MEDINA TWP. — The Medina County Board of Elections on Monday did not certify petitions with 6,494 signatures of registered voters supporting the placement of a county charter form of government on the Nov. 7 ballot.
The board voted 3-to-1 against the initiative, citing advice from Mike Lyons, an attorney with the civil division of the Medina County Prosecutor’s Office.
Lyons spoke for about 20 minutes at the 75-minute meeting, saying the initiative was “defective.”
When elections board chair Pam Miller brought the motion to a vote, John Welker was the only “yes.”
Miller joined Sharon Ray and Larry Cray in voting against approving certification of the ballot issue. If the majority had voted in favor, a report then would have been sent to the county commissioners for that board to approve or reject the issue.
Miller and Welker represent the Democratic Party on the board while Ray and Cray are Republicans. Earlier in the meeting, Miller said the petitions had enough signatures of registered voters to qualify for the ballot.
The public meeting was attended by about 50 people, many of whom worked with the citizens group Sustainable Medina County to gather the signatures since last April.
After the vote, they gathered outside the board offices to hear their attorney, Terry Lodge of Toledo, discuss their next move.
Lodge said those in favor of a charter can:
- request a hearing with Medina County Common Pleas Court within three days;
- file an objection with the Ohio Secretary of State’s office;
- eventually file an objection with the Ohio Supreme Court.
One of the leaders of Sustainable Medina County, Kathie Jones of Sharon Township, said, “I’m shocked that they voted against democracy. This is undemocratic.
“They’re not lawyers,” she said, referring to the elections board members. “They can’t decide the law.
“We’re not going to go away.”
Sustainable Medina County has been working to oppose the $2 billion NEXUS natural gas pipeline that was proposed in August 2014 and would be constructed through 12 Ohio counties including Medina. The charter would contain language allowing county voters to approve or reject items with environmental concerns such as a pipeline.
During a public comments period, eight speakers discussed their thoughts on the charter issue and also talked about the ramifications of the pipeline if it were built.
Seven were in favor of the charter and one, Kathy Breitenbucher of the Medina County Economic Development Corp., said she was opposed.
Breitenbucher said separately from her remarks at the meeting that a local charter government could not affect the construction of the pipeline.
County Commissioner Adam Friedrick later said: “I think the elections board did the right thing. They followed the law and did what’s best for the county.”
Speaking of the four elections board members, Friedrick said, “I give them all marks for being involved and the three who voted to keep the initiative off the ballot get marks for their courage.”
Friedrick said he understands that some residents say private property rights are being threatened by issues such as the pipeline.
“I’m standing up for property owners’ rights when I say the petition is bad. People have the right to extract minerals on their land. They have that right without the threat of being sued.
“I care more about private property owners’ rights than the folks who are behind the petition,” he said.
Lodge said the task given to the elections board was “disturbing” based on legal issues leading up to the request.
It marked the third year in a row that Sustainable Medina County’s request to take the issue to voters countywide was denied. Two years ago, it was rejected by the Ohio Supreme Court and last year the Secretary of State’s office voted “no” after the county board vote ended in a 2-2 tie.
Contact Managing Editor Lawrence Pantages at (330) 721-4065 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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