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Ohio secretary of state nixes county government reform petitions

  • Ohio-Primary-Governor

    Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted again threw out petitions for a county government reform ballot issue.

    BRYAN WOOLSTON / AP FILE

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For the second straight year, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted has invalidated petitions to put a measure on the November ballot that would reform Lorain County government.

Husted rendered his decision Monday evening granting the protest filed by Lorain County Coroner Dr. Stephen Evans and County Recorder Judy Nedwick, saying “the proposal does not meet the requirements for a charter initiative given requirements of the Ohio Constitution and the jurisprudence surrounding it.”

The proposed county charter submitted by petitioners would have been placed on the Nov. 6 general election ballot.

The protest filed against the charter said it should be kept off the ballot because it fails to provide the form of government of the county, it fails to sufficiently provide for the exercise of all powers and duties of county officials and it fails to provide for the manner of electing county officials.

“It was a legal problem with the proposal to begin with, at least according to my lawyer,” Evans said. “Unfortunately, the way they had written the charter was not legally tenable, so it couldn’t go forward as written.”

Evans previously stated that he also had personal reasons for opposing the charter, as well.

“The people that are putting forth this charter have never talked to me about the coroner’s office and how I think this will affect the coroner’s office,” he said. “That’s been unfortunate, and that’s been part of the reason why I’ve protested this charter amendment going forward.

The charter would have changed the county coroner from a position elected by voters to a medical examiner chosen by political appointment. Evans has said he feels a position with as much legal authority as the corner’s office holds should be elected by voters.

Nedwick said she was “glad” Husted ruled the way he did on the matter, and she felt the protest had many valid points.

Former Lorain County Commissioner Dave Moore, a Republican leader of the reform effort, had said he wasn’t concerned when Evans and Nedwick filed their protest against the charter.

“I’m not worried at all,” Moore said in June. “This is more like a cry for their jobs. You’ve got two people that are more worred about their jobs than what is right for the Lorain County people that don’t have a voice. That’s sad.”

Upon receiving the protest, Husted instructed the petitioners and protesters alike to submit briefs on the law and merits of the protest.

“The protesters alone timely filed arguments in support of their protest,” Husted said. “Had the petitioners filed any briefing materials in support of their charter proposal — even if it was untimely — I would have their arguments consideration. Without the benefit of their viewpoint, and with a narrow statutory window for me to act, I have only the petition itself, protesters arguments and an unforgiving legal framework handed down by the courts, with which to make a decision.”

Moore didn’t returned calls requesting comment on the decision.

The plan would have replaced the current three county commissioners with a seven-member council that would have been elected from districts across the county.

The plan also would have turned 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 have remained independently elected offices.

Additionally, the plan called for the creation of a county executive that would have been appointed by the proposed county council.

Contact Scott Mahoney at 329-7146 or smahoney@chroniclet.com. Follow him on Twitter @SMahoneyCT.


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