one after the 30 days, which Sandman said is by Oct. 5, then the Republicans would pick one and send him to the next council meeting to be sworn in.
Douglass, meanwhile, said he plans to run as an independent on Nov. 5 for his old seat. He would likely to be running against Simonsen and possibly a Democratic candidate as well.
Further complicating the issue is that Douglass said he could still appeal the decision by state pension officials that he had to resign his seat.
“I’m waiting for the paperwork to come from Trenton. If I appeal, it would go to the Pension Board. If I’m not satisfied with that decision, I can go to an administrative law judge,” Douglass said.
The process could take weeks if not months. The final decision could come after council has made an interim pick and even after voters have selected a replacement for the next year.
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