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If approved, agreement would seat Zemaitis

KENNETH CITY — Mayor-elect Teresa Zemaitis is inching her way to actually taking the seat she won last month by a landslide.

Zemaitis, 40, defeated incumbent Muriel Whitman, 82, with 70.5 percent of the vote but was disqualified from taking the oath of office because she teaches at Dixie Hollins High School. The Kenneth City charter prohibits any public employee from serving as mayor.

Three days after the March 10 election, a judge ruled that the charter clause was constitutional. Zemaitis filed an appeal Monday asking for a higher court's opinion.

Zemaitis signed a proposed agreement Thursday that would halt that appeal. The settlement would allow her to become mayor pro tem until next March, when voters will have a chance to change the Kenneth City charter.

Now it's up to the Kenneth City Town Council to approve the agreement. Zemaitis said a special meeting will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday. It remains unclear when she would be sworn in if the council approves the settlement.

"I am glad that an agreement has been reached and this phase is finally over," Zemaitis said Friday. "What we need now is for everyone to start working together towards progress for our town. It is time to start managing the town and its finances in a responsible manner in order to preserve and improve Kenneth City."

The terms of the proposed settlement:

Zemaitis will be sworn in as mayor pro tem.

As mayor pro tem, Zemaitis will have all the powers of a traditional mayor except the right to fire town employees without cause. She will only be able to terminate employees for cause.

The Town Council will place a charter amendment on the March 2010 ballot changing the language to allow public employees to serve as mayor. That change would be retroactive to before this past election.

If Zemaitis quits her teaching job between now and the 2010 March election, she would be sworn in as mayor.

Zemaitis will maintain her appeal, but she and Kenneth City would agree to "stay," or table, the appeal until after next March's election.

If voters agree to retroactively change the charter clause to allow public employees to serve as mayor, Zemaitis would be sworn in as mayor.

If voters do not pass the retroactive charter amendment, then Zemaitis will resign as mayor and the council will select a vice mayor who would become interim mayor until the 2011 election.

At that point, she could continue with her appeal questioning the constitutionality of the charter clause.

If approved, agreement would seat Zemaitis 04/18/09 [Last modified: Saturday, April 18, 2009 4:31am]
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