The City Council election in Livingston remains a cliffhanger that may not come to a head until the last moment, when the election is certified.
Preliminary results show Wapinder Kang, a Livingston police officer, still in second in the race for three open council seats. The top three finishers in the seven-candidate race will win the seats, but state law appears to prevent Kang from being both a councilman and an officer in the same city.
According to preliminary results, the 30-year-old is in line for a seat with 18.4 percent of the vote. He trails Juan Aguilar Jr., who has 25 percent of the vote, and is ahead of incumbent Arturo Sicairos, who has 14.8 percent of the vote.
Approximately 5,000 to 6,000 mail-in and provisional ballots from across Merced County are yet to be counted as the Merced County Registrar of Voters Office checks the signatures on them.
We want leaders who are thoughtful and are able to make those hard decisions in a timely fashion. Waiting until the last second is not demonstrating what I would prefer.
Councilman Alex McCabe, who also ran for office
State code 53227 seems to prevent Kang from holding the office unless he were to resign from his police job. The code states: “An employee of a local agency may not be sworn into office as an elected or appointed member of the legislative body of that local agency unless he or she resigns as an employee.”
“If the employee does not resign, the employment shall automatically terminate upon his or her being sworn into office,” the code says.
Kang on Nov. 15 told the Sun-Star he still was weighing all of his options and had not made up his mind. Kang did not respond to multiple calls this week for further comment.
Livingston City Attorney Jose Sanchez said he’s met with Kang to discuss his options, and the city, too, is waiting for a answer. “Councilman-elect Kang has not informed the city of his decision yet,” Sanchez said Thursday.
The Livingston City Council is set to swear in new council members at the regular Tuesday meeting, he said.
Councilman-elect (Wapinder) Kang has not informed the city of his decision yet.
Livingston City Attorney Jose Sanchez
Sanchez said if Kang were to give up the council seat, the rest of the council could choose to appoint a replacement or run a special election.
The fourth-highest vote-winner in the November race was Alex McCabe with 13.7 percent. McCabe, who was appointed to a seat in June 2015, said he would be the “most logical choice” for the appointment. He stressed that he would be satisfied with whatever the council decides, but did express frustration that there was still no resolution.
“I think if someone really wanted it, going into it and knowing what the expectations are, that they should have their answer already in place,” he said. “I don’t think that as a public servant it does a service to put our city in limbo, and really force the city to spend money — taxpayer money — to get legal opinions.”
An employee of a local agency may not be sworn into office as an elected or appointed member of the legislative body of that local agency unless he or she resigns as an employee.
State code 53227
He noted that the longer it takes for Kang to make a decision, the less time staff members have for other projects.
“We want leaders who are thoughtful and are able to make those hard decisions in a timely fashion,” he said. “Waiting until the last second is not demonstrating what I would prefer.”
The Merced County ballots for the presidential race must be certified by Tuesday, according to Barbara Levey, the registrar of voters. The office has two more days to certify the local races after that, Levey said, but she aims to wrap it up sooner.
“I’m trying to hit the mark with all of it Tuesday,” she said.