McAlester city hall

McAlester city hall

McAlester city councilors acted Tuesday night to declare the Ward 4 seat vacant and to authorize calling a special election to fill the position.

McAlester Vice Mayor/Ward 4 Councilor James Brown, who was being treated for complications from COVID-19, died on Feb. 2, leaving a vacancy in the Ward 4 seat.

City councilors voted unanimously to declare a vacancy and pass the election authorization during their regular Tuesday night meeting, held in the Clark Bass Building on the McAlester Campus of Eastern Oklahoma State College to allow for social distancing.

The first date when a special election can be held for the vacant position is Sept. 14.

That means Ward 4 will remain without a city councilor in the ward for more than six months.

Mayor Browne said he will personally try to make sure any Ward 4 issues are addressed during that time.

"I'm going to try and hold some meetings in the Fourth Ward over the next few months," Browne said prior to the meeting. He said there are several possibilities for the meeting sites, which have yet to be determined.

Browne said he would commit to hosting the projected Ward 4 meetings, but if any other city councilors want to host some, they are welcome to do so.

Because more than a year will have elapsed since the board vacancy and the next regularly-scheduled city council meeting, a special election is required to fill the position. The special election can't be held sooner than Sept. 14 because of state election law.

"We have to coordinate our elections through the election board and this is the first date possible to have this type of an election to fill a vacancy on the council," Browne said.

Pittsburg County Election Board Secretary Tonya Barnes related the process.

"In odd-numbered years, there are certain times you can have elections for propositions and candidates," Barnes said.

Special elections for propositions only can be held in May, June, July or August, she said.

"The next date for a candidate election is the second Tuesday in September, which is September 14," said Barnes.

While a candidate election is set for April 6, in order to get on that ballot, an election resolution had to be passed by Jan. 15, 2021, Barnes said. Brown still held office as a city councilor at that time.

In other action, city councilors left the city's mask mandate in place. It is set for automatic review by the city council during the council's second regular meeting each month.

An item to declare the Ward 4 city council seat vacant had been included on the council's Feb. 9 meeting agenda, but the Feb. 9 meeting had to be canceled due to hazardous conditions caused by the winter storm. Following the cancellation, the matter was set for the council's Feb. 23 meeting.

The late James Brown did much more than serve as the Ward 4 city councilor and McAlester vice mayor. He also served as a teacher at McAlester Public Schools, teaching history and psychology. Brown also helped lead the school's African American Student Union, also known as the Afro Student Union.

He retired from 2016-2019, serving as a substitute teacher, before returning to MPS as a full-time educator.

Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry appointed Brown as a member of the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board. Brown served on the board from 2003-2010, including two terms as the board chairman.

Brown had also served as a member of the East Central University Alumni Association Board of Directors.

Contact James Beaty at

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