Charter of Ashtabula County

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CHARTER OF ASHTABULA COUNTY

The Unofficial Annotated Reader’s Guide

Keeping in mind that the charter is necessarily prone to legal language and may not be obvious about what a section is actually for or what it means, we will step through several of the sections including these informal, unofficial, notes.

PREAMBLE

When in the course of human events it becomes clear that the government no longer serves the needs of its people effectively, citizens must unite and petition for redress, as it is the right of the people to alter, abolish, or institute new government.

To that end, we the people, fully cognizant of our inalienable rights, do hereby declare our intent to incorporate the County of Ashtabula, Ohio, in order to reclaim control of those powers of government which are given only by consent of the governed, and which have only ever been meant to be wielded in furtherance of our Liberty and Prosperity.

ARTICLE I – CORPORATE POWERS AND RIGHTS AND PRIVILEGES

Section 1.01      Names, Boundaries, and Powers

Section 1.02      Powers Limited

Section 1.03      Construction

ARTICLE II – THE COUNCIL

Section 2.01      Election

Section 2.02      Term of Office

Section 2.03      Residency Requirement

Section 2.04      Council Districts

Section 2.05      Council Vacancies

Section 2.06      Meeting Times

Section 2.07      Vacancies; Length of Appointment

Section 2.08      Compensation

Section 2.09      Powers, Duties and Limitations

Section 2.10      Organization, Rules and Procedures

Section 2.11      Initiative and Referendum

Section 2.12      Investigations by Council

ARTICLE III – COUNTY ADMINISTRATOR

Section 3.01      County Administrator

Section 3.02      Compensation

Section 3.03      Powers and Duties

Section 3.04      Vacancy

Section 3.05      Investigations by County Administrator

ARTICLE IV – ELECTED OFFICE HOLDERS

Section 4.01      Prosecuting Attorney: Election, Duties and Qualifications

Section 4.02      All Other Elected Office Holders

ARTICLE V – DESIGNATED OFFICERS

Section 5.01      Confirmation by Council

Section 5.02      Finance Director: Powers, Duties and Qualifications

Section 5.03      Director of Law: Powers, Duties and Qualifications

Section 5.04      Clerk of Courts: Powers, Duties and Qualifications

ARTICLE VI – BOARDS AND COMMISSIONS

Section 6.01      Budget Commission

Section 6.02      Board of Revision

Section 6.03      Other Boards and Commissions

Section 6.04      Special Boards and Commissions

ARTICLE VII – ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

Section 7.01      County Economic Development.

Section 7.02      Economic Development Commission

Section 7.03      Economic Development Plan

ARTICLE VIII – COUNTY EMPLOYMENT PRACTICES

Section 8.01      Appointing Authorities

ARTICLE IX – PURCHASING

Section 9.01      Department of Purchasing

ARTICLE X – INTERNAL AUDITING

Section 10.01    Internal Audits

Section 10.02    Audit Committee

Section 10.03    Internal Audit Procedure

Section 10.04    Internal Audit Findings

ARTICLE XI – GENERAL PROVISIONS

Section 11.01    Effective Date of Charter

Section 11.02    Forfeiture of Office

Section 11.03    Reporting of Offers to Influence Official Action

Section 11.04    Meetings of Governmental Bodies to be Public

Section 11.05    Records of Governmental Bodies to be Public

Section 11.06    Equal Opportunity

Section 11.07    Employee Rights

Section 11.08    Charter Review Commission

Section 11.09    Charter Amendments

Section 11.10    Rearrangement, Reprinting of, and Correction of Typographical Errors in the Charter

Section 11.11    Severability

Section 11.12    Removing an Elected Official by Recall

ARTICLE XII – TRANSITION TO CHARTER GOVERNMENT

Section 12.01    Offices Abolished

Section 12.02    Initial Election of County Officers

Section 12.03    Officers and Employees

Section 12.04    Departments, Offices and Agencies

Section 12.05    Pending Matters

Section 12.06    Laws in Force

Section 12.07    Transition Advisory Group

ARTICLE XIII – NON PARTISAN ELECTIONS

Section 13.01    Elections

Section 13.02    Filling unexpired terms

Section 13.03    Term Limits

APPENDIX A:   GUIDELINES FOR REDISTRICTING

APPENDIX B:   DISTRICT SUMMARY DESCRIPTIONS

APPENDIX C:   VOTER PRECINCT BY COUNTY DISTRICT LIST

ARTICLE I – CORPORATE POWERS, RIGHTS AND PRIVILEGES

SECTION 1.01 NAME, BOUNDARIES AND POWERS

The County of Ashtabula, as its limits now are, or hereafter may be, shall be a body politic and corporate by the name of the County of Ashtabula with all the rights granted by this Charter, Ohio provisions for Home Rule, and by general law. The County is responsible within its boundaries for the exercise of all powers vested in and the performance of all duties imposed upon counties and county officers by law. In addition, the County may exercise all powers specifically conferred by this Charter or incidental to powers specifically conferred by this Charter and all other powers that the Constitution and laws of Ohio now or hereafter grant to counties to exercise or do not prohibit counties from exercising, including the concurrent exercise by the County of all or any powers vested in municipalities by the Ohio Constitution or by general law. All such powers shall be exercised and enforced in the manner prescribed by this Charter or when not prescribed herein in such manner as may be provided by ordinance or resolution of the Council. When not prescribed by the Charter or amendments hereto or by ordinance or resolution such powers shall be exercised in the manner prescribed by general law.

The charter is being defined as applying to the County of Ashtabula, as it currently is, and defining that it is the same legal entity with the same legal rights and responsibilities.

SECTION 1.02 POWERS LIMITED

This Charter does not empower the County to exercise exclusively any municipal powers nor to provide for the succession by the County to any property or obligation of any municipality or township without the consent of the legislative authority of such municipality or township. In case of conflict between the exercise of powers granted by this Charter and the exercise of powers by municipalities or townships granted by the Constitution or general law, the exercise of powers by the municipality or township shall prevail. The County shall have power to levy only those taxes that counties are by general law authorized to levy.

This is exactly what the title implies, a limitation on the power of the county government. We’re not claiming any new powers over villages, cities, or towns and going a bit further to say explicitly that this is the case. The charter has already been mischaracterized as attempting to take away powers from the townships or even eliminate them. Nothing could be further from the truth.

SECTION 1.03 CONSTRUCTION

The powers of the County under this Charter shall be construed liberally in favor of the County, and the specific mention of particular powers in this Charter shall not be construed as limiting in any way the general powers granted under this Charter. The rules for statutory construction contained in the Ohio Revised Code shall govern the interpretation of the provisions of this Charter.

This means that if we phrased something poorly so that it could be construed in a fashion that takes away power the State gives Chartered Counties it is to be interpreted in our favor. As an example, above we remarked that we wrote 1.02 to ensure townships retained power, had we said “And townships shall retain all power to levy taxes” and meant “kept existing powers” it could be read to say that they had sole power over all taxes, or all township and county taxes, levied in that area. 1.03 states otherwise, saying the charter if ambiguous should be interpreted in the fashion that keeps authority over something rather than cedes it.

ARTICLE II – THE COUNCIL

SECTION 2.01 ELECTION

The Council shall be the legislative authority and taxing authority of the County. It shall consist of seven members to be elected from designated districts who shall be nominated and elected as provided in this Charter. During their terms in office, Council members shall remain electors of the County and shall not hold or accept any other elected office or be employed by the County and shall serve in a part-time capacity.

SECTION 2.02 TERM OF OFFICE

The Council shall be elected to four year terms. At the general election in 2014, all seven members of the Council shall be elected, four members for a four year term and three members to an initial two year term. The four Council members elected to an initial four year term will be from Districts 1, 3, 5 and 7. The Three Council members elected to an initial two year term will be from Districts 2, 4 and 6 and thereafter elections for those districts shall be for full four year terms. Should the need for a runoff occur, the runoff election will occur as referenced in Article 13, section 13.01 of this charter. The term of office for all Council members shall begin on the First Day of January following their election.

All must run in the first year, 2014, but to stagger those we have the even districts set to run again in 2016 and serving only 2 years initially before going into 4 year terms thereafter. This covered in more detail in section 13.01 along with a table that shows the new election schedule but in summary: The even districts are the Southern trio and the odd districts the Northern Four, south runs in Presidential years and North in gubernatorial years. Handy for memory but their numbering that way is coincidental, left to right off the nominal population centers of the district. Now, this section was also subject to a big revision. As you may know if you’ve been following this effort one of are larger goals was to make elections for County office odd-year in order to allow the public to pay greater attention to county elections without them being overshadowed by state and federal elections in even years. Article 17 of the Ohio Constitution stipulates state and county elections to be even year and all other (municipal corporations, township, local school board) to be odd year. We had assumed that the charter essentially qualifies as a municipal corporation and thus we could do odd years but we’ve received some very expert advice on this subject once the charter was in general circulation outside the County, and that was that this would probably not work legally and that our severability clause, section 11.11, could easily be insufficient to protect the Charter as a whole since it is referenced throughout the document. Rather than risk the entire charter we opted to remove off-year elections, a battle to be fought another day and possibly another way, though still one worth fighting in our opinion. The effect of state and federal elections overshadowing local matters is major and harmful to the goal of informed democracy.

SECTION 2.03 RESIDENCY REQUIREMENT

A Council candidate shall have been an elector of the County for at least two years immediately prior to filing of a declaration of candidacy or appointment to fill a vacancy and shall also have been an elector of the district he or she wishes to serve for at least one year immediately prior to filing of candidacy or appointment to fill a vacancy. Once elected or appointed, Council members shall reside within their respective districts during the tenure of their terms.

As in 2.01, with more details, a councilor can’t simply move into an area and run, ‘carpet-bagging’ as this is usually called, but moving inside the county is made a bit easier. They need to have lived in the county for two years, but that specific district for only one. In terms of representing your constituents there is a fairly significant difference between moving in from Montana as opposed to having lived in Saybrook and worked in Jefferson for years, then moved there.

SECTION 2.04 COUNCIL DISTRICTS

1.       Initial Districts: The seven districts from which the members of the Council shall be elected are herein created as described in detail in Appendix B, which is attached to this Charter and made a part hereof.

2.       Redistricting: Immediately following the Decennial Federal Census of 2020, and every subsequent Decennial Census, the County Council shall appoint five (5) electors of the County, not more than two of whom shall be members of the same political party and none of whom shall hold public office or be an officer of a political party, who shall constitute a Council Districting Commission. The Commission shall, not later than one hundred and twenty (120) days following its appointment, prepare and certify to the Board of Elections of Ashtabula County a detailed apportionment of the Council districts in accordance with the principles provided for in this section. The County Council shall provide for such Commission such facilities and assistance as shall be required for such Commission to carry out its duties as provided for herein. That apportionment shall be completed by the same date as the apportionment for the Ohio General Assembly and shall be effective for the first regular County election thereafter. For subsequent Decennial Census, the County Council shall make such appointments to the Council Districting Commission and insure that such commission is adequately funded to serve its function.

Essentially the Districting Commission is being set down with their deadlines and authority as well as saying no party can have a majority on it. The more blatantly absurd gerrymandering tends to only happen when one party has total say so we do this hope to avoid or minimize such.

3.       Principles for Establishing District Boundaries: All districts shall be of substantially equal population, compact and composed of contiguous territory and formed by combining existing areas of governmental units. Insofar as these criteria may conflict, redistricting shall give consideration to the guidelines established in Appendix A of this document as well any additional guidelines as may be established by the Council for the Districting Commission to use for the purpose of drawing district boundaries. In this regard the overriding principle is to achieve Districts which are compact, contiguous, and do not subdivide existing governmental subdivisions without overriding cause, and to make District Demarcation clear and transparent to ensure representatives are accountable, responsive, and fairly representative, utilizing criteria which do not conflict with the Constitution of the United States of America, the Constitution of the State of Ohio, and applicable Federal and State Law.

This is a general summary of the concepts applied in Appendix A, and is essentially a reflection of redistricting laws as well as highlighting that the charter has no tolerance for districts drawn up so as to resemble many-tentacled monster or Rorschach Test image. The Appendix gets a lot more specific but also a lot less ironclad, shifting into guidelines.

SECTION 2.05 COUNCIL VACANCIES

When a vacancy occurs in a Council position, the Council shall have thirty days to make the appointment. If the Council fails to make the appointment, the President of Council shall make the appointment. If the President of Council’s position is vacated and no appointment has been made by Council within 30 days the Vice-President of Council shall make the appointment.

If a councilor dies or resigns the council picks someone to fill in for them until the next odd-year election. Generally letting a governmental body pick its own replacements by majority isnot a great idea but because of the small size and structure there isn’t really a solid replacement body available that could be said to more properly represent the district’s interests. Normal ones would include the Executive of the place they were from, like the governor of a state with a resigned senator or rep, appoint someone or nominate someone for the state house to vote on, or have the political party they were from offer a replacement. We can’t do either, we won’t have an elected executive or party affiliation, but we must have a clause covering this.

SECTION 2.06 COUNCIL MEETINGS TO BE HELD IN EVENINGS

All regularly scheduled council meetings will be held in the evenings, with the only exception being special sessions that will only be held for a specific reason and with a prior vote of a majority of the members of Council. The Council President, or in the President’s absence the Vice-President, may call a special session so long that it is held in the evening and that all applicable Open Government Laws are abided by.

One of the more common complaints about the current system is that meetings are held during week days working hours and citizens can’t attend. In a way, day time meetings made sense, as these were full time jobs, but the new council are part-timers, so evenings are likely better for most of them anyway, and regardless it is always best in a democracy to have meetings be open to the public and at times easier for most of the public to attend.

SECTION 2.07 VACANCIES; LENGTH OF APPOINTMENT

If a vacancy occurs in the first or second year of a four-year term, the interim appointment shall be for a period until the next countywide general election, at which time the position shall be filled for the remainder of the unexpired term. If a vacancy occurs in the third or fourth year of a four-year term, the interim appointment shall extend until the next countywide general election, at which time the position shall be filled for the next four-year term.

This covers how long a replacement can serve before having to run for office, essentially ensuring never more than two years total, which is fairly standard.

SECTION 2.08 COMPENSATION

The initial salaries of each Council member shall be twelve thousand dollars per year, with the exception of the Council President who shall make fifteen thousand dollars per year. The members may buy health insurance through the county so long as it does not surpass their compensation. Those salaries may be changed by ordinance at any time before a primary election for members of the Council, but no change shall be effective until the commencement of the ensuing term.

Sets the salaries but allows them to use that salary to purchase healthcare benefits, as opposed to receiving them in addition to a salary.

No former member of Council shall hold any compensated appointive office or employment with the County until one year after the expiration of the term for which the member was elected.

You can’t leave the council and go directly into employment by the council, essentially hiring yourself. This happens a lot if you don’t ban it, and while often someone leaving office is very qualified for a job, it is to easily and commonly abused if you don’t place limits like this.

SECTION 2.09 POWERS, DUTIES, AND LIMITATIONS

The legislative powers of the County, including the power to introduce, enact and amend ordinances and resolutions relating to all matters within the legislative power of the County, are vested in the Council. All powers of the Council shall be exercised by ordinance or resolution and shall include, but not be limited to the following:

1.       To appoint and provide for the compensation and duties of the Clerk of Council and such other assistants for the Council as a whole as the Council determines to be necessary for the efficient performance of its duties.

The council may be part time but the county business is not, this simply gives them the authority to hire staff to handle routine matters and paperwork, or persons of a specific necessary expertise, who they do not wish to place under the County Administrator.

2.       To establish departments, and divisions and sections within departments under the supervision of the County Administrator, and such boards, agencies, commissions, and authorities, in addition to or as part of those provided for in this Charter, as the Council determines to be necessary for the efficient administration of the County.

3.       To establish procedures under which the County Administrator may employ experts and consultants in connection with the administration of the affairs of the County.

4.       To establish procedures governing the making of County contracts and the purchasing of County supplies and equipment pursuant to competitive bidding.

5.       To adopt and amend the County’s annual tax budget, operating budget, and capital improvements program and to make appropriations for the County.

6.       To determine which officers and employees shall give bond and to fix the amount and form thereof.

7.       To provide for the acquisition, construction, maintenance, administration, rental and leasing of property, including buildings and other public improvements.

8.       To cooperate or join by contract with any municipality, county, state or political subdivision or agency thereof, for the planning, development, construction, acquisition, or operation of any public improvement or facility, or for providing a common service, and to provide the terms upon which the County shall perform any of the services and functions of any other county or any municipality or other political subdivision. In furtherance of such intergovernmental cooperation, the Council may provide for grants or loans to other political subdivisions and public agencies.

This is an existing power and essentially says the Council has the right to represent and negotiate for the County’s interests, or appoint someone to do so. It is generally implied that an entity has the right to negotiate on its own behalf but as is often the case it is a good idea to be explicit about it.

9.       To provide for the procedure for making public improvements and levying assessments for such improvements.

10.   To require, as necessary, the attendance of any County employee or officer at Council meetings to provide information as may be requested. Neither President of Council, the Council, nor any of its members shall initiate or request the appointment of any person to, or the removal from office by the County Administrator or by any of the County Administrator’s subordinates, nor in any manner take part in the appointment or removal of employees under the department heads except as provided in this charter. Except for the purpose of inquiry the Council and its members shall deal with the administrative service solely through the County Administrator and neither the Council nor any member thereof shall give orders to any subordinates of the County Administrator, either publicly or privately.

11.   No additional County-wide taxes can be levied without the approval of the majority of the voters at a County wide General Election. There shall be no emergency measures in place to forgo this process.

Another big one, fairly self-explanatory but this is the clause that says sales taxes cannot be raised without putting it to the voters on election day. One of the major features and purposes of the Charter.

12.   To establish by ordinance a code of ethics, which shall be in addition to, and not inconsistent with, general law on the subject, which shall guide and inform County officers and employees in the performance of their official duties in a manner that will represent high standards of professionalism and loyalty to the residents of the County and that will avoid conflicts of interest, self-dealing and other violations of the public trust.

13.   No public money of, or under the control of, the County, from whatever source derived, shall be subject to appropriation, application or distribution at the order or direction of any individual member of the Council.

A council-member can’t just cut himself a check from the County’s bank account or order the sheriff to spend money on something

SECTION 2.10 ORGANIZATION, RULES, AND PROCEDURES

1.       Council Officers: On the first business day of each year following a regular election for members of the Council, the Council shall meet for the purpose of organization and shall elect one of its members as President and one other member as Vice-President, each to serve until the election of their successors at the next succeeding organizational meeting. The President shall preside at all meetings of the Council. The Vice President shall preside in case of the absence or disability of the President. The presiding officer shall be entitled to vote on all matters.

The Pres and VP don’t have any extra votes and are elected by their peers, the VP stands in for the Pres., the council has the authority to  arrange its own precedence if it wants to make 3rd in line, 4th in line, etc. as is covered right below, we only need to set out the basics.

2.       Rules and Records: The Council shall determine its own rules and order of business. The Clerk of Council shall keep and make available for public inspection at all reasonable times a record or proceedings of the Council in which the vote of each member voting on an ordinance or resolution shall be recorded.

As mentioned, the council sets its own rules for general operation, if they want to seat themselves clockwise in order of age or open the floor for public discussion after Old Business but before New business, that is best left to them.

3.       Written Resolutions and Ordinances: All legislative action of a general and permanent nature shall be by resolution or ordinance introduced in written or printed form. Each resolution and ordinance shall contain no more than one subject, and that subject shall be clearly expressed in its title.

An ordinance focused on Water Treatment can’t be titled “Bridge Proposal” or have truly obscure and distorted title.

4.       Required Readings: No ordinance or resolution shall be passed or adopted, concerning financial and fiscal matters, until it has been read, either in full or by title alone, at three different regular Council meetings. The requirement of three readings may be dispensed with by a vote of at least five of the seven members of the Council.

You need a majority to do anything, meaning currently 4 votes, not 2 of 3 council members present. Also, without a super-majority you can’t pass anything without having it reviewed on three occasions first. This keeps things from being passed quietly though also gives a 5/7 vote workaround for the genuinely trivial or urgent. You never want to hobble a governing body in emergencies with enforced delays.

5.       Adoption by Council: No action of the Council shall be valid or binding unless adopted by an affirmative vote of at least a majority of the members of the Council. Each ordinance or resolution shall be signed by the Presiding Officer, the Clerk of Council, and the County Administrator.

6.       Effective Dates of Legislation: Each ordinance or resolution shall take effect in the manner and at the time provided by general law for ordinances or resolution of a municipal corporation. Unless a later time is specified therein, each measure designated to become immediately effective shall take effect upon passage. Each measure designated to become immediately effective shall contain a statement of the necessity for such action and shall require the affirmative vote of at least five of the seven members of the Council for enactment.

7.       Publication of Ordinances and Resolutions: Council shall provide by rule for the procedure for giving notice of the adoption by the Council of ordinances and resolutions of a general and permanent nature. Such method or methods for giving notice shall be such as to enable any interested resident of the County to have prompt access to the text of such legislation.

SECTION 2.11 INITIATIVE AND REFERENDUM

The right of initiative and referendum is reserved to the people of the County on all matters that the County may now or hereafter be authorized to control by legislative action. The provisions of general law relating to such right applicable to municipalities in effect at the time of the adoption of this charter shall govern the exercise of such right hereunder, provided that all powers and duties respecting initiative and referendum petitions imposed upon city auditors or village clerks by general law shall be exercised by the Clerk of Council. Additionally, the Council may pass a resolution to place an Amendment to the Charter on the ballot in either a Primary or General Election, but not in Special Elections.

This explicitly spells out that nothing the Council does is safe from being challenged at the ballot, though the challenger still needs to get a lot of signatures from fellow voters to do it, we don’t want it too easy or then every ballot would be fifty pages long. Our view is if something bothers people enough to get the 10% of voters needed for it to make the ballot it is by definition not a trivial matter. This also spells out that the Council can put things on the ballot themselves, though not in special elections or on whim since it is subject to the three required readings in 2.10.04, it also means people can present cases to the council instead of needing a few thousand signatures, which may save some time and hassle though remains an option if the council declines.

SECTION 2.12 INVESTIGATIONS BY COUNCIL

The Council or any committee of Council may investigate the financial transactions of any office, department or agency of County government and the official acts and conduct of any County official relating to any matter upon which Council is authorized to act. In conducting such investigations, the Council or any such committee may administer oaths and may, by resolution adopted by vote of at least five of the seven members of the Council or of the committee of Council, compel the attendance of witnesses and the production of books, papers, and other evidence through the issuance of subpoenas. Subpoenas shall be signed by either the President of Council or the chair of the Council committee seeking a witness’s testimony or the production of evidence and shall be served and executed by an officer authorized by law to serve subpoenas and other legal process. In the matter of compelling the attendance of witnesses and the production of evidence the majority vote of Council, if any, shall take precedence over the vote of a Council committee. If any duly-subpoenaed witness refuses to testify to any facts within the witness’s knowledge, or to produce any paper, books, or other evidence in the witness’s possession or in the witness’s control relating to the matter under inquiry before the Council or any such committee, the Council may refer the matter to the Prosecuting Attorney to cause the witness to be punished as for contempt.

This grants the Council power to launch investigations with teeth. As the subject is legal options it is unsurprisingly rather heavy on the legal-ese.

ARTICLE III – COUNTY ADMINISTRATOR SECTION

3.01 COUNTY ADMINISTRATOR

Right out the gate here, there is a big difference between a County Executive and a County Administrator, we in fact already have an appointed County Administrator, and we’re essentially keeping it with minor modification. Executives usually have equal or greater authority to the legislative branch, so if we wanted that we would have made it an elected position, not appointed. That’s essentially how we choose to delineate Executive from Administrator. Not in terms of specific duties or powers, but specifically that it is subordinate to the Council as a whole, rather than co-equal or above the council.

The County Administrator shall be the chief administrative officer of the County. The County Administrator shall be hired by the County Council and shall serve at the pleasure of the County Council. The County Administrator shall have a Master’s Degree in Business Administration or post graduate degree in Public Administration, or a substantially equivalent degree, and shall have at least five years of experience in government or private sector administration.

Within six months of appointment, the County Administrator shall become an elector of Ashtabula County. The County Administrator shall not, except as authorized by the Council, hold or accept other employment or public office.

By a vote with at least five (5) of the seven members of Council concurring, Council may waive the requirement of a Master’s Degree in Business Administration or Masters in Public Administration provided that such person has at least fifteen (15) years of administrative experience with an appropriate background, such as the negotiation of labor contracts, control of multi-million dollar operating budgets, or managing multiple unrelated departments.

Essentially we want a professional administrator to do our administrating, but we want make sure that if a truly excellent candidate who doesn’t have the degrees emerges they can still serve. If their resume is that good even without a degree then 5/7 votes shouldn’t be a hurdle. These sorts of requirements are listed or implied for most of the appointed positions but outlined in detail for the County Admin because that person will be the Council’s principal tool of daily governance. The other piece there is that unlike the Council, the Admin need not live in Ashtabula when they are hired, only that after we hire them they need to move here. The Admin isn’t elected, they don’t represent the people, that is not their duty nor right, so residency hardly hurts but is not necessary from the get-go, and it lets us spread our net wider to find qualified, excellent candidates.

SECTION 3.02 COMPENSATION

The salary and compensation of the County Administrator shall be established by ordinance by the County Council, and shall be modified at its discretion.

SECTION 3.03 POWERS AND DUTIES

The County Administrator shall have all the powers and duties of an administrative nature under this Charter and such powers and duties of an administrative nature, except as otherwise provided herein, as are vested in or imposed upon boards of county commissioners by general law. Such powers and duties include, but are not limited to, the following:

1.       To appoint, suspend, discipline and remove all County personnel including those appointive officers provided for in Article V hereof and except those who, as provided by general law, are under the jurisdiction of officers, boards, agencies, commissions, and authorities of the County other than the board of county commissioners, and except those who are appointed by the Council pursuant to Section 3.09(1) of this Charter or by the Prosecuting Attorney.

2.       To appoint, subject to the confirmation by the Council, and remove County directors and officers and members of boards, agencies, commissions and authorities as are or may hereafter be created by or pursuant to this Charter, and such officers and members of boards, agencies, commissions and authorities as are provided by general law to be appointed by boards of county commissioners. If the Council shall fail to act on the question of such an appointment by the County Administrator within thirty days of the date that the County Administrator submits such appointment to the Council for its consideration, that appointment shall be deemed confirmed without further action by the Council. The County Administrator and the Council shall use good faith efforts to reflect the diversity of the people of the County in appointing such officers and members.

3.       To advocate for the interests of the County with other levels of government and to advocate for and promote cooperation and collaboration with other political subdivisions.

4.       To execute contracts, conveyances and evidences of indebtedness on behalf of the County subject to Council approval.

5.       To attend meetings of the Council and take part in the discussion of all matters before the Council.

6.       To request ordinances and resolutions for consideration by the Council and otherwise to make recommendations for actions to be taken by the County Council.

7.       To submit to the Council, prior to the beginning of each fiscal year, a proposed operating budget for the upcoming fiscal year which shall contain at least the following:

  • i.        A statement of estimated revenues from all sources, including fund balances from the preceding year.
  • ii.       A statement of proposed expenditures, shown by department, office, agency, authority, board and commission, and by activity, character and object.
  • iii.      A schedule of estimated revenues and proposed expenditures for each County department, office, agency, authority, board and commission, on a monthly basis.
  • iv.     A summary of the contents of the proposed operating budget.

8.       To submit to the Council, prior to the beginning of each fiscal year, a capital improvements program, which shall contain at least the following:

  • i.         The capital improvements scheduled for, or proposed to be undertaken within that fiscal year, along with the estimated cost of each improvement and the proposed or established method of financing.
  • ii.       A summary of the detailed contents of the program for the current fiscal year.
  • iii.      The capital improvements projected for the five years next succeeding the current fiscal year.

9.       To submit a written message to the Council accompanying the proposed operating budget and capital improvements program explaining the budget both in fiscal terms and in terms of work to be done, outlining the proposed financial policies of the County for the current fiscal year and describing the important features of the budget. The message shall include any proposals for major changes in financial policies and in expenditures, appropriations and revenues as compared with the preceding fiscal year and the reasons for such proposals, and an itemization and explanation of each proposed capital improvement.

10.   To conduct collective bargaining regarding wages and compensatory benefits with any recognized employee bargaining unit and administer uniform personnel procedures for all County employees.

11.   To submit to the Council annually a five-year financial forecast for the general operating funds of the County.

12.   To employ and supervise such number of deputies, assistants and employees as shall be reasonably necessary to assist the County Administrator in carrying out the duties of the office, such deputy and assistant positions to be created by Council.

This one here just says that while the Admin can hire and fire personnel to make a good functional team they don’t have a blank check to simply create positions.

SECTION 3.04 VACANCY

In the event the office of the County Administrator becomes vacant by reason of death, resignation, removal from office, failure to remain an elector of the County or for any other reason, the Council President shall serve as a temporary County Administrator until Council can appoint an interim County Administrator to serve until a new County Administrator is chosen. Such interim County Administrator shall remain an elector of the county and shall serve no longer than six (6) months. The County Administrator shall designate one or more qualified officers of the County to perform the County Administrator’s duties during temporary absence or disability, and any person or persons so designated are hereby authorized to perform the duties of the County Administrator during the absence or disability of the County Administrator.

SECTION 3.05 INVESTIGATIONS BY COUNTY ADMINISTRATOR

The County Administrator may, at any time and without notice, cause the administrative affairs or the official acts and conduct of any official or employee of any County office, department or agency over which the Administrator has authority to be examined. The County Administrator, or any person appointed by the Administrator to conduct such an examination, shall have the same power to take testimony, administer oaths, and compel the attendance of witnesses and the production of papers, books and evidence and refer witnesses to the Prosecuting Attorney to be punished for contempt as is conferred upon Council by this Charter. Subpoenas may not be issued pursuant to this section except by resolution adopted by a vote of five (5) of the seven Council members.

ARTICLE IV – ELECTED OFFICIALS

SECTION 4.01 PROSECUTING ATTORNEY: ELECTION, DUTIES AND QUALIFICATIONS

The Prosecuting Attorney shall be responsible for all criminal matters, fines, and forfeitures. The Prosecuting Attorney shall continue to provide the services established for the Law Director until such time as the County Council appoints another to serve in that position. The County Council shall have the discretion to appoint the Prosecuting Attorney to serve as Law Director. Unless so appointed, the Prosecuting Attorney shall have such duties and powers as provided in R.C. 309.08 and any amendments thereto, excluding the duties set forth under Section 5.03 under this charter for the Law Director. No person shall be eligible for the office of Prosecuting Attorney, or elected or appointed to such office, who is not an attorney licensed for a period of not less than ten (10) years in the State of Ohio. No person elected to this office shall hold other elective office. The compensation for the Prosecuting Attorney shall be established by the Ohio Revised Code.

The Prosecutor gets a separate section here because unlike the other remaining elected positions that job is having part of its duties removed into the Law Director. The latter half is simply explicitly stating the qualifications for Prosecutor are the same as before, and the same duties minus law director. The position of Law Director is covered elsewhere but because, even though the name is the same, the Prosecutor is essentially abolished replaced by two positions we need to outline those qualifications explicitly.

SECTION 4.02 ALL OTHER ELECTED OFFICE HOLDERS

The Auditor, Sheriff, Coroner and Engineer of the County shall be elected as provided in this Charter and their duties shall continue to be determined in the manner provided by general law, except where County Council changes those duties by ordinance or resolution. The compensation for these office holders shall be established by the Ohio Revised Code.

ARTICLE V – DESIGNATED OFFICERS

SECTION 5.01 DESIGNATED OFFICERS: CONFIRMATION BY COUNCIL

Each of the officers provided for in this Article V shall be appointed by the County Council and shall serve at the pleasure of the County Council at a salary and compensation established by Council.

SECTION 5.02 FINANCE DIRECTOR: POWERS, DUTIES AND QUALIFICATIONS

1.       Powers and Duties: The Finance Director shall exercise all powers and perform all duties now or hereafter vested in or imposed by general law upon county treasurers and county recorders and the powers and duties of clerks of the court of common pleas other than those powers and duties related to serving the operation of the courts, and such other powers and duties not inconsistent therewith as provided herein or by ordinance. The Finance Director shall prepare and maintain the tax maps for the County.

We merge the recorder and treasurer into on office, as well as adding in some duties of the clerk of courts which don’t really make sense to be there. We also define that the Council, not the Admin, is the supervisor for the Finance Director. The Admin shouldn’t be the only link between the council and the governing apparatus.

2.       Boards, Commissions and Committees: The Finance Director, or his or her designee, shall serve in the place of the county recorder on every board, commission, committee, or any other body upon which a county recorder is required or authorized to serve by general law.

3.       Qualifications: The Finance Director shall be a certified public accountant or have a Bachelor’s Degree in Administration, or substantially equivalent degree, or shall have had at least five (5) years of experience in financial management of large private sector entity or political subdivision.

SECTION 5.03 LAW DIRECTOR

The Law Director shall be the legal advisor to and representative of the County Government and shall be responsible for all civil legal matters. The Law Director shall be an attorney at law in good standing in the State of Ohio and shall have had at least ten years’ experience in advising or representing political subdivisions in Ohio.

SECTION 5.04 CLERK OF COURTS: POWERS AND DUTIES

All powers and duties now or hereafter vested in or imposed by general law upon the office of clerk of the court of Common Pleas relating to serving the operation of the courts shall be exercised and carried out by the appointed Clerk of Courts, who shall be appointed by, and serve at the pleasure of the County Council. The Council shall request and receive recommendations from the Judges of the General Division of the Ashtabula County Court of Common Pleas with regards to the appointment of the Clerk of Courts.

As mentioned, we remove the parts of the post that don’t relate to the courts. We also stick an important reminder on there that while the county gets to pick the Clerk, they’d best consult our judges on the subject.

ARTICLE VI – BOARDS AND COMMISSIONS

SECTION 6.01 BUDGET COMMISSION

The Budget Commission shall consist of the County Finance Director, the Auditor and the Law Director. Members of the Budget Commission may appoint deputies to serve on their behalf. The Budget Commission shall exercise all powers and perform all duties of a county budget commission as prescribed by general law.

Typically a county has the treasurer, auditor, and prosecutor serve on this, or send a delegate. The Finance director takes over for the treasurer here but we have the option of prosecutor or law director, and we go for law director, again on the notion that the prosecutor should focus on prosecuting.

SECTION 6.02 BOARD OF REVISION

There shall be one or more Boards of Revision, each consisting of three electors of the County. To ensure the board is politically neutral through diversity, one member will be appointed from the political party of the Ohio Senate Majority Leader, one from the party of the Ohio Senate Minority Leader, and one from another party or independent. The three members of each board shall be appointed by the Council, each for a term of three years. Each Board of Revision shall exercise all duties of a county board of revision as prescribed by general law. The Council shall provide for compensation for members of a Board of Revision.

This is a complex way of saying One Democrat, one Republican, and one Independent or third party. If twenty years down the road the two big parties are the Orange and Purple Parties, or we have five major parties, this covers that. We don’t want the BoR, who handle complaints about property tax values, to be all of one mind. Another major difference is that a BoR normally consists of the Auditor, the Treasurer, and a Commissioner, or their delegates. Since the Auditor’s office determines property values, and this board handles complaints about those, it makes sense for them to be present. However, it makes sense for them to be present to defend their stance, not decide if it is valid. Having the auditor on the board makes as much sense as having a doctor sit on the panel reviewing accusations of malpractice against them. This isn’t to impugn the Auditor’s Office, but it is just common sense, if someone doesn’t think their property has been rightly valued they can go to the Auditor in the first place and make their case, if it goes to the BoR then that office is now there presumably to defend their position, not judge it.

SECTION 6.03 OTHER BOARDS AND COMMISSIONS

Any board or commission of the County and any joint board or commission in which the County is a participant that is in existence when this Charter becomes effective, but not provided for in this Charter, shall continue to exist until reorganized or discontinued by action of Council, unless its continuance is required by general law.

In the transition phase things need to keep operating and the council will presumably have to prioritize the squeakier wheels to review, also some are required by the state.

SECTION 6.04 SPECIAL BOARDS AND COMMISSIONS

When general law or any agreement with another public agency or court order provides for appointment of members of a special board or commission or other agency by the board of county commissioners, such appointment shall be made by the County Council.

Another example of explicitly stating what seems common sense because turf wars often start over the splitting of thinner hairs.

ARTICLE VII – ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

SECTION 7.01 COUNTY ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

The County shall have as a primary responsibility the promotion and enhancement of the economic well-being and prosperity of the County and all of its residents. In furtherance of that purpose the County shall, as authorized by the Constitution of Ohio, general law, this Charter, and enactments pursuant thereto, develop and implement policies, programs, and activities for the expansion and enhancement of economic activity in the County so as to create and preserve jobs and employment opportunities for, and available to, residents of the County. In furtherance of this purpose, the County shall appropriate money and enter into agreements and otherwise cooperate with officers, agencies, and instrumentalities of the United States of America, the State of Ohio, with other political subdivision, and with public and private persons, firms, and corporations, foundations, and individuals and institutions, and may accept and make gifts, grants, and loans and other economic incentives.

We’re establishing, almost a preamble to this Article, that the county needs to prioritize working on the economy. The whole nation has been in a terrible and protracted recession, and it has hit us even harder since we’ve had weak or negative growth for a very long while. The Council needs to act aggressively to do what it can on this score and we’re outlining the tools available.

SECTION 7.02 ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT COMMISSION

There shall be an Economic Development Commission, the members of which shall be selected and qualified as follows: One member shall be selected by each of the following: the County Administrator; the Council; the City Manager or mayor of the city of Ashtabula; the City Manager or mayor of the City of Conneaut and the City Manager or mayor of the City of Geneva, the Ashtabula County Port Authority and the Ashtabula County Growth Partnership or its successor. Council shall further appoint to the Commission one elected official from the Villages and four elected officials from the townships for terms not to exceed four years or their term in office, whichever is lesser. Council shall also appoint such other members, not to exceed three, representing small business and manufacturing for terms not to exceed four years.

That’s a total of 15, and we didn’t want to make it a group totally subordinate and appointed to the Council, who gets final say anyway. Each of the 3 cities gets a pick, the townships get 4, and the villages 1, for 8 total. That’s roughly in keeping with their population totals. Now the council has 4 picks, not including the admin’s, but those other three are expected to be from our local private sector. All four can be, but we wanted to make sure at least 3 were. We didn’t want to get to specific, this sort of thing calls for flexibility, we also wanted to ensure we didn’t go the route others have, of just making a bureaucratic department to ‘explore ideas’ or having the council appoint everyone, or 4 of 7 members of the council do so. There is an assumption of a ‘Director of Development’ but we’ve left that open-ended where the charter is concerned, just like we never discuss the Clerk of Council or similar. Ditto, you’ll note we never say how the villages pick their rep or how the townships do. We’d rather rely, initially at least, on them figuring out how they want to do this, and it can always be set down formally later on when we’ve had a chance to see the pros and cons and weigh them.

Membership on the Economic Development Commission shall not constitute the holding of office or employment with the County. The members shall serve without compensation, but may be reimbursed for reasonable and necessary expenses incurred in the performance of their duties. Any vacancy in the membership of the Economic Development Commission shall be filled in the same manner as that of the person whose position has been vacated.

The Economic Development Commission shall adopt its own rules and bylaws for its organization and procedures. It shall meet at least quarterly and shall be provided with such facilities and staff assistance as shall be necessary for the Economic Development Council to carry out its duties. The County Administrator and the Director of Development shall keep the Economic Development Commission informed of current and anticipated economic development activities and opportunities, except as necessary to preserve confidentiality of such matters as business plans and trade secrets of private parties. The Development Plan shall be reviewed and revised annually in accordance with the foregoing procedures.

SECTION 7.03 ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT PLAN

The County Administrator in consultation with the Economic Development Commission, shall prepare and present to the Council by the first day of June of each year a proposed five-year economic development plan for the County, for actions to be carried out by the County itself, and in cooperation with other public and private agencies and organizations, for the purpose of enhancing the prosperity and well-being of the County and its residents and communities. The Council must adopt the proposed plan, with such changes as the Council shall deem advisable, within sixty days of its presentation to the Council, for the plan to be adopted. The economic development plan shall be reviewed and revised annually in accordance with the foregoing procedures.

“The council must adopt the proposed plan…” has caused a few eyebrows. No, this is not auto-passage if they can’t agree, the reverse is the case. They have 60 days to decide on whether or not to adopt the plan as is or modify it, or the plan is dead. That’s meant as a none-too-subtle prod for reasonable haste, this is after all an annual plan. So what if they don’t adopt a plan? Well, the world will not end, the Council won’t be imprisoned in their meeting hall till they agree, these are five year plans essentially modified annually, but they will have to explain to the voters why they couldn’t pass one. To be very clear though, nothing new, ever, just goes through automatically in the absence of a majority.

ARTICLE VIII – COUNTY EMPLOYMENT PRACTICES

The County Administrator and the officers, offices, agencies, departments, boards, commissions, and other public bodies, who under this Charter or under general law are authorized to employ persons in the service of the County, shall be appointing authorities. Persons interested in employment with the County shall make application to the appointing authority. No appointing authority shall appoint a person to fill a vacancy in the classified service who does not meet the qualifications for that position. Ashtabula County is an equal opportunity employer.

Who can hire people and how they apply and a ban on discriminatory hiring.

ARTICLE IX – PURCHASING

The County Administrator, shall be responsible, except as otherwise provided by this Charter or by ordinance, and to the extent permitted by the Ohio Constitution, for the purchase of goods and services required by all offices, officers, agencies, departments, boards, commissions, or other public bodies, other than separate political subdivisions, that are supported in whole or in part from taxes levied, or other financial assistance provided by the County.

ARTICLE X – AUDITS

SECTION 10.01 INTERNAL AUDITS

The Charter recognizes the importance of independent and professional internal audits for the purpose of insuring the proper handling of all funds coming into County government.

Something of a Statement of Principal, we don’t want any doubt about whether or not we think ‘audit yourself’ is a bad idea, unsurprisingly a lot of bureaucracies tend to think it is not. We beg to differ.

SECTION 10.02 AUDIT COMMITTEE

An Audit Committee shall be created consisting of the County Administrator, the County Auditor, and the President of Council and two residents of the County appointed by Council not belonging to the same political party, such residents to serve for a four year term.

Going back to earlier commentary, this is one of the reasons why the Auditor is elected and not appointed, even a very divided governing body can show surprising unity when it comes to claiming their house is clean.

SECTION 10.03 INTERNAL AUDIT PROCEDURE

The procedure to conduct an internal audit shall be as follows:

1.       The Audit Committee shall advertise and seek bids from qualified, independent and certified internal audit companies for the purpose of conducting periodic internal audits of all departments in the county handling public funds.

2.       The Audit Committee shall recommend to County Council the best three reputable firms to conduct such an independent internal audit.

3.       Council shall authorize a contract with one of such firms, appropriate the necessary funds, and direct the County Administrator to execute such contract.

4.       The Audit Committee shall assist the internal audit.

5.       The Audit Committee shall work with every department to develop policies to implement any recommendations provided by the internal audit, and shall monitor such departments to insure they are implementing and following such procedures.

SECTION 10.04 INTERNAL AUDIT FINDINGS

The findings of such internal audit shall be shared with Council and shall be public records. The County Administrator shall insure that the recommendations of such internal audit are implemented to insure the integrity of county funds.

ARTICLE XI – GENERAL PROVISIONS

SECTION 11.01 EFFECTIVE DATE OF CHARTER

The effective date of this Charter shall be January 1, 2015, except as otherwise provided herein with respect to particular officers, offices or functions.

SECTION 11.02 FORFEITURE OF OFFICE

A County elected official shall forfeit that office if the officer:

1.       Lacks at any time during the term of office any qualification for the office prescribed by this Charter or by general law to the extent applicable under this Charter;

Such as moving to a different county.

2.       Knowingly violates any express prohibition of this Charter, including Section 12.04 hereof;

12.04 Deals with abolishing or changing of offices, amongst other things. In this context if someone is holding an elected position that ceases to exist or is made appointed instead, they don’t automatically retain the position till the end of the natural term.

3.       Is convicted of any felony or of any crime involving moral turpitude; or

4.       In the case of a member of Council, fails to attend three consecutive regular meetings of the Council without being excused by the Council.

SECTION 11.03 REPORTING OF OFFERS TO INFLUENCE OFFICIAL ACTION

Any elected or appointed County officer who receives or who has specific and personal knowledge of any offer by any person of anything of value to be given to a County officer or employee for the purpose of influencing such officer or employee in the performance of such officer’s or employee’s official duties shall promptly report the matter to a law enforcement officer or agency believed by the reporting officer or employee to have jurisdiction or responsibility concerning the matter. Such officer or employee shall fully cooperate in any investigation of and any resulting prosecution or action relating to the matter.

Generally this discusses bribery.

SECTION 11.04 MEETINGS OF GOVERNMENTAL BODIES TO BE PUBLIC

All meetings of the Council and any committee, board, commission, agency or authority of the County, as well as any similar body created by this Charter or by the Council, shall be open to the public as provided by general law.

Note that reviews are more frequent initially then settle into decennial cycle. Also note that this clause doesn’t prevent either the people or the council from placing amendments on sooner.

SECTION 11.05 RECORDS OF GOVERNMENTAL BODIES TO BE PUBLIC

Records of the County shall be open to the public as provided by general law.

SECTION 11.06 EQUAL OPPORTUNITY

It shall be the policy of the County that:

1.       All officers and members of boards, agencies, commissions and authorities appointed by the County Administrator, the Council or other County elected officials;

2.       All members of each Charter Review Commission; and

3.       All County employees;

Shall be appointed, employed, promoted, and compensated without regard to their race, color, religion, sex, national origin, sexual orientation, disability, age, or ancestry.

SECTION 11.07 EMPLOYEE RIGHTS

Employees of the County and its offices, agencies and departments shall have the right to organize and to engage in collective bargaining as provided by general law.

SECTION 11.08 CHARTER REVIEW COMMISSION

Commencing in September 2015, in September 2019, and at intervals of ten years thereafter, the County Council, shall appoint a Charter Review Commission consisting of nine electors of the County, no more than four of whom may be of the same political party, and no more than two of whom may be an officer of the County. Appointment to the Charter Review Commission shall be for a term of one year. Members of the Charter Review Commission shall serve without pay and shall serve on no more than three consecutive Charter Review Commissions, unless such service is within a ten-year period. The Council shall establish rules and procedures for the operation of the Charter Review Commission and the County Administrator shall provide the Commission necessary staff services.

The Charter Review Commission may propose to the Council such amendments to this Charter as it shall deem appropriate. The final report of each Charter Review Commission, which shall include all proposed charter amendments and a summary of the Commission’s activities, shall be transmitted to the Council for consideration by the first day of July following the formation of the Charter Review Commission. The Council shall vote within sixty days after the proposals are received on whether or not to submit the proposals to the electors at the next general election held more than sixty days after its vote on the proposed amendments.

Note that reviews are more frequent initially then settle into decennial cycle. Also note that this clause doesn’t prevent either the people or the council from placing amendments on sooner

SECTION 11.09 CHARTER AMENDMENTS

Proposed amendments to this Charter shall be submitted to the electors of the County in the manner provided for by the Ohio Constitution.

This gets discussed a bit in 2.11 too, if you’re curious the necessary signatures on a petition is 10% of the number of votes cast in the last gubernatorial race from amongst current Ashtabula voters

SECTION 11.10 REARRANGEMENT, REPRINTING OF, AND CORRECTION OF TYPOGRAPHICAL ERRORS IN THE CHARTER

Following any election in which any amendment to this Charter is adopted, the Clerk of Council, with the approval of the Council and the Director of Law, may prior to any reprinting of this Charter, make such changes therein, including the numbers, titles and arrangement of articles and sections hereof, as may be necessary or desirable to maintain or assure the logical and consistent ordering thereof, but no such change shall in any way affect the substance or meaning of this Charter or any part thereof or amendment thereto.

The Clerk of Council may, at any time, with the approval of the Council, correct typographical errors appearing in this Charter, but no such change shall in any way affect the substance or meaning of this Charter or any part thereof or amendment thereto.

SECTION 11.11 SEVERABILITY.

The various provisions of this Charter are intended to be severable, and the invalidity of one or more of such provisions shall not affect the validity of the remaining provisions.

Severability is the legal concept that if part of a contract or law is found illegal or otherwise unenforceable it can be removed without invalidating the entire document. We mention this in regard to odd-year elections way up in Section 2.02 but essentially it isn’t unusual for a charter, law, contract, etc to land in court with one piece being challenged. If you don’t include severability then that one thing, if struck down, kills the entirety. That doesn’t mean severability clauses completely protect that document though, if the thing is fundamentally changed or unworkable in the eyes of the court it might still be totally nullified. It all comes down to how major the impact is on the rest of the document and that can be a fairly subjective matter.

SECTION 11.12 REMOVING AN ELECTED OFFICIAL BY RECALL

Any member of the County Council, or any County elected office holder under Article IV, Section 4.01 or 4.02, of this Charter may be removed from office by recall. The procedure to effect such removal shall be as follows:

This is essentially a modification of Summit County’s recall laws, Ohio doesn’t have recall elections for state or county offices though in ORC §705.92 it covers municipal recalls, and we wanted to make sure this is an option for Ashtabula so we laid it out. Hopefully this never has to get used. It’s fairly lengthy and technical, the long an short of it is that you need a few thousand people to sing a petition to remove a county-wide officer or about a thousand from an individual district to remove a District Councilor, or rather you need that to get it on the ballot for a vote.

1.       A petition signed by qualified electors demanding the election of a successor to the person sought to be removed, shall contain a general statement, in not more than two hundred words, of the grounds upon which removal is sought. In seeking removal of a County elected office holder such petition must be signed by qualified electors of the County equal in number to at least ten (10) percent of those who voted for Governor in the last preceding Gubernatorial election. In seeking removal of a member of County Council representing a particular district, such petition must be signed by qualified electors of that district equal in number to at least twenty (20) percent of those who voted for Governor in the last preceding Gubernatorial election in that district.

2.       Petition papers shall be procured only from the Clerk of Council, who shall keep a sufficient number on file for the use as provided by this section. Prior to the issuance of such petition papers an affidavit shall be made by one or more qualified electors of the County and filed with the Clerk, stating the name and office of the official sought to be removed. The Clerk, upon issuing any such petition paper, shall enter, in a record to be kept in his office, the name of the elector to whom issued, the date of such issuance, and the number of papers issued, and shall certify upon each paper the name of the elector to whom issued and the date of issuance. No petition paper so issued shall be accepted as part of a petition unless it bears the certificate of the Clerk and unless it is filed as provided in this section.

3.       The petition shall be addressed to the County Council. With each signature shall be stated the place of residence of the signer, giving the street and number. The signatures need not all be on one paper. A person shall be designated in such petition to receive it in case of return by the Clerk for insufficiency, as provided in this section. One of the signers of every such paper shall sign an affidavit stating that each signature on the paper is the genuine signature of the person whose name it purports to be. All such papers for the removal of any one official shall be fastened together and be filed as one instrument within thirty (30) days after the filing with the Clerk of the affidavit stating the name and office of the official sought to be removed. The Clerk, within ten (10) days after the filing of such petitions, shall determine the sufficiency of such petition and attach a certificate showing the result of his examination. If the Clerk shall certify that the petition is insufficient, he shall set forth in the certificate the particulars in which the petition is defective, and shall return a copy of the certificate to the person designated in such petition to receive it.

4.       Such recall petition may be amended at any time within twenty (20) days after the making of certificate of insufficiency by the Clerk, by filing a supplementary petition upon additional petition papers, issued, signed and filed as provided in this section for the original petition. The Clerk shall, within ten (10) days after such amended petition is filed, make an examination of the amended petition, and if his certificate shall show the same to be still insufficient, he shall return it to the person designated in such petition to receive it, without prejudice, however, to the filing of a new petition.

5.       If the Clerk shall determine that the petition or amended petition is sufficient, he shall at once submit the same with his certificate to the Council and forthwith notify the official sought to be recalled of such action. If the official whose removal is sought shall not resign within five (5) days after such notice, the County Council shall thereupon by order fix a day for holding a recall election. Such election shall be held not less than forty (40) nor more than sixty (60) days after the petition has been submitted to the County Council. If possible, the recall election shall take place at the time any general or special election is held within such period, but if no such election is held, within the time previously stated.

6.       The Clerk shall transmit a duly certified copy of such order to the Director of the Ashtabula County Board of Elections or the successor to this position. The election authorities shall publish notice and make all arrangements necessary for holding an election, and the same shall be conducted and the result returned and declared in all respects, as are the results of general county elections.

7.       Each ballot at such election shall have printed upon it the following question: “Shall (name of person) be removed from the office of (name of office) by recall?” Immediately following such question, there shall be printed on the ballot the following two propositions in the following order:

“For the recall of (name of person).”

“Against the recall of (name of person).”

Immediately to the left on each of said propositions shall be a space in which the elector may vote for either of such propositions.

8.       If a majority of the votes cast on the question of recalling any elected official shall be against the recall, the elected official shall continue in office for the remainder of his unexpired term, but subject to recall as before. If a majority of such votes be for the recall, then the elected official shall be deemed removed from office upon the announcement of the official result of such an election.

9.       When a person is removed from office by recall, the vacancy will be filled in accordance with the provisions of this Charter and general law.

ARTICLE XII – TRANSITION TO CHARTER GOVERNMENT

SECTION 12.01 OFFICES ABOLISHED

As of the date when any officer elected or appointed pursuant to this Charter assumes an office that succeeds to the powers and duties of a predecessor office, the corresponding predecessor office is abolished, and the duties of those officers shall be assumed by the respective officers as provided herein.

SECTION 12.02 INITIAL ELECTION OF COUNTY OFFICERS

No primary or general election shall be held in 2014 for any elected office that is abolished pursuant to this Charter. A runoff election, if necessary, for the nomination of County officials to be elected at the November 2014 general election shall be held on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in May 2014 or at such time as primary elections are scheduled by the State of Ohio. The runoff election shall be conducted in the manner provided by this charter for the nomination of county elected officials, provided that filing deadlines and other matters of time coincide with a primary election. Upon the election of the first Council, Council shall appoint an interim County Administrator with management experience in county government until such time as a County Administrator meeting the requirements of this charter can be hired.

Mostly this just ensures that if the Charter passes then in 2014 those offices which would run – one commissioner, the auditor, do not run and do not as Democrat/Republican, respectively. Incidentally a little reminder here about why we wanted odd years and why we made a point of putting 4 of the 7 districts in gubernatorial. Right now 9 of our 11 non-judicial elected positions run in Presidential years and 2 in Gubernatorial. It seems almost absurd to do that rather than half and half so voters can spare more attention for these races.

SECTION 12.03 OFFICERS AND EMPLOYEES

1.       Rights and Privileges Preserved: Nothing in this Charter except as otherwise specifically provided shall affect or impair the rights or privileges of persons who are County officers or employees at the time of its adoption.

2.       Continuance of Office or Employment: Except as specifically provided by this Charter, if at the time this Charter takes effect a County administrative officer or employee holds any office or position that is or can be abolished by or under this Charter, he or she shall continue in such position until the taking effect of some specific provision under this Charter directing that he or she vacate the office or position.

3.       Human Resource System: An employee holding aCounty position at the time this Charter takes effect who was serving in that same or a comparable position at the time of its adoption shall not be subject to competitive examination as a condition of continuing in the same position, but in all other respects shall be subject to the provision of this Charter and ordinances and regulations enacted pursuant to this Charter relating to the human resource system.

A quick mention here, much like the spurious claim floating around about this charter abolishing townships or stripping them of powers, there is a rumor spreading around that all our current county employees basically gets fired or can be fired on whim. 12.03 very clearly says otherwise.

SECTION 12.04 DEPARTMENTS, OFFICES, AND AGENCIES

1.       Transfer of Powers: If a County department, office or agency is abolished by this Charter, or if a portion of the powers and duties of a department, office or agency is transferred hereby to another department, office or agency, such powers and duties shall be transferred to the County department, office or agency designated in this Charter, or, if this Charter makes no provision therefore, as designated by ordinance.

2.       Property and Records: All property, records, and equipment of any County department, office or agency in existence when this Charter becomes effective shall be transferred to any department, office or agency that assumes its powers and duties as provided herein, but, in the event that the powers or duties are to be discontinued or divided between such entities or in the event that any conflict arises regarding any such transfer, such property, records, or equipment shall be transferred to the department, office or agency designated by the Council in accordance with this Charter.

SECTION 12.05 PENDING MATTERS

All rights, claims, orders, contracts and legal administrative proceedings shall continue except as modified pursuant to this Charter, and in each case shall be maintained, carried out or dealt with by the County department, office or agency as shall be appropriate under this Charter.

SECTION 12.06 LAWS IN FORCE

All County resolutions, orders and regulations that are in force when this Charter becomes fully effective are repealed to the extent that they are inconsistent or interfere with the effective operation of this Charter or of ordinances or resolutions enacted pursuant hereto. To the extent that general law permits, all laws relating to or affecting the County or its officers, agencies, departments or employees that are in force when this Charter becomes fully effective are superseded to the extent that they are inconsistent or interfere with the effective operation of this Charter or of ordinances or resolutions enacted pursuant hereto.

SECTION 12.07 TRANSITION ADVISORY GROUP

The Board of County Commissioners, not later than March 2014, shall designate three senior administrative officials of the County to act as a Transition Advisory Group, which shall develop recommendations for the orderly and efficient transition to the operation of the County government under the provisions of this Charter and shall work with the newly elected County officials. The Board of County Commissioners shall provide necessary facilities and support for the Transition Advisory Group and shall make provision in the budget of the County for the salaries of the elected officers who are to take office in January 2015 and for such other matters as shall be necessary and practicable to provide for the transition. All County officials and employees shall cooperate with the Transition Advisory Group by providing such information and documents as the Transition Advisory Group shall request in connection with the performance of its duties under this section and shall use their best efforts to assist the newly elected County officials and their designees and representatives in implementing the transition.

ARTICLE XIII – NON PARTISAN ELECTIONS

SECTION 13.01 ELECTIONS

All elected offices in this charter will be non-partisan. The filing deadlines for candidates will be ninety days before the first Tuesday after the first Monday in May, or at such time as primary elections are scheduled by the State of Ohio. At any time more than two candidates file to run for an office a runoff election shall occur to coincide with the May primary elections. The two candidates with the most votes in the runoff election shall then run in the November election. Write in candidates may run in accordance with general law. Elections for Auditor and odd-numbered County District Council Members shall occur in Gubernatorial election years. Elections for Prosecutor, Coroner, Engineer, Sheriff, and even-numbered County District Council Members shall occur in Presidential election years.

Another of the charter’s selling points, non-partisan elections. If the text is unclear, if one or two people run for the office they won’t even be on the spring ballot, just in the fall, if 3 or more do then in the spring it gets narrowed down to two, who run in the fall. No one is elected in the spring; even if they get 80% of the vote and five others split the remaining 20%, though admittedly contestant #2 isn’t likely to win in November. There’s some simple reasoning here. We want to remove open party affiliation from ballots, but at the same time we don’t want to clutter things up with a dozen minor spoiler candidates. So spring acts as a screen. As to write-ins, that is simply the law, you must have that option, and it’s a good thing too. If we had that above case where 80% voted for one person and the rest split 20%, and that candidate died or had to withdraw, you’d want the option for a write-in as opposed to auto-electing whoever got the most of that 20%. The last two sentences stipulate who runs for office when, and regarding the non-council seats that is merely a continuance of the current setup, hence why auditor alone runs in Gubernatorial races and the other 4 in Presidential. Currently 9 of the 11 run in Presidential, with the Charter 7 of the 12 do. The three positions we abolished/merged and made appointed were Presidential year elections and 4 of the 7 council will be Gubernatorial so it works out as roughly half and half. The chart below list those elections for the next decade.

Election Schedule

SECTION 13.02 FILLING UNEXPIRED TERMS

When a vacancy occurs in an elected office, the Council shall have 30 days to make the appointment. If Council fails to make the appointment in 30 days, the Council President shall make the appointment. If a vacancy occurs in the first or second year of a four-year term, the interim appointment shall be for a period until the next countywide general election, at which time the position shall be filled for the remainder of the unexpired term. If a vacancy occurs in the third or fourth year of a four-year term, the interim appointment shall extend until the next countywide general election, at which time the position shall be filled for the next four-year term.

This matches with how the council replaces missing members from itself, as covered in 2.05, but covers the other elected offices. Same issue, with non-partisan elections there’s no alternative to the council for us to find a replacement till an election can be held.

SECTION 13.03 TERM LIMITS

All elected officials in this charter shall have a maximum of three full four year terms in an office. Any elected official completing three consecutive terms in the same office cannot hold any other elected office in the county for a period of one year. Term limits shall not take effect until January 1, 2015. Any current elected official at the time this charter takes effect shall not have any past terms count against their term limit.

“Three full four year terms” means a partial term, or one of the 1 or 3 year initial terms, don’t count against that 12 year maximum. Additionally those serving in offices now won’t have any of their prior tenure counted. Term limits can be a controversial issue and was with the charter designers too. There are a lot of pros and cons but we’ll go we’ll stick to the 3 that decided the issue for us. 1) In 1992 Ohio passed 3 different measures placing term limits on every state-wide office and state legislature and congress, passing each one by 2-1 or better. This indicates Ohioans overwhelming prefer term limits on offices. 2) Those were for 8 years, we went for 12. 3) They are consecutive terms, so someone can always run again down the road after the citizens have tried someone new. 4) The soonest anyone could be removed from office this way is Jan 1, 2028, more than enough time for the council or the citizens to place it up for a vote by the people.

Appendix A: Guideline for Redistricting

In order to ensure that Decennial Redistricting is fair, equitable, and transparent to the citizens, the following guidelines should be followed by the Districting Commission whenever reasonably possible.

1.       Ensure districts are of equal population: Districts should not deviate by more than five percent from the most recent Census total divided by the number of Districts; This value, the Target District Population, shall henceforth be referred to in this section as the TDP.

The value from the 2010 census, the TDP, is 14,500 people per district, 13,776-15,224 is the allowed size. We tried to stay even closer to TDP. The smallest district comes in at 14,018 by our data, and the largest at 14,951.

2.       Open Meetings: Efforts should be made to hold meetings at a time and place which is accessible to the public, and to be available to receive input from the citizens.

We viewed this as a must-have. First we don’t want secrecy in redistricting, second we want people to be able to offer alternatives. We were more than half-tempted to make a prize at the County Fair for ‘best map’. Advancements in computers and user friendly online software are likely to ensure before long anyone can throw together a district map from home with little expertise with numbers or computers, and we’d be glad to see such improvements available and widely used

3.       Contiguity and Compactness: Districts must be contiguous but should also seek to have a minimal perimeter to area ratio, districts should not snake nor connect two or more larger areas via thin strips.

If you’ve seen some of the more gerrymandered maps made over the years you can appreciate why ‘compact’ is so important. “Dumbbell Districts”, two spots connected by a thin line, are practically smooth and clean compared to some of those. Look up Maryland’s 2nd and 3rd Congressional Districts or Illinois 4th if you want some examples.

4.       Keep Existing Entities Intact: In order of preference, where existing entities must be divided, this should be in order of Townships before Municipalities and both before City Wards unless the location in question would already exceed district size, clarified below:

  • i. Maintain the Integrity of Voting Precincts: The Commission should place high priority upon not subdividing any existing precinct and should inquire if the County Board of Elections is planning imminent alterations, mergers, or divisions of Voter Precincts and act accordingly.
  • ii. Maintain the Integrity of Smaller Municipal Corporations and Townships: Where possible entities significantly smaller than the TDP should not be subdivided.
  • iii.  Maintaining the Integrity of Subdivisions of Larger Municipal Corporations: When a city is more populous than the TDP, or of an approximately parallel size, preference is to be given to maintaining the integrity of City Wards rather than the City itself.

It is debatable whether or not dividing a township is more or less fair than dividing a village, but Ohio law designates that it is so, and perhaps that is as it should be. A village or city has at some point voted to have the borders it has, townships, normally fairly square affairs barring river or lake, were just thrown together. Basically though, we had to divide Ashtabula City because it was much too big for one district, though two small for two, so we respected ward lines instead.

5.       Minimize Alteration to Prior Districts: It is deemed better to attempt to preserve the prior districts as much as reasonably possible.

Essentially, even if a slightly better map presents itself next time around, if it wildly different than the current design keeping closer to the current one is considered better. There’s an implicit assumption there that most would rather be in the same district as before, if maintaining it is reasonable.

6.       Non-Arbitrary Demarcation: Where a division in contradiction to the above is deemed necessary effort should be made to use boundaries such as a river or a major road.

Appendix B: District Summary Descriptions

The 7 districts have been generated principally with existing civic boundaries, voter precincts, and even population spread as priorities. Districts are numerically but an unofficial designator is included. They are as follows:

We’ll conclude annotations here with a last note. The current map avoids splitting up any existing political subdivisions except Ashtabula City, Township, and Saybrook. That’s rather unavoidable because Ashtabula city already slices Ashtabula Township into two pieces and enters Saybrook Township. We felt under the circumstances divisions should occur in areas where you already needed to have divisions anyway.

We hope these annotations will be of help to you, the voter, in coming to understand the charter, and hope for your support this November.

District 1 – North West: The entirety of Geneva City, Township, Village, and Harpersfield Township, as well as Northwestern Saybrook Township (Saybrook Precinct 7).

District 2 – South West: The entirety of the Townships of Colebrook, Hartsgrove, Morgan, New Lyme, Orwell, Rome, Trumbull, and Windsor as well as the Villages of Orwell, Roaming Shores, and Rock Creek.

District 3 – Lakeshore West: The Northeastern section Saybrook Township (Precincts 2, 3, 5, and 6) as well as the entirety of Ashtabula City Wards 1, 2 and 3.

District 4 – Central: The entirety of the Townships of Austinburg, Jefferson, Lenox, and Plymouth as well as Southern Saybrook Township (Precincts 1, 4 and 8) and Ashtabula Township Southwest (Precinct 2).

District 5 – Lakeshore East: Ashtabula City Wards 4 and 5 as well as the entirety of unincorporated Ashtabula Township excluding Precinct 2, and the entirety of North Kingsville Village.

District 6 – South East: The entirety of the Townships of Andover, Cherry Valley, Denmark, Dorset, Monroe, Pierpont, Richmond, Sheffield, Wayne, and Williamsfield as well as Andover Village.

District 7 – North East: The entirety of the City of Conneaut and the Township of Kingsville not including the village of North Kingsville.

Appendix C: Voter Precinct by County District List

The following table lists the voting precincts by their standard abridged nomenclature and the District they are to be located in.

Precinct Name District Precinct Name District Precinct Name District
ANDOVER TWP. 1 6 CONNEAUT 1-C 7 KINGSVILLE TWP. 2 7
ANDOVER TWP. 2 6 CONNEAUT 2-A 7 LENOX TWP. 1 4
ANDOVER VILLAGE 6 CONNEAUT 2-B 7 LENOX TWP. 2 4
ASHTABULA 1-A 3 CONNEAUT 2-C 7 MONROE TWP. 1 6
ASHTABULA 1-B 3 CONNEAUT 3-A 7 MONROE TWP. 2 6
ASHTABULA 1-C 3 CONNEAUT 3-B 7 MORGAN TWP. 2
ASHTABULA 1-D 3 CONNEAUT 3-C 7 N KINGS VILL 1 5
ASHTABULA 2-A 3 CONNEAUT 3-D 7 N KINGS VILL 2 5
ASHTABULA 2-B 3 CONNEAUT 4-A 7 N KINGS VILL 3 5
ASHTABULA 2-C 3 CONNEAUT 4-B 7 NEW LYME TWP. 2
ASHTABULA 2-D 3 CONNEAUT 4-C 7 ORWELLTWP. 2
ASHTABULA 3-A 3 DENMARK TWP. 6 ORWELL VILLAGE 2
ASHTABULA 3-B 3 DORSET TWP. 6 PIERPONT TWP. 6
ASHTABULA 3-C 3 GEN ON LAKE VILL 1 PLYMOUTH TWP. 1 4
ASHTABULA 3-D 3 GENEVA 1 1 PLYMOUTH TWP. 2 4
ASHTABULA 4-A 5 GENEVA 2 1 RICHMOND TWP. 6
ASHTABULA 4-B 5 GENEVA 3 1 ROAMING SHORES VILLAGE 2
ASHTABULA 4-C 5 GENEVA 4 1 ROCK CREEK VILLAGE 2
ASHTABULA 4-D 5 GENEVA 5 1 ROME TWP. 2
ASHTABULA 5-A 5 GENEVA 6 1 SAYBROOK TWP. 1 4
ASHTABULA 5-B 5 GENEVA 7 1 SAYBROOK TWP. 2 3
ASHTABULA 5-C 5 GENEVA TWP. 1 1 SAYBROOK TWP. 3 3
ASHTABULA 5-D 5 GENEVA TWP. 2 1 SAYBROOK TWP. 4 4
ASHTABULA TWP. 1 5 GENEVA TWP. 3 1 SAYBROOK TWP. 5 3
ASHTABULA TWP. 2 4 HARPERSFLD TWP 1 1 SAYBROOK TWP. 6 3
ASHTABULA TWP. 3 5 HARPERSFLD TWP 2 1 SAYBROOK TWP. 7 1
ASHTABULA TWP. 4 5 HARPERSFLD TWP 3 1 SAYBROOK TWP. 8 4
ASHTABULA TWP. 5 5 HARTSGROVE TWP 2 SHEFFIELD TWP. 1 6
ASHTABULA TWP. 6 5 JEFF VILL 1 4 SHEFFIELD TWP. 2 6
AUSTINBURG TWP. 1 4 JEFF VILL 2 4 TRUMBULL TWP. 2
AUSTINBURG TWP. 2 4 JEFF VILL 3 4 WAYNE TWP. 6
CHERRY VALLEY 6 JEFFERSON TWP. 1 4 WINDSOR TWP. 2
COLEBROOK TWP. 2 JEFFERSON TWP. 2 4 WMSFLD TWP 1 6
CONNEAUT 1-A 7 JEFFERSON TWP. 3 4 WMSFLD TWP 2 6
CONNEAUT 1-B 7 KINGSVILLE TWP. 1 7
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