NORWALK — For the second time, the City Council has named Luigi A. Vernola as its newest member, but this time the selection was made official with a swearing-in ceremony that drew a standing ovation from the audience.
Vernola, 42, replaces Cecil N. Green, who was elected to the state Senate in a special election May 12. Vernola's appointment, made on Tuesday, lasts until an election can be held in November.
The council originally appointed Vernola on May 14, less than 48 hours after Green won the Senate race but before he officially resigned his council seat. There was no public notice that the council would appoint a new member.
But on May 19, the day Vernola was to take his oath of office, the council agreed to take another vote on the appointment at this week's regular council meeting. The council was advised by City Attorney J. Kenneth Brown that it faced a possible legal challenge from the Los Angeles Times, which had protested that the May 14 meeting violated the state law requiring public notice of proposed actions.
This week, though, "Consideration of appointment to fill council vacancy" was at the top of the council's agenda. The vote was unanimous, but two members of the audience protested the appointment.
"There's been no public input on this. Mr. Vernola has not functioned well in the Planning Commission, and you are giving the incumbent advantage to the wrong person. This appointment was made in the back room before the election was over," said Gary F. Burroughs, one of those speaking in opposition to the appointment.
Mayor Peg Nelson responded that Vernola would not be able to list himself as an "incumbent" in November, and Councilman Marcial (Rod) Rodriguez said that the decision was being made in a public meeting. The vote to appoint Vernola was enthusiastically greeted by the audience.
Vernola has already announced that he will run for the unexpired portion of Green's term in November. The new council member has been a member of the Planning Commission since 1982, and has managed all three of Rodriguez's campaigns for office. Earlier this year, the City Council selected Vernola to receive the Cerritos College Foundation's Citizen of the Year award. He is married, with three children, and owns three gasoline stations and Vernola's Automotive in Norwalk, which he bought in the late 1970s from Green.