The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

September 12, 2013

Ashtabula County won’t mail copy of proposed charter to voters

Star Beacon

JEFFERSON — The Committee for a New Ashtabula has requested the Ashtabula County Commissioners send a copy of the proposed charter, to be voted on this November, to all registered voters in the county; however, county officials say they are not required to do so.

Committee members sent a letter to the commissioners last week, with a copy of Article X, Section 4 of the Ohio Constitution, which states, “The legislative authority or charter commission submitting any charter or amendment shall, not later than 30 days prior to the election on such charter or amendment, mail or otherwise distribute a copy thereof to each of the electors of the county as far as may be reasonably possible...”

Also accompanying the letter was a copy of a Cleveland Plain Dealer article from September 2009 discussing the same action in Cuyahoga County.

Ashtabula County Prosecutor Thomas Sartini said the committee members misinterpreted the law.

“The letter cites Article X, Section 4, which states ‘shall a charter commission be chosen...,’ which is different than what they are doing,” he said.

Sartini said Article X, Section 4 refers to an elected charter commission, which the committee is not.

“If there was a charter commission and voters approved the charter commission and they came up with a charter, then it would have to be sent,” he said.

Sartini said he was unable to find any requirement that mandates a board of elections or board of commissioners or any other body, to send out a copy of the charter. The only requirement is that a copy of the charter be made available at every polling location throughout the county, he said.

“I think their reliance on Article X, Section 4 is misplaced,” Sartini said.

Dr. Robert Malinowski, committee spokesperson, said he was expecting a different reaction from the commissioners.

“That’s interesting,” he said. “In our opinion, the law is very clear. (Sartini) can say whatever he wants about our interpretation but the precedence has been set by Cuyahoga County and Summit County.”

Sartini said just because Cuyahoga County sent a copy of its charter to all registered voters, costing the county upwards of $300,000, doesn’t mean Ashtabula County has to do the same.

“It’s funny how they did it in Cuyahoga County,” Malinowski said. “Maybe we have different laws in Ashtabula County. They were required to do so in Cuyahoga County and it was the same situation as ours.”

A copy of the proposed charter is available on the committee’s website Malinowski said the Ashtabula County Board of Elections has also said anyone applying for an absentee ballot can request a copy of the charter and the Board of Elections will send it with the ballots.