An election to decide who will fill will take place Nov. 6 after the government body voted Wednesday evening 3-1 to hold the referendum at a cost of $37,700.
The election will take place despite being uncontested with only and , who's indicated she wants the seat vacated by being listed on the ballot.
Voting in favor of the election were Los Gatos Mayor Steve Rice and Council members Joe Pirzynski and Diane McNutt. Opposing the move was Council member Steven Leonardis.
The highly charged vote came after several town residents addressed the Council, some expressing dismay that and another potential candidate, Dennis Byron, decided against running after pulling papers.
Some of the speakers said Wilcox and Byron were bullied into dropping out of the race with bringing up alleged improprieties brought against her while serving on the Santa Clara County Office of Education and reported in a 2007 Mercury News article.
" ... Two other potential candidates have been anonymously attacked and intimidated in a disgraceful way before they could even fully express their views," said Los Gatos resident Glenn Boyd, referring to Wilcox and Byron. "Evidently the supporters of the existing candidates believe the citizens of Los Gatos aren't either entitled to, [nor] capable of making choices among candidates ... Well, I'm entitled. I'm capable and I expect a choice."
Boyd said the situation presented the opportunity for a sitting Council member to step forward and provide real leadership to the town and that Spector and Jensen, "benefiting from the disgraceful tactics," would withdraw their candidacies until an election could be held.
Los Gatos community advocate Jak Van Nada said the town was not the only municipality facing an uncontested Council race and cited the Campbell, Los Altos Hills and Saratoga Council races, which are unopposed this year with incumbents being appointed. "I just don't see, or understand why we would spend $37,700," he said about the election's cost estimated by the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters' Office.
Longtime Los Gatos resident Larry Arzie said he had written a letter to the Los Gatos Weekly-Times expressing his outrage at those who had engaged in character assassination against the potential candidates, but that his anger paled to his anger at an editorial the newspaper ran this week where its editor suggested that those involved in the character assassination of Wilcox, particularly, were part of the Council.
"His mere putting in print that it could be possible is as much dirty political tricks as what happened to both potential candidates. Innuendo is a powerful tool, especially when used by the editor of a paper, creating gossip and rumor," he said.
Vikki Foley Boyd spoke against the appointment of the candidates. "I'm sure Vice Mayor Barbara Spector and Mrs. Jensen are not proud to [not] rightfully earn their positions." She then noted she was frustrated by the prospect she would not get a chance to vote. She asked the Council to postpone the election until another candidate would come forward and hold a special election.
Dick Allen was upset at the insinuation that Spector and Jensen didn't earn their positions on the Council.
Douglas Clark encouraged the Council to save the money of holding the election and appoint the candidates.
And Chris Wiley said it was unfair to not appoint after Spector and Jensen had completed all the proper paperwork to run on time and were now denied the appointment because other possible contenders felt threatened and bullied.
But to no avail. Pirzynski made the motion to hold the election, indicated it was an uncomfortable time in town history and revealed many had expressed to him wanting a chance to vote in the Council race.
Pirzynski said although he had high regards for Spector and Jensen, the citizenry deserved the candidates' discussion of the issues in various forms during the campaign.
He added the Council would be doing the citizens a disservice by appointing the candidates and stopping the electoral process. "When you look at election code, there's still opportunity for someone to run as a write-in candidate ... Is that realistic? I have no idea, but my sense is ... that this is one of the legal options that's available for those in the community," he said. "I believe this community deserves an opportunity to hear from the candidates."
Leonardis, strongly opposing the election expenditure, said Spector and Jensen should have been appointed because they completed the filing process and met the deadlines. He also reiterated how Los Gatos was not alone in having an uncontested race.
"Why would we spend nearly $40,000 when we have a $2 million budget deficit this year?" he asked. "When it's all but certain that these two people who did follow the process ... will win. I'm all for democracy and potential write-in elections, but when I googled write-in election, the top-two vote-getters are Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse ... It's a waste of the taxpayers' money."
Rice took exception with Leonardis saying the town had a budget deficit and said Los Gatos balances its budget every year. He then said Alaska elected a U.S. senator two years ago on a write-in ballot. "It does happen in much bigger venues than the Town of Los Gatos. I really came in this evening somewhat undecided on which way I was leaning on this, but one thing that is very clear about Los Gatos is that it values debate. It values discussion of ideas and to appoint council members, one who has never run for Council, would rob the citizenry of that debate and that discussion," Rice said. "On that basis ... alone ... I believe it's worth $1.20 per citizen of the Town of Los Gatos to have that debate."
Leonardis said the candidates could still participate in debates coordinated by the Santa Clara County Leagues of Women Voters and other organizations.
Councilwoman McNutt lamented that the two candidates who dropped out of the race were bullied and intimidated and said she found it disturbing. The end result, caused by perhaps supporters of Spector and Jensen who may have participated, is that it was disrespectful and insulting to the women. "What's the message here? Well .. the only way we can get these people elected is to scare off all the competition."
"This is not [about] dollars, but the principle and the idea of democratic principles. We have deprived, through a set of circumstances, voters from the opportunity of voting for whom they want to have on the Council," she said. "The dirty political tricks that apparently were seen in this community don't belong here and obviously did not seem to work. I hope we never have this experience again."