As Canal Winchester City Council members mourn the loss of colleague John Bender, who died Sept. 14, they also must decide wheth-er to fill the vacant seat on a temporary basis or leave it to be filled in the Nov. 5 election.
Bender had been seeking re-election to council. His death leaves four candidates to fill four available seats: Bobbie Mershon, Steve Donahue, Will Bennett and James Wynkoop.
Bender, 71, died of complications related to leukemia and congestive heart failure.
At the Sept. 16 council meeting, a lone rose marked Bender's seat and Donahue, as council president, request-ed a moment of silence before council members and city staff members were given a chance to share their thoughts about the longtime coach and councilman.
"I've been on council with him since he came on with the charter change back in 1995," Mershon said. "He was quiet and considered every side before making a decision. He was a good man and we're going to miss him."
All the council members agreed Bender will be missed, and several pointed out how he kept a positive attitude with never an unkind word about anyone.
"He always made sure everyone in Canal Winchester was represented. For anyone who didn't have a voice, he spoke up for them as well," Councilman Rick Deeds said. "He never said anything bad about anyone."
Bender had been serving as council's vice president. The remaining members voted unanimously to have Deeds fill that role through the end of the year.
According to Law Director Gene Hollins, the council may appoint someone to fill Bender's seat or may defer to the mayor for appointing someone; or, the seat may remain vacant until new council members are elected Nov. 5 and sworn in to office.
"If we could appoint two people to fill the shoes of Dr. Bender, that would be my advice, but we can only appoint one," Hollins said.
He asked for an executive session for the purpose of discussing a potential appointment. No action was taken by council following the executive session.
Council has 30 days to fill the vacated seat before it can be filled by Mayor Mike Ebert, who said he wasn't sure what action council would take.
If the seat is left vacant, the council rules requiring a majority vote would remain in effect. That means four of the six remaining council members must vote in favor of any legislation in order for it to pass.
"I don't know at this time what council will do," Ebert said. "It's not mandatory to fill the vacated seat. However, no readings and no public hearing is required to fill a temporary seat."
Franklin County Board of Elections spokesman Ben Piscitelli said there will be postings at all Canal Winchester polling locations Nov. 5, alerting voters that ballots cast for Bender will not be counted.