Appointments & Vacancies FAQ 11

What is the proper method for making an appointment to fill a vacancy in an appointed office?

Although the statutes provide that governing bodies may fill certain vacancies by appointment, the statutes do not set forth a procedure by which the appointments must be made. Accordingly, municipal governing bodies may determine their own procedure for nominating candidates and selecting a person to fill a vacancy.

It should be emphasized, however, that § 19.88 prohibits a governing body from filling a vacancy by secret ballot. Secret ballots may only be used for the limited purpose of electing the officers of a governmental body, such as the council president. Therefore, if a municipal governing body uses a paper ballot when selecting a person to fill a vacancy in a municipal office, the ballot must contain the name of the person voting as well as the name of the person voted for, so that the vote of each member is ascertainable.

Finally, when a person is appointed to fill a vacancy on the governing body, the appointment is complete once the result of a sufficient vote is ascertained and announced, and no resolution declaring that person to be appointed is necessary. In addition, the weight of authority seems to be that once a governing body has appointed a person to fill a vacancy in a municipal office, the governing body cannot rescind its vote or reconsider its action and appoint another person. State ex rel. Schneider v. Darby, 179 Wis. 147, 154, 190 N.W. 994 (1922).

(rev. 2/21)