Sesma Elected City Council VP Amid Rotation Dispute
Gaithersburg City Council member Henry Marraffa said he felt he was passed over in favor of 2013 City Council vice president, Mike Sesma.
The Gaithersburg City Council has elected Mike Sesma its vice president for 2013, but one council member says he was passed over and the position should have been his.
Sesma, a City Council Member since 2005 and 2008's Council Vice President, was nominated and elected at Monday evening's mayor and City Council meeting by a 4-1 vote.
But council member Henry Marraffa said he believes 2013 was his year in the rotation to serve as council vice president — a role he said is honorary, with no additional money or responsibility except when the mayor is unavailable. Marraffa said a new system was put in place by other council members this year without himself being involved in the discussion.
"For the over 20 years that I have been associated with city government, the vice president of the council was always on a rotating basis," Marraffa told Patch in an email.
Instead, the council elected to use a system based on vote counts, 2012 Council Vice President Ryan Spiegel said. The system still gives each member a turn for every five-year cycle, and Spiegel said he supports Marraffa being the 2014 vice president under the new system.
However, with Marraffa up for re-election in 2013 — along with Sesma and Mayor Sidney A. Katz — the council member may not have an opportunity to serve in the role.
"All four of them (Council Members Jud Ashman, Cathy Drzyzgula, Mike Sesma and Spiegel) have since been vice president and it was my turn this year," Marraffa said. "They decided on their own to use this system, not consulting with me, and decided that Mike would have a second turn at vice president and exclude me."
Spiegel said he's not sure that being council vice president provides any type of advantage during an election year, but Paula Ross, a Kentlands resident and 2011 City Council candidate, said the post has traditionally gone to one of the council members up for re-election in the next cycle — in this case, Sesma.
"As I see it, it's a way for the council to protect their own, allowing that chosen incumbent to boost his or her resume," Ross said.
Ross speculated that Marraffa being passed over in favor of Sesma could be due to the fact Marraffa supported her in 2011 over Ashman, Drzyzgula and Spiegel.
"Henry is not part of their good ole' boys network...They want to see him replaced with one of 'their' people, and are choosing this council vice president decision as a way to make that statement without using the words," Ross said.
"It had to do with political paybacks as I did not support them in the last election, but then again they have never supported me in any of my five elections, so we are at odds with each other," he said.
It's not uncommon for the council vice presidential selection process to change, Katz said, noting it is a decision made exclusively by the council.
When the mayor began serving the council in the late 1970s, he said he served as vice president for "four, five or six years in a row" before council members decided to switch to a rotating basis.
The selection process typically changes every 15-20 years, Katz said.
In this case, Spiegel said he believes the new solution provides a "fairer" method because it's tied to a set of numbers (votes) that reflects the will of voters and still permits all council members to take a turn in the five-year rotation.