Recall of 4 Piqua City Commissioners likely to proceed to a vote

On 12/27/10, the committee of petitioners submitted approximately an additional 880 signatures (220 signatures/petition X 4 petitions [one petition for each commissioner being recalled]) to the Miami County Board of Elections. According to published reports on the WHIO and Dayton Daily News websites that appeared early this morning, the BoE has finished its certification of at least enough of those additional signatures to declare the petitions sufficient.

Although as of late yesterday afternoon neither the city staff nor the Board of Elections had notified the committee of petitioners chairman of the BoE’s findings, there is little doubt that such action by either of those entities is now a mere formality. Assuming that the city commissioners will follow the legal procedures required by Section 122 of the city charter and that none of them will do what the majority of residents have clearly demonstrated that they’d like to see these 4 commissioners do (which is RESIGN now), all 4 of those commissioners will inevitably have no alternative other than to vote to approve the scheduling of a recall election.

At the final completion of the petition circulation process, approximately 1420 Piqua city residents signed each of the four petitions (regardless of what you might see reported elsewhere) ; a total of approximately 5680 signatures. Nearly 25% of the original signatures where rejected by the BoE because of technicalities. The vast majority of that 25% were rejected because the registered address of the signer had changed (even though the signer was still a registered voter living in the city limits of Piqua) and the BoE simply didn’t have that new address on file in its (less than perfect) voter registration database. Regardless, of the reasons that an inordinate (and somewhat disturbing) number of signatures were rejected, there was never a shortage of people willing to step up and make their voices heard by signing petitions.

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Recall Petition Process Update

First off, we’d like to thank all who signed the recall petitions and the support we’ve received from others who wanted to sign, but felt that they might place themselves in jeopardy by signing the petitions.

Despite our continued assertions that recall petitions provided by the city staff were missing a key sentence (see the previous post in this blog for complete details), we were inevitably left with no alternative but to circulate the petitions the city staff had prepared.  Although the recall petitions had been signed for and picked up (by President Jim Cruse) from the city clerk on Sept. 7th, we did not have assurances that we needed in order to feel comfortable circulating the petitions until Sept. 15th.  After two more days of internal discussions (which cost us more time out of the 30 day clock that had started ticking when the petitions were picked up), we concluded that we had no alternative other than to circulate the petitions — flawed or not.

On the morning of Sept. 18th, our petition circulation process began. Last night, which was just a little over two weeks and two days since the circulation of the petitions had begun, we decided to end the process prematurely.  According to Section 121 of the Piqua City Charter, in order for a recall petition to be sufficient, it “must bear the signatures of 1,000 registered voters of the City of Piqua“. Having obtained approximately 1,200 signatures on each of the 4 sets of petitions papers (one set for each commissioner being recalled), we felt that to continue to collect further signatures would simply place more burden on all involved in this unpleasant but unfortunately inevitable process.

This morning the signed and attested petitions were turned into the city clerk. Our own tally of the signatures collected from city residents in support of recalling the 4 commissioners are as follows:

Lucy Fess – 1199 signatures

Judy Terry – 1204 signatures

Bill Vogt – 1200 signatures

Joe Wilson – 1204 signatures

The site will be updated as the petitions move through the certification process.

Commissioner recall effort delayed by legal wrangling

Disagreements over legality of recall petitions prepared by city of Piqua staff is delaying the circulation of petitions.  Certification of petitions is now unlikely to be completed in time to have the recall voting occur on the Nov. 2, 2010 General Election ballot.

In 2009 the Ohio Supreme Court ruled on (former Toledo Mayor) Finkbeiner vs. Lucas County Board of Elections, affirming Finkbeiner’s assertion that state law must also be followed in determining what language is mandatory on recall petitions. Their decision rendered tens of thousands of valid recall petition signatures null and void, allowing “Carty” Finkbeiner (who was facing almost certain recall by voters) to avoid the recall vote altogether. Embedded below is a summarized version of what occurred in that case. Quoted from:

http://www.ballot-access.org/2009/07/28/ohio-recall-petition-invalidated-because-of-missing-sentence/

On July 27, the Ohio Supreme Court unanimously ruled that a recall petition against the Mayor of Toledo is invalid because the petition sheets failed to carry these words: “Whoever Commits Election Falsification is Guilty of a Felony of the 5th Degree.

The Toledo City Charter has provisions for recalls, and does not mention that recall petitions need this sentence. But the state election law does include it. The Court ruled that recall petitions need to follow both state election law and local laws.

The minority on the State Supreme Court would have thrown the case out on procedural grounds, because the Mayor filed his lawsuit directly with the State Supreme Court instead of the lower court. The case is State ex rel Finkbeiner v Lucas Co. Bd. of Elections, 2009-3657. Thanks to Steve Linnabary for this news.

When local residents filed recall affidavits with Ms. Stacy Wall (Piqua City Law Director), details of this Ohio Supreme Court case were also provided to Ms. Wall. Clearly the Ohio Supreme Court has already ruled upon the importance of this ORC mandated verbiage (“WHOEVER COMMITS ELECTION FALSIFICATION IS  GUILTY OF A FELONY OF THE 5TH DEGREE.”  — all capital letters) being included, and yet the city staff did not put this verbiage on any of the petition papers they produced.

Upon the advice of the Ohio Secretary of State’s Election Division, Ms. Wall’s  petitions were taken to the Miami County Board of Elections.  The purpose was to determine as to whether they in an acceptable form for circulation.  Mr. Quillen indicated that he didn’t feel that the current petitions are compliant with ORC requirement and provided many examples of petitions for comparison ; all of them did have the ORC mandated verbiage. He recommended that the petitioners add the missing sentence (themselves) to the petitions to make each petition paper compliant with the ORC mandate.  However, if petitioners were to do so, Ms. Wall has already informed Jim Cruse that she would reject any “altered” petitions upon the return of those petitions to the city clerk.

Ms. Wall has been asked multiple times to either have the city staff add this “missing sentence” to the petitions or allow them to be properly amended by the petitioners. Unfortunately, her stance is that there is nothing that needs to be added to the petitions. Therefore, the petitioners feel that it would be both premature and irresponsible to circulate petitions of which the legality has yet to be fully determined.