The resignation Tuesday of Colorado Springs City Councilman Charles Wingate, accused of stealing money and equipment from the city, may enable the Council to put behind it months of distraction and ridicule over Wingate's alleged offenses.
But it's not likely to change the Council's political makeup significantly.
Under the city charter, the Council must appoint someone to replace Wingate within 30 days. Though the charter doesn't dictate a specific appointment process, the Council will likely solicit resumes from people interested in the job, said Mayor Lionel Rivera. The appointee will serve out Wingate's term, which expires in April 2005, and can run for election thereafter.
With a solidly conservative majority following April's city election, the remainder of the Council appears likely to replace Wingate -- one of the Council's staunchest advocates of smaller government -- with another conservative.
Widely considered a top candidate for the appointment is Darryl Glenn, a lawyer who ran unsuccessfully for an at-large seat on the Council in April. Glenn lives in District 2, which covers the northwestern quadrant of the city and which Wingate represented from April of 2001 until his resignation.
Glenn said this week that he "absolutely" intends to seek Wingate's seat. He had already announced plans to run for the seat in 2005.
"My goal has always been to represent this city," Glenn said.
Wingate has been under pressure to resign since he was accused last year of using a city credit card, without authorization, to order a pizza delivered to his home. He was also accused of taking a $190 advance for a business trip but failing to submit receipts for his expenses. Both accusations led to criminal charges.
Last week, prosecutors added 11 new felony charges and one misdemeanor charge, accusing Wingate of having stolen and illegally pawned city equipment -- including a computer, a printer, and fellow Councilwoman Margaret Radford's clock radio.
Wingate -- who in the past has insisted he's innocent but currently won't comment on the validity of the charges -- could face more than 40 years in prison if convicted on all counts. His next court hearing is set for June 9.
The charges added last week prompted Councilwoman Radford to publicly call for Wingate's resignation, and Mayor Rivera said Wingate told him last week that he was considering calling it quits. On Tuesday, Wingate informed Rivera that he was stepping down and asked the mayor to read a brief resignation announcement on his behalf at a regularly scheduled Council meeting, which Wingate did not attend.
However, reached by phone following the announcement, Wingate said no specific recent incident or development had sparked his decision. Wingate said he simply felt that his high public profile as a Council member was affecting how he was being treated in court.
"Trying to resolve this criminal issue and being a council member, trying to do both at the same time, is just impossible," Wingate said.
A former financial advisor who is currently unemployed, Wingate said he now plans to "be a dad, be a husband and find a job."
'A good fit'
In seeking Wingate's seat, Glenn has the advantage of having registered a strong finish in April's elections -- he polled fifth of 11 candidates vying for four at-large seats, and he finished second in District 2 precincts.
Moreover, Glenn was endorsed at the time by the city's most powerful business lobbies: the Chamber of Commerce, the Pikes Peak Association of Realtors and the Housing and Building Association -- groups that also backed the campaigns of most of the Council members who will be making the appointment.
Glenn said he believes he'll be a "good fit" with the other Council members.
"I think that we have a lot of mutual respect," he said.
-- Terje Langeland