The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

September 13, 2013

Sartini mistaken, Ashtabula County voters to get charter in the mail

Mailing will cost county tens of thousands of dollars

By STACY MILLBERG - smillberg@starbeacon.com
Star Beacon

JEFFERSON — Ashtabula County Prosecutor Thomas Sartini said he misinterpreted the law and the Ashtabula County commissioners will have to mail a copy of the proposed charter to all registered voters in the county.

“I was incorrect in my interpretation of the law and I believe the commissioners are obligated to provide a copy of the charter to the electorate,” Sartini said. “I advised them of this as soon as I realized my mistake and I believe they are going to do so in compliance with the law.”

Sartini said when he was reading the statute there is a line it that led him to believe it had to be an elected charter commission; however, he said the statute says when the charter is brought by a petition, it is ultimately the commissioners who request the board of elections place it on the ballot.

The statute reads, “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...”

The issue came to light last week when the Committee for a New Ashtabula, the group initiating the charter movement to be voted on this November, sent a letter to the commissioners requesting they send a copy to all registered voters in the county.

Sartini said it will be a substantial cost to the county once postage and printing costs are factored in.

Ashtabula County Administrator Janet Discher said she began seeking estimates for printing costs as soon as she found out Thursday. As of late Thursday afternoon, she had not heard back on any of the estimates.

Discher said in postage alone, it will cost the county at least $28,000 to mail a copy of the charter to the 61,000 registered voters.

“We’re looking at tens of thousands of dollars to mail these things out,” she said.

Discher said the money will come out of the county’s general fund.

Dr. Robert Malinowski, spokesperson for the Committee for a New Ashtabula, said he knew the committee was right in their interpretation of the law.

“I’m extremely happy the commissioners have seen the light and will do the right thing,” he said. “The voters of Ashtabula County need this.”

Copies of the charter will also be available at all polling locations throughout the county.