Process for Picking a New Scranton Mayor in Question

SCRANTON, Pa. -- Moving forward without a mayor, Scranton City Council met for the first time since the mayor's federal indictment.

Scranton Mayor Bill Courtright resigned on Monday and on Tuesday, he pleaded guilty to federal public corruption charges.

Wednesday, city council had its first meeting in a mayor-less City Hall. Council members are weighing their options for picking a new mayor.

City employees have been showing up to work for the past two days with a lot of uncertainty, but council laid out its next steps in moving forward since Courtright left office.

A new mayor will have to be picked, but no one is sure yet if that person will be picked by city council or by city voters.

Bill Courtright's name has been removed from the door to the mayor's office on the first floor of Scranton City Hall. Its absence overshadowed the second-floor council chambers as members held their first meeting since Courtright's federal indictment and guilty plea.

"It's just been an emotional ride the last couple days, but at the end of the day, this was a good meeting to have. It was good for all of us to let that out, let in some public input. Now that stage is over, and we're on to getting back to business," said council member Tim Perry.

Much of the meeting focused on how a new mayor will be selected. Council President Pat Rogan will serve as acting mayor through the end of this month.

There's never been a mayoral vacancy before in Scranton and solicitors say the rules are vague.

The city's Home Rule Charter says council should appoint a mayor while the administrative code supports a special election. That's what most of the council supports, too.

"I'd much rather the voters get to decide who's going to fill the remainder of this term than the five members of city council. Obviously, that's going to be a matter for our solicitors. They've been working diligently over the last two days," said acting mayor Pat Rogan.

The city's solicitors say they'll write up a legal opinion due to council next week. The public opinion at the meeting was clear: nearly everyone who got up to speak supported a special election.

"I am not shocked by the mayor's resignation, at all, in the least bit, but I do believe with two and a half years of an unexpired term, there should be a special election," Glynis Johns said.

"I would think that this new mayor and this new government would want to have as much transparency as ever and honesty and trust with the people. Therefore, I absolutely think, if it's at all possible by law, if you could do it, there should be an election for the people to pick their mayor," said Fay Franus.

Scranton City Council members say they are planning a meeting for next week, separate from their regular meeting, where they'll lay out what they can legally do to select a new mayor.

Because this is unchartered territory, any option could face a challenge in court.

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