The Broome County Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that Philip Strawn, the incumbent Republican councilman, will temporarily fill the Binghamton City Council’s sixth district vacancy until an appointment can be made.

Settling a dispute between Binghamton Mayor Jared Kraham and the City Council, Judge Joseph McBride held that appointment power lies with the City Council, though the person appointed must belong to the same party as the former councilmember. Strawn, who has represented the sixth district since 2019, will temporarily fill the seat until Benji Federman, the Broome County Republican chairman, makes an appointment.

“Today’s court order delivers clarity to this matter and affirms my decision to advance a lawsuit to overturn an unlawful action by City Council,” Kraham said in a statement. “[Strawn] will continue to serve the South Side well, bringing a bipartisan approach to problem-solving and delivering results for residents.”

In November, the sixth district election resulted in a tie between Strawn and Rebecca Rathmell, his Democratic challenger. Kraham appointed Strawn to the vacancy before a special election could be held, citing a clause in the Second-Class Cities Law. The following day, members of the City Council’s Democratic supermajority appointed Rathmell, using the City Charter’s language outlining appointment power to justify the decision. The dispute was then escalated to the court when Kraham filed a suit against the City Council, Hadassah Mativetsky — its president — and Sarah Dinhofer, the clerk.

“I think it’s validating because it was our right to make the appointment,” Nate Hotchkiss, the fourth district’s councilman, said. “It was our responsibility to make an appointment in the case of a vacancy and the Mayor’s appointment was unlawful. I think [as part of] the holdover provision, that you have to appoint somebody from the previous party. I don’t think it makes sense that that would apply in a case of a failure to elect […] It’s not like this side won or that side won. Both [sides] were wrong and we’re getting halfway what each party wanted.”

Another dispute stemmed from recent redistricting decisions, where the City Council argued the sixth district should be considered newly drawn. Strawn, and the Republican eventually selected, will be the only Republican on the council until a special election in November.

“The Broome Republicans will follow past precedent by convening our Executive Committee to select a Republican to serve as councilmember in the [sixth] District,” Federman said in a statement. “[Strawn] is a strong and logical choice given his past service and dedication to the community. We plan to convene a meeting in short order to fulfill our obligation per the court order.”

While McBride’s decision held that Kraham does not have the power to fill the City Council vacancy, it found that Rathmell’s appointment was “arbitrary, capricious and irrational” and in “violation of the Open Meetings law.”

“It’s a little bit disappointing that we can’t appoint [Rathmell],” Hotchkiss said. “She’s really a phenomenal candidate. She’s been showing up and putting in the work in the capacity that she’s able to in this limbo state that she’s been in. She’s now very excited and motivated to be running again [in November].”