Milford council sets date for special election to fill Ward 2 vacancy

MILFORD – Milford will hold a special election next month in order to fill its vacant Ward 2 city council seat.

The special election became necessary following the death of former Ward 2 councilman S. Allen “Skip” Pikus in early July. It will be held Aug. 12.

Potential candidates must file to run for the position no later than the end of the business day on Aug. 3. Candidates must be Ward 2 residents and only registered voters residing in that section of the city may cast ballots in the special election.

Former Milford Councilman S. Allen "Skip" Pikus passed away on July 6. (Milford Chronicle/file photo)

Former Milford Councilman S. Allen “Skip” Pikus passed away on July 6. (Milford Chronicle/file photo)

Mr. Pikus had nine months remaining in his current term. The city charter, when it comes to filling vacancies, says, “If at the time a vacancy occurs the remainder of the unexpired term is six (6) months or greater than six (6) months, the election authorities shall call a special election to fill the vacancy for the remainder of the unexpired term. The special election shall be held not sooner than twenty (20) days nor later than thirty (30) days following the occurrence of the vacancy and shall be otherwise governed by the provisions of Article VII.”

Following the death of their former colleague, current members of council were left with little time to grieve before having to set a special election date to fill Mr. Pikus’ seat. That, City Solicitor David Rutt said during Monday’s regularly scheduled council meeting, is partially due to Milford amending its charter half a decade ago.

“When a councilperson dies, there is to be a special election between 20 and 30 days following the vacancy,” Mr. Rutt said. “The charter also says to be in accordance with Section VII of the code. Well, Section VII doesn’t exist. When the charter was amended five years ago, Section VII was repealed and never replaced.

“What I suggest is that council vote and declare the seat vacant as of tonight,” he continued. “That will start the process.”

Council, following Mr. Rutt’s advice, passed motions to vacate the seat and set the special election date.

Councilman Garrett Grier III expressed his concern with how swift the action of filling Mr. Pikus’ seat had to be under the current city charter. His concerns were echoed by Mayor Bryan Shupe, who was unable to attend Monday’s meeting due to suffering a migraine headache, by email on Tuesday.

“We need to do something a little better in the future,” Councilman Grier said. “You need 30 days just to get over the passing of a friend.”

“Thirty days is too short for a special election,” Mayor Shupe said. “In this specific situation, it would have been appropriate to have the ability to give some time between the death of a councilperson and a special election to refill their vacancy, out of respect for the family, friends and colleagues of the individual. In general, I think it would also be beneficial to the residents of Milford to have more time to research candidates and understand the experience.”

Potential changes to the city charter, Mayor Shupe added, will be discussed by council at future meetings.

“City council has plans to review the entire city charter this year and the special election process will be one area that we will look to revise,” he said. “This review will help council ensure that our charter is serving the city in the best way possible and also allow three relatively new council members, after the August election, to better understand their role as public servants.”

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