Johnson offers charter amendments

By Frank Lewis

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It may have come too late to help Sixth Ward Councilman Jeff Kleha, but Portsmouth City Council will discuss several charter amendments proposed by First Ward Councilman Kevin W. Johnson Monday night, and chief among them is an amendment to assure that voters will only be able to vote for one candidate at a time.

The controversy arose during the May primary in which three people were running for the Sixth Ward council seat. The ballot language allowed voters in that ward to “vote for not more than two,” and Shawn Stratton and Tom Lowe came away as the two who will face off in November and Kleha, the incumbent, was the odd man out. However, city officials, including City Manager Derek Allen called to the attention of the Scioto County Board of Elections that no one had ever been allowed to vote for more than one candidate ever in the past.

Now comes a proposed charter amendment that addresses that issue. Among the language is the line – “Should three or more candidates file in any particular ward the field of candidates shall be lessened to two in the primary election with the two candidates receiving the most votes being on the ballot in the general election. In such a primary the ballot language shall be, ‘vote for not more than 1.’”

Several officials, including Allen, lamented that in future primary elections there could be protests by candidates that a precedence was set in the May 2015 primary. However, if the charter amendment passes at the polls, there will most likely be no controversy.

Johnson is proposing five charter amendments be placed on the ballot. In addition to the “one vote” measure, another amendment would call for Council to appoint a charter review committee not less than every 10 years commencing in 2016, for the purpose of reviewing and/or recommending amendments to the charter.

Another amendment deals with a quorum of city council members and calls for ordinances to be passed by a majority of those council members in attendance as long as a quorum (four) is present instead of the current language that calls for the affirmative vote of the members elected to council. In the absence of a quorum all city council can do is adjourn.

An amendment changing the wording under the title – “Establishment of Departments,” to read – “There shall be a Department of Law, a Department of Finance and such other departments and officers as may be established by ordinance.” The amendment would remove the designation “and audits” from the reference – “Department of Finance and Audits.”

The final proposed amendment deals with candidates to succeed a recalled member of council.

“The question of recalling any number of elective officers may be submitted at the same election, but as to each officer whose removal is sought a separate petition shall be filed and provision shall be made for an entirely separate ballot. If, however, an election is held for the recall for more than four or more members of Council, candidates to succeed them for their unexpired terms shall be voted upon at the same election and shall be nominated without primary election, by petitions signed, dates and verified in the manner required for petitions presenting names of candidates for nomination at a primary election, and similar in form to such petitions, but signed by qualified electors equal in number to that provided for an original primary nomination for each office…”

Johnson said if one to three council members are being recalled, each must be done on its own petition. However, if four members of council are up for recall it can all be on one petition. In addition, candidates to fill the unexpired term or terms would be on the same ballot in case the “yes” vote prevails.

“You can also vote ‘no’ and still vote for a replacement candidate of your choice in case the recall is successful,” Johnson said. “It is Section 153 – ‘Candidates to succeed Councilman Recalled.’ so it is simply for Council,” Johnson said. “So if you wanted to recall someone else it’s a separate petition and under a separate ordinance.”

Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.

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