Newsoms’ mayoral decision rests with courts

Published 2:12 pm Friday, October 16, 2015

The town of Newsoms will wait on a panel of judges to decide its mayoral fate, as town attorney Tim Drewry’s interpretation of the Code of Virginia was correct in not allowing three council members to appoint Vanless Worrell its next mayor. The code requires that a majority of the body is needed to elect a new leader, and despite the fact that one of the six members was absent from quorum, four votes are still required.

According to the Code of Virginia, Section 24.2-228, when a vacancy occurs in a local governing body or an elected school board, the remaining members of the body or board, respectively, within 45 days of the office becoming vacant, may appoint a qualified voter of the election district in which the vacancy occurred to fill the position.

At its meeting on Sept. 29, three of the five present Newsoms town council members voted to appoint Worrell its mayor pending the clarification of the Code of Virginia. The following Monday, Oct. 5, Drewry told the board that it would not be legal and encouraged them to vote again at a special called meeting.

Although the meeting was held 46 days after former Mayor Kenneth Cooke’s resignation, Drewry explained that it was allowed because the 45th day fell on the weekend. Worrell again did not receive the required four votes to be appointed mayor, and now Drewry must file a petition with the Southampton County Court System.

“If a majority of the remaining members cannot agree, or do not act, the judges of the circuit court of the county or city shall make the appointment,” the code continues.

Drewry, who has not yet filed the petition, said that the circuit court judges may ultimately decide to forgo naming a mayor, and Vice Mayor Harvey Porter would stand in for all intents and purposes until the election in May.