El Cajon City Council appoints new member despite criticism

Residents wanted special election

EL CAJON, Calif. - El Cajon city leaders on Tuesday appointed a new council member without the vote of residents, despite calls for a special election.

10News reported Monday night how El Cajon city leaders had already made their decision even though they had not finished all 27 interviews. Turns out, the person 10News was told would be chosen – Star Bales – was in fact chosen.

Some people are upset because this is the third person appointed in the last couple of years in lieu of a special election, and some are calling this process un-American.

Candidates for the council member seat only had a few minutes in front of a microphone to sell themselves to city leaders.

One woman started with, "My name is Melinda Neal … caring, concerned, committed candidate for the city of El Cajon."

Another man said, "I truly feel that my skills can contribute to this council in making a better El Cajon."

One candidate said, "Character is of paramount importance."

Some would say it was a lack of character that led to the council seat being vacated. Former Mayor Mark Lewis resigned in October after making racist remarks about Chaldeans.

Instead of a special election, the council appointed one of its own, Bill Wells, to be mayor. Now, they are filling his seat with another appointment. 

Wells told 10News, "We could have a special election, but there are a couple reasons I don't want to do that. One is the cost."

Joan Shoemaker – a former El Cajon mayor who is intimately familiar with the process – told 10News, "But to appoint someone for three years is just … that doesn't have to go before the voters? I think that's wrong."

10News reporter Itica Milanes asked Shoemaker, "Is this a democracy where they're appointing people to run the city?"

Shoemaker responded, "No, that's why I keep calling for a special election. I don't know why they don't do that."

Some El Cajon residents believe it is because council members already decided who they were going to choose well before all 27 interviews.

"I just don't think that's the way to go in America," said Shoemaker.

Bales is Chaldean-American, in her 50s and on the planning commission. She will serve a three-year term.

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