116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CORALVILLE — Coralville City Council members have decided to fill a council vacancy by appointment rather than hold a special election.
The appointee will succeed council member Jill Dodds, who resigned in April.
The council weighed its two options — holding a special election and making an appointment — during a work session after Tuesday night’s formal council meeting, ultimately agreeing on making an appointment since it would fill the vacancy more quickly.
It is up to the council to decide what the appointment process will look like, City Administrator Kelly Hayworth said. The resolution setting out the process is expected to come before the council at its next meeting on May 24.
Examples of the appointment process could include an application and interviews, Hayworth said.
And it’s possible voters could petition for a special election.
Vacancy created last month
The vacancy was created after Dodds, a council member for a decade, resigned at the mayor’s request following the arrest of Dodds’ husband on a child sexual abuse charge.
During her remarks at the end of the April 26 council meeting, Dodds said the allegation against her husband is false. She criticized the investigation by the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office and the news media reports on the arrest. She said she was resigning to focus on the charge against her husband.
Mayor Meghann Foster previously told The Gazette she had concerns about how the allegation against Jeffrey Dodds “would impact the important work of the City Council moving forward.” She said it was not a decision she made lightly or unilaterally.
“My commitment as mayor is and always will be prioritizing the safety of the individuals, families and children that live in Coralville, and that's the lens that I have to look through,” Foster said last month.
Jeffrey Dodds, 63, was arrested on felony charges of sexually abusing a 4-year-old child while the child was in his care.
Jeffrey and Jill Dodds owned and operated Simple Abundance Child Care since 1998, according to their website, which has been removed from the internet. The state Department of Human Services said the center “voluntarily surrendered” its child care license Dec. 31.
The alleged abuse happened last year, and a no-contact order was filed on behalf of the victim, according to court records.
Hayworth said the city council has successfully filled vacancies both by appointment and special election.
The vacant seat’s term runs through December 2023. If someone is appointed, he or she would serve up until the November 2023 election when whoever won the election would be seated, Hayworth said.
In a special election, whoever is elected would serve through the end of the term.
Council members saw the advantages of an appointment as not costing money and being able to fill the slot as soon as mid-June.
An appointment also would help the council avoid quorum issues with upcoming council member absences, council members noted.
Were a special election to be scheduled — at a cost between $20,000 and $25,000 — the preferable date for the election would be Aug. 16, Johnson County Auditor Travis Weipert said.
Weipert noted North Liberty in the past had used one voting center for a special election instead of regular city polling places, which cut down on the cost.
Foster, the mayor, on Tuesday recognized the benefits of appointment but said people want a say in who their leaders are.
“I know that this is a community that really values voting and in the people having to say in who their leaders are and find it hard to imagine that there would not be a petition,” Foster said.
Residents can petition for a special election within 14 days of the city’s resolution Such a petition would require at least 396 signatures, Weipert said.
“Then our decision is made for us” if residents petition, council member Mike Knudson said.
“If no one petitions, then that is a sign that the community is comfortable with the choice that we make, and so I could get on board with that,” Foster said.
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