The Laguna Niguel City Council is expected to appoint a new council member next month.

The council voted unanimously at Tuesday’s council meeting to open the application process to appoint a new council member and fill the current vacancy after Councilmember Rischi Paul Sharma resigned April 6.

Council members raised concerns about a special election, which would have cost the city $100,000 and wouldn’t have occurred until November 2023.

“I believe that if we open this application, we will receive a pool of highly qualified candidates who can do the job of city council member,” Council Member Ray Gennawey said at the meeting. “If we were to go to a special election, we would be without a fifth council member for seven months, it would cost $100,000 and I think we are better suited to do an application process.”

There have been three other instances of council vacancies in city history. Each time before, the council decided to appoint a new council member.

“It’s the history of the city to appoint,” Council Member Stephanie Oddo said.

Sharma’s abrupt April 6 resignation letter didn’t give a reason why he was resigning.

“It has been a distinct honor and pleasure to have served the people of Laguna Niguel and to have worked alongside our city staff,” Sharma wrote. “I wish you and the team all the best and am confident the leadership that is in place will continue to move the city of Laguna Niguel forward.”

The appointee is expected to serve out the remainder of Sharma’s term, which is over at the end of next year.

The vacancy must be filled within 60 days of Sharma’s resignation, according to the staff report

According to the schedule that was also approved at Tuesday’s meeting, the city posted applications online beginning April 19. Applications will close on April 28, and the city council is expected to select applicants to interview at their May 2 meeting.

On May 10, the council is slated to interview applicants and make a decision at a special meeting, and the new member is expected to be sworn in at the May 16 meeting.

This vacancy also comes after the previous mayor decided to step down from the role.

In February, Councilmember Sandy Rains abruptly resigned as mayor but stayed on as a council member. The resignation came after concerns surfaced that she improperly tried to fire the city manager. 

Rains had called for a debate on the dismissal of City Manager Tamara Letourneau, sparking Oddo and Gennawey to publicly call for Rains’ removal.

[Read: Laguna Niguel’s Mayor Abruptly Resigns]

After Rains stepped down, Sharma temporarily replaced her as mayor. Last month, the council voted to appoint Councilmember Kelly Jennings as the new mayor.

At that same meeting, the city council members also unanimously voted to strip the mayor’s ability to single-handedly put items on the agenda. 

All future Laguna Niguel mayors can no longer add items to council agendas without at least one other council member tagging on — unless the policy is reversed by a council vote.

The council also removed Rains from all regional boards and ad hoc committees, including the Orange County Fire Authority, Capistrano Unified School District, Grants Ad Hoc Committee, Historic Preservation Ad Hoc Committee and the Sea Country Festival Ad Hoc Committee.

[Read: Laguna Niguel Strips Mayor’s Power to Single Handedly Agendize Discussions]

The appointee will be eligible to run for a full term in the November 2024 election.

The council meets again on May 2 at 7 p.m.

Clarification: An earlier version of this story left the impression that two council positions had been opened up. We regret any misunderstanding.

Angelina Hicks is a Voice of OC Reporting Fellow. Contact her at or on Twitter @angelinahicks13.

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