Council, residents discuss proposed charter amendments in Green

Voters in Green will likely decide in November on 14 separate charter amendments.

During the July 9 council meeting, City Council held a public hearing, which lasted almost three hours regarding the proposed amendments. Green reviews the charter every seven years as the Charter Review Commission, made up of five people appointed by the mayor, met 13 times between January and June.

Appointed to the commission was Sherry Neubert, Susan Allen, Ted Mallo, C.J. Meager and Vivianne Duffrin.

Members of the Charter Review Commission presented information on each amendment to council and then council and members of the community had the opportunity to speak about each.

Amendments

– The first amendment would amend section 3.1 of the charter to limit the mayor to serve two consecutive four-year terms with partial terms lasting more than two years counting as a four-year term. The reason behind this was brought forward by a resident about partial terms counting as a portion of a term for the mayor.

– The second amendment would amend section 3.2 of the charter to require that the mayor shall be a resident of the city of Green for at least two continuous years immediately prior to the mayor’s election or appointment. This change comes to clear up that a candidate running for mayor must be a resident two years prior to the election rather than just living in the city at some point for two years and then moving away and coming back.

– The third amendment would amend section 3.3 D of the charter to authorize the mayor to make short-term interim or acting appointments of directors when necessary. This change helps define and how to handle when an acting director is on leave and intends to return.

– The fourth amendment would amend section 4.1 of the charter to limit council members to serving two successive four-year terms with partial terms lasting more than two years counting as a four-year term. This change is very similar to the first amendment to deal with partial terms for members of council.

– The fifth amendment would amend section 4.3 of the charter to require each council member be a resident of the city of Green at least two continuous years immediately prior to each council member’s election or appointment. This change is very similar to the second amendment in that it states candidates running for City Council must be a resident two years prior to the election.

– The sixth amendment would amend section 4.6 of the charter to provide for council to fill vacancies that occur between a November general election and the end of December of that same year. This change states a vacancy will be filled by the incoming new council rather than the outgoing council if an opening occurs.

– The seventh amendment would amend section 5.4 of the charter to set requirements for nominating petitions for the office of the director of law. This change relates to the number of signatures needed for candidates running for the director of law position. Candidates must collect no fewer than 75 signatures and no more than 225.

– The eighth amendment would amend section 6.2 of the charter to be consistent with section 3.3 D which requires persons appointed by the mayor as directors of city departments to be confirmed by a majority vote of the members of council.

– The ninth amendment would amend section 6.4 A and 6.4 C of the charter to establish the current requirements of qualifications for the position of director of law. The qualifications are the candidate must be an attorney who is licensed during the term to practice law in the state of Ohio. Also, they must have a minimum of five years of employment or public practice experience in municipal and or governmental law. The commission also added for any director of law elected after 2020, they must have two continuous years immediately prior to the election being a qualified elector and resident of the city. Also, the attorney must be licensed during the term to practice law in the state of Ohio and maintain the qualifications for a Certificate of Good Standing from the Supreme Court of Ohio. Finally, the candidate must have a minimum of five years of employment or public practice experience in municipal and or governmental law.

– The 10th amendment would amend section 6.4 D of the charter to provide for filling a vacancy in the office of the director of law. City Council will have 45 days to fill the vacancy, if it does not, the mayor may make an appointment.

– The 11th amendment would amend section 8.3 of the charter to include a credit for income tax paid to multiple municipalities and or Joint Economic Development Districts. This change comes to include Joint Economic Development Districts (JEDDs). When a resident is subject to the income tax in another municipality or JEDD, the resident shall not pay city income tax on such that exceeds the tax imposed at the higher of the two tax rates.

– The 12th amendment would amend section 9.1 of the charter of the city to allow City Council the right to dictate ballot language for all proposed charter amendments.

– The 13th amendment would amend section 10.1 of the charter of the city to provide that City Council expressly reserves the right to dictate ballot language for all proposed initiative issues.

– The 14th amendment would amend section 12.8 of the charter to provide for the removal of the director of law. If the law director would need to be removed, the mayor would hire a special council approved by the majority of City Council to address the matter.

Concerns

Most of the amendments did not raise any concerns from members of council or the public, but three of them relating to the elected law director position and giving City Council the authority to dictate ballot language, raised some concerns.

Councilman Justin Speight suggested several of the proposed changes, which are just clarifying sections of the charter, should be held back for another election because he is afraid voters may get confused with 14 issues on the ballot.

Green Interim Law Director Bill Chris said if council were to not move an issue to the ballot, council would have to bring it up again in the future on their own.

In order for one of the amendments not to be moved to the ballot, six members of council would have to vote no.

Councilman Chris Humphrey said it is highly unlikely six members of council would vote to not move one of the amendments to the ballot. He also questioned why council would postpone the work the Charter Review Commission did on drafting the amendments.

Councilman Stephen Dyer said City Council heard “over and over” about Issue 14, which passed in November and made the law director and elected position, was too restrictive and not many people would run for the position.

The position drew six candidates, which was narrowed to two during the May primary.

Dyer said the additional qualifications make the position even more restrictive moving forward. Speight also agreed that he believes it restricts the pool of candidates.

Dyer said he trusts voters to pick the right candidate with the best qualifications.

Humphrey said he wants qualified candidates running for the position who know what they are doing.

“This is a broader definition than we have ever had in the city of Green and it will bring in many more people but it will also ensure the people brought in are qualified,” Humphrey said.

Humphrey said he has seen bad lawyers cause millions of dollars for clients because they didn’t know what they were doing.

“I wouldn’t go to my doctor and say I know you have never done this surgery before could you learn it,” Humphrey said.

Speight, however, said the city isn’t doing surgery, it is practicing law. He asked the five attorneys on council, who agreed the elected attorney could learn the position even if they were not fully qualified.

Residents speak

Resident Jane Weaver said the reason the position became more restrictive is that anyone who runs must be a Green resident.

Resident Katie Stoynoff also raised concerns about the added requirements for the law director position and asked who would enforce the qualifications.

Mallo said if a candidate challenges another candidate’s qualifications, it could end up in court and the judge would look at the qualifications against the charter.

Attorney David Mucklow said there is no doubt the amendment is more restrictive. He said this sets it up so candidates won’t be able to run and will result in the mayor making an appointment for the position.

“That is what this all about,” Mucklow said.

Mucklow said it is “disgraceful what is going on” and said it all reflects back to the fact that two of the members of the Charter Review Commission were a part of the anti-Issue 14 campaign.

Prior to the election on Issue 14, Duffrin, Meager and Mallo all spoke publically about opposing Issue 14 and why it was bad for the city.

“These people should have never been put on the commission and it taints everything coming out of the commission to be put on the ballot,” Mucklow said.

Many in attendance also took issue with giving City Council the power to dictate ballot language.

Humphrey asked why City Council should give up control to the Board of Elections to dictate the language.

Stoynoff said the Board of Elections should be allowed to do its job and determine if changes need to be made to the ballot language.

“This is the equivalent of letting a horrible employee write their own performance review,” Stoynoff said. “Of course it is going to be glowing.”

She said it is a spit in the face to the community.

“It is sour grapes from the Issue 14 thing, period,” Stoynoff said.

Former Councilwoman Lynda Smole said changing of ballot language is offensive.

“No one is going to dictate to me what I can and cannot do,” Smole said.

She said Green is such a politically divided city.

“Don’t dictate, that crossed the line,” Smole said.

Council is likely to vote on the proposed amendments during their next meeting on Aug. 13. The deadline to place issues on the November ballot is Sept. 6.

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This story was also publsihed in The Suburbanite. www.thesuburbanite.com