Albany-- Henry Mathis' future as a city commissioner is in limbo. Wednesday, an ethics panel recommended he be suspended, saying the extortion charges against him adversely effect his ability to serve in public office while he's awaiting trial.
What happens next is in the hands of the Governor. He can take as long as he wants to make that decision. But history shows the governor typically upholds the ethic panel's ruling.
Most likely, the Governor will force Henry Mathis to step down from his Ward Two city commission seat while he's awaiting trial for extortion. Who will temporarily fill that seat is also up to the Governor, since the city's charter only allows commissioners to appoint permanent replacements in situations such as death or resignation.
"We don't have a city law to fill a temporary vacancy, so it would fall back to the Governor to proceed with that state law provision which refers to the Governor appointing a replacement officer," said City Attorney C. Nathan Davis.
And, the Governor doesn't have to appoint someone from Ward Two to replace Henry Mathis, if in fact Mathis is suspended. The replacement officer only has to live inside the city limits. "We would only hope the Governor would consider someone in that district," Davis said.
Another possibility is that the Governor won't appoint anyone at all for months and the seat is vacant until the end of the trial, which leaves Ward Two constituents without a voice on the commission.
If Mathis is found guilty, he would be permanently suspended from office. In that case, city commissioners would appoint a replacement officer to serve until an election is held.
But if Mathis is acquitted, he could return to the commission right away. Mathis's trial is tentatively set for April.