Two are assigned to one empty seat on the council separating the East Cleveland Council.

EAST CLEVELAND, Ohio. The battle over who should fill the empty seat on the East Cleveland City Council has sharply divided the five-member board.

“We are not here to be selfish, but to serve the citizen of East Cleveland,” Council President Nathaniel Martin said at a special council meeting Thursday night.

But this special meeting ceased to be a meeting at all after at least three members of the council did not come.

This is the latest in what has become a deep division over a future Third District council seat left vacant after voters recalled former council member Ernest Smith in November.

Check out our November report on the results of these elections below:

Mayor of East Cleveland retains seat; council member fired after election was withdrawn

RELATED: The mayor of East Cleveland barely holds the seat; council member fired after election was withdrawn

For several weeks, the seat on the council was empty.

Then, last week, a group of three council members met and appointed Latik Shabazz to fill the vacant seat, adding to a five-member board.

But what seemed like a simple assignment turned out to be quite different.

“The charter, which is our bible, tells us what we need to do, and they didn’t follow that charter,” Martin said. “It is so simple.”

On Thursday, East Cleveland’s legal director issued an opinion saying that Shabazz was not legally appointed at all, alleging council members violated open meeting rules and the city’s charter when they convened to elect him.

This is denied by council member Patricia Blochowiak, a Shabazz supporter.

“We don’t steal anything,” Blochowiak said, “we vote. It’s a legal process.”

But it doesn’t stop there.

Referring to the position of the city charter, Martin himself appointed himself to a place in the Third Division. Not once, but twice.

On Thursday night, he introduced Jackie Goodrum as the new board member, but on Friday announced that Goodrum was not eligible to work because she was already a civil servant.

Martin then took the oath of office to former Cleveland City Attorney Mark McClain.

But what about Shabaz?

“Everything was done legally, and it was done legally,” Shabazz said.

He said that, as far as he knew, he was a member of the council.

Martin disagrees.

“Perhaps officially Latik will be able to get here, I don’t know,” Martin said. “But right now they’re not following due process, so it’s not here.”

What will happen next and how the situation will be resolved is still unclear.

But with two people appointed to the same seat, it seems like something has to give way.

“I like a good fight,” Shabazz said. “It’s going to be a good fight to save the city, so yeah, let’s get started.”

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