Story last updated 6:15 p.m.
In a 4 to 4 vote, the Colorado Springs City Council failed to appoint a candidate to fill the District 3 seat during a special session Monday.
In December, after considering 25 applications and interviewing seven candidates, five council members informally chose longtime Colorado Springs resident, businessperson and community advocate Stephannie Fortune for the seat now vacated by Richard Skorman.
The choice drew criticism, in part because Fortune had just moved to the district that covers most of downtown and the southwestern part of the city.
During Monday's formal vote, councilman Dave Donelson changed his position, saying he would support long-time resident and former county commissioner Sallie Clark as a compromise candidate with three other council members.
“Can I really look a District 3 constituent in the eyes and say I could have appointed a 36-year resident, prior council woman and county commissioner who has operated a business in the district that whole time,” Donelson said, “but instead I thought the person who has only been there for only two months and has never been elected was more qualified?”
Some 30 people spoke during the session, about two-thirds of them in support of Fortune. Most of these supporters said they did not live in the district, but many said they owned businesses there and had experience working with Fortune on various projects.
District 1 resident Luke Travins owns several downtown restaurants in District 3. He said he’d worked with Fortune before and she’d always said, “to put our best foot forward … by making sure you endorse the best candidate under the circumstances ... Not the most conservative, not the most liberal, not the most centrist.”
“Council I implore you to appoint Stephannie, she’s the best candidate under the circumstances,” he said.
The people who spoke against Fortune’s appointment said they did not feel that she represented their values and that the council was not acting on their behalf.
District 3 resident June C. Waller, 85, asked whether of all the boards and commissions that Fortune has sat on, “Have there been people in her company that look like me?”
“I’m here this morning all in black because I’m here for a funeral. A funeral of my vote," Waller said. "I voted for Mr. Skorman.”
Waller also said she hoped that she was representing people of color, people with children and the people who don’t have time to come to talk to council.
Councilmember Yolanda Avila said she did not support Fortune for the District 3 seat. She’s concerned about how the appointment process has gone and thinks that the council needs to look at how it's laid out in the charter.
The council received 186 emails and letters about this issue and 174 were opposed to Fortune’s appointment, according to council member Nancy Henjum. She noted that these were written in each person’s own voice, suggesting that they weren’t copies.
Council members Randy Helms, Tom Strand and Wayne Williams all spoke in support of Fortune’s appointment. Bill Murray was opposed and Mike O’Malley did not comment.
Another meeting is now scheduled for Friday to discuss and possibly fill the vacant seat. The appointment must be made by the end of the month.
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