Wapato City Hall Bell

Wapato City Hall. (Yakima Herald-Republic)

The Wapato City Council appointed three new members Tuesday at a regular council meeting, and in doing so raised questions about the legitimacy of those appointments.

Chuck Stephens, Joel Torres and Brinda Quintanilla-Bautista were appointed after three separate 3-1 votes, with council member Keith Workman dissenting each time. Workman said he objected because none of the three appointees had submitted applications for the vacant positions and he didn’t feel comfortable voting on them.

Audience members wondered aloud about the legality of appointing members who hadn’t been through a formal application process. State law does not require that appointees formally apply.

However, if filling multiple vacancies at once, state law does require that the council allow new members to vote on subsequent appointees.

For example, after the council voted to fill the first vacancy — a seat now held by Stephens — the council should have allowed Stephens to vote on Torres’ appointment. After Torres was appointed, the council should have allowed Stephens and Torres to vote on Quintanilla-Bautista’s appointment.

“Where two or more positions are vacant and two or more members of the governing body remain in office, the remaining members of the governing body shall appoint a qualified person to fill one of the vacant positions,” the law reads, “The remaining members of the governing body and the newly appointed person shall appoint another qualified person to fill another vacant position, and so on until each of the vacant positions is filled with each of the new appointees participating in each appointment that is made after his or her appointment.”

The same four council members voted on all three appointments. The city administrator did not reply to requests for comment.

The three seats had been open for at least a month.

Stephens replaced Tony Guzman, who was dismissed from the council after then-Mayor Juan Orozco said he missed three regularly scheduled council meetings. Guzman disputes that claim.

Torres replaced Dora Alvarez-Roa, who was appointed mayor last month after Orozco stepped down and was almost immediately named city administrator. Quintanilla-Bautista replaced Roberto Reyna, who resigned last month, saying he was “no longer needed.”

One person, Doug Milne, says he applied to be a city council member, but said no one followed up with him about the position. He says he thinks the three members were “recruited.”

“It was my understanding that the process is you make an application to the city to fill that spot,” he said, “And I expected to get some kind of response, like an interview, and that never happened.”