The Van Wert County Courthouse

Monday, Sep. 28, 2020

Patriots discuss charter government issue

DAVE MOSIER/independent editor

Local residents had the chance to learn more about the charter government issue being placed on the November ballot during a meeting of the Heartland Patriots held Tuesday evening at Wesley United Methodist Church.

Van Wert Mayor Ken Markward reads information on a proposed charter government issue being placed before voters this coming November during a meeting Tuesday of the Heartland Patriots. Dave Mosier/Van Wert independent

Van Wert Mayor Ken Markward presented information on the charter government issue that will be on the general election ballot this November and also answered questions from those attending.

The mayor first noted that the charter government issue is a two-step process, with the issue on this November’s ballot being one related to the formation of a charter commission and, if approved, the selection of 15 commission members who would then create a proposed charter.

The commission would then have less than a year to develop a charter proposal that would then be mailed to all registered city voters prior to a vote the following November.

Mayor Markward noted several reasons why a charter form of government might be preferred, citing the flexibility of charter cities to develop, within guidelines set down by the Ohio General Assembly, changes to municipal government not currently allowed by Ohio statute governing municipalities.

Some of those changes could include:

Having the city auditor and law director be appointed officials, rather than elected officials. Doing so could allow a municipality to set criteria to be met when hiring either of those officials, and also allow a municipality to terminate their employment if they fail to do their jobs. Currently, the only requirements to run for city auditor, Markward noted, is be a registered voter and a resident of the municipality in question.

A charter city could require that an auditor have a financial background, as well as other related education — something not possible under the current statutory form of government.

Other possibilities would be to make the mayor’s position a part-time position, with mostly ceremonial duties, or to hire a professional city manager to handle the day-to-day duties of running the city.

Although several of those present asked if a charter form of government wouldn’t take control away from the voters, Markward said the voters have a say in, not only in whether to adopt a charter, but also in any changes that would be proposed.

He noted that, if the charter proposal created by a commission was approved, changes could only be made by going back to the voters, while city residents could seek changes — or even seek a return to a statutory form of government — by placing an issue on the ballot.

He also noted that City Council could not levy taxes whenever they wished without approval from voters — as is done currently.

Several of those attending had the opinion that a charter form of government didn’t provide all that many benefits over the current statutory form, while Markward said that flexibility and having more local control over positions that are now elected positions were the biggest benefits, in his opinion.

Others had ideas about possible problems with charter government based on information from other states or countries that are not applicable in Ohio.

More informational meetings will be scheduled to allow the public to learn more about the charter proposal prior to the November general election.

POSTED: 08/12/20 at 7:27 am. FILED UNDER: News