SHEFFIELD TWP. — Backers of a plan to reform Lorain County government may have hit a snag in getting the measure on the November ballot as a protest in opposition of the measure was filed with the Board of Elections.
The protest was filed Friday morning, according to Board of Elections Director Paul Adams. Per Ohio Revised Code, the protest will be forwarded to the Ohio Secretary of State to make a determination on the validity of the proposed county charter.
The protest was filed by Lorain County Recorder Judy Nedwick and county Coroner Dr. Stephen Evans. The protest said the proposed charter “fails to provide the form of government of the county,” “does not sufficiently provide for the exercise of all powers and duties of county officials” and “fails to provide for the manner of electing county officials,” all of which are required by the Ohio Constitution.
“This same type of charger language has been used in several other ballot issues in Ohio,” Nedwick said. “After researching these issues, I have found that the Ohio Supreme Court has ruled against this language due to these deficiencies.”
Nedwick said that after reading through other charter issues from other counties, she felt filing the protest was appropriate.
“The residents of Lorain County should expect that an issue this important would be properly written to provide for their best interest,” Nedwick said. “Why leave all of these questions on the table? The Supreme Court has consistently ruled against this language. The concept of charter government has its merits, but it needs to be done the right way.”
Evans said he is against the measure for the reasons outlined in the protest, but he said he has other, personal reasons that he opposes it, as well.
“Personally, why I’m concerned about it is because the coroner’s office is the highest legal authority in the county,” Evans said. “I don’t think the coroner should be appointed. In other words, I don’t think it should be a political appointment. I think the voters should have the right to vote on who’s going to be the coroner or medical examiner.”
Evans also said the state of Ohio sets a coroner’s salary, “and by physician’s standards it’s a low rate.” When counties change to an appointed medical examiner, as Cuyahoga and Summit counties have, the salary more than doubled, Evans said.
Last year, the group had a similar measure it believed would be on the general election ballot after Secretary of State Jon Husted broke a tie vote and voted in favor of the issue being on the ballot. Shortly after, though, two protests were filed, and Husted eventually threw the issue off the ballot.
Evans and attorney Gerald Phillips each filed protests last year.
Former Lorain County Commissioner Dave Moore, a Republican leader of the reform effort, said he isn’t concerned with the filed protest.
“I’m not worried at all,” Moore said. “This is more like a cry for their jobs. You’ve got two people that are more worried about their jobs than what is right for the Lorain County people that don’t have a voice. That’s sad.”
The plan would replace the current three county commissioners with a seven-member council that would be elected from districts across the county.
The plan also would turn several jobs that are elected by voters, such as county recorder and treasurer, into appointed positions. Other positions, such as county prosecutor, sheriff and auditor, would remain independently elected offices.
Additionally, the plan calls for the creation of a county executive that would be appointed by the proposed county council.
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