By Bethany Bray
---- — SALEM — It took the City Council 302 votes — and the span of a weekend — to come to a consensus on its board vacancy.
William Legault, a candidate outside the council’s 5-5 deadlock vote last week, was appointed last night to fill the remaining year of Joan Lovely’s councilor-at-large term.
Last night was a continuation of a Jan. 3 meeting that ended in a stalemate. Despite taking 300 votes, the board could not come to an agreement during a seven-hour session that stretched to 2:25 a.m.
Legault was selected in the board’s 302nd vote, which came 45 minutes into last night’s meeting.
Legault pledged to represent the city with a “common sense” approach.
“I have no agenda other than to serve this council and this city,” he said.
Last week, the board was split 5-5 between former Councilors Steve Pinto and Lucy Corchado. Both Pinto and Corchado withdrew their candidacies last night, after the board’s 301st vote made it clear that neither of them would have the support of a majority of councilors.
For the 301st vote, Councilors Michael Sosnowski, Todd Siegel, Arthur Sargent, Paul Prevey and Jerry Ryan continued to back Pinto, while Councilors Josh Turiel and Kevin Carr voted for Legault and Councilors Joseph O’Keefe, Robert McCarthy and Tom Furey continued to back Corchado.
O’Keefe and Siegel voted for another candidate, Chris Sicuranza, on the 302nd vote, and the remaining eight councilors voted for Legault. The board then moved to make the vote unanimous.
As they withdrew, Pinto and Corchado were applauded with standing ovations; Legault was also, after the 302nd vote.
Legault will fill a one-year vacancy created by the resignation of Lovely, who stepped down from the council to be sworn into the state Senate. She had served one year of a councilor-at-large term that goes through December 2013.
Legault, a freelance writer, fitness coach and personal trainer, is well-known around town but has never held elected office.
He also works as a consultant for a group of investors and businessmen looking to open a restaurant in Salem, he said. Previously, Legault worked as a bartender at the Lobster Shanty and fitness director at the Salem YMCA.
It was clear that much maneuvering took place between councilors over the weekend, and the board’s 302nd vote didn’t come without some theater in the council chambers.
Sosnowski compared the situation to the city’s 17th-century witch trials, when a majority of people didn’t try to find out “the other side of the story.”
Sosnowski bristled at the idea that Pinto’s supporters are “obstructionists” and working against Mayor Kim Driscoll. Pinto, over his four years on the council, voted to support Driscoll most of the time, Sosnowksi said.
Several stood to explain why they supported the candidate they voted for, as they did last week. Pinto, as he was withdrawing his candidacy, thanked each of the five councilors who had voted for him.
Council President Jerry Ryan said the city charter-mandated process to fill a council vacancy — a majority vote of an even-numbered board — should be revisited.
“This process needs to be looked at. ... We need something in place so Thursday doesn’t happen again,” he said.
Last week, the board took the same tie vote over and over for hours, with Councilors McCarthy, O’Keefe, Turiel, Carr and Furey voting for Corchado and Ryan, Sargent, Prevey, Sosnowski and Siegel voting for Pinto.
Pinto served four years as a councilor-at-large before losing his bid for re-election in 2011. Corchado is an activist in the city’s Point neighborhood and Ward 1 councilor from 2004 to 2007.
Six residents had submitted letters of interest to fill Lovely’s vacancy.
In addition to Legault, Pinto and Corchado, the candidate pool included Sicuranza, director of communications for the New England Police Benevolent Association; Robert Wright, a college teacher with a lengthy background in state government; and Ken Sawicki, who has run unsuccessfully for multiple offices.
Council President Jerry Ryan apologized to each of the candidates last night (except Wright, who was absent) for Thursday’s marathon session.
Pinto replied, “You don’t have to apologize. It (the process) is democracy.”
Bethany Bray can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @SalemNewsBB.