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Sonoma City Council to choose new mayor Monday

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With an agenda short on other substantive business, the Sonoma City Council will conduct its annual reorganization Monday night, voting on the selection of a new mayor and mayor pro tem.

Three-time Mayor Ken Brown will surrender the gavel to whoever receives at least three votes from fellow council members, and Brown has made it clear he intends to participate in the process despite a call from Steve Barbose to recuse himself.

Barbose was the only member of the council not present at a Sonoma Valley Hospital dedication ceremony Nov. 16 when Brown, called to make some remarks, recognized other council members in the audience and described Tom Rouse as Sonoma’s next mayor and David Cook as the next mayor pro tem.

Barbose took exception to that declaration, objecting that Brown’s pronouncement presupposed some prior agreement with other members of the council, which would constitute a violation of the Brown Act, the state’s open-meeting law. That law prohibits elected members of government bodies from discussing and deciding official business – outside publicly-scheduled meetings – in numbers that would constitute a majority.

Brown denied he had discussed mayoral selection with any other council members and was merely voicing his opinion about who he thought should, or would, be chosen.

City Attorney Jeff Walter expressed the legal opinion that he did not believe the mayor had violated the Brown Act and said, based on what he had been told, Brown should not be required to recuse himself.

Barbose nevertheless insisted that Brown’s public declaration was a violation, “because he communicated to three other council members present how he wanted the upcoming vote by the council to go.”

Rouse, who has been mayor pro tem for the past year, must be considered the favorite to take over the mayoral gavel. Longtime tradition has honored that practice, but it is not set in stone and any council member can be nominated – even by themselves.

Barbose and Gallian have both been mayor before, and Cook is completing the second year of his first term on the council.

In other business, the council will be called on to approve a resolution declaring the results of the Nov. 19 special election on Measure B, the Hotel Limitation Measure that was defeated by 124 votes. The precise cost of the election has still not been announced, but the city clerk has reported the estimate to be between $30,000 and $34,000.

The council will also consider an alteration of the by laws of the Redwood Empire Municipal Insurance Fund to accommodate membership changes since the insurance JPA was formed.

Finally, according to Brown, the city will consider a last-minute request for reconsideration of a change to the original subdivision plan for an 18-unit project on West Spain Street.