Campbell voters to decide on 14 amendments to city’s charter


By Sarah Lehr

slehr@vindy.com

CAMPBELL

City voters will face a lengthy ballot this November as they decide on 14 amendments to the city’s charter.

The charter outlines the structure and powers of city government.

Every 10 years, nine Campbell residents form a charter review commission to review the city’s governing document and recommend changes. Commission members are typically elected to their positions. This term, however, city council appointed eight of nine members because only Ryan Phillips filed to run last November.

The commission ultimately submitted 14 amendments, which are listed in the order they will appear on the ballot. More controversial proposals include an amendment to add two at-large council positions and an amendment to increase the mayor’s term of office from two years to four.

Add two at-large council positions

The amendment would increase the number of city council members from five to seven by adding two at-large positions. A council person at-large is charged with representing the entire city, as compared to other council members who represent specific areas or wards. Campbell currently has four council members representing the city’s four wards, in addition to a council president. The president runs council meetings and votes only in the event of a tie.

Council President George Levendis and Councilwoman Juanita Rich, D-4th, oppose this amendment for reasons of cost and practicality. Council members earn $2,500 a year without benefits other than workers’ compensation required under state law.

Rich has said it would be illogical to add more council members, given the city’s population continues to shrink. She also has argued it is difficult to find sufficient candidates to run for current city positions. Charter-review commissioners have said they intended to increase representation for residents and to mirror other cities with at-large council positions.

“Sufficient time” for public address at meetings

The amendment would alter language referring to the section of council meetings reserved for comments from members of the public. Currently, the charter states council must provide “a minimum of 15 minutes” for public address. The amended language would refer more generally to “sufficient time” for public address.

“A simple majority”

The amendment would change language in the charter referring to “three [council] members” to “a simple majority.” This change would be necessary if voters approved the shift from five council members to seven. If that amendment passed, three members would no longer be a majority, which would affect council’s ability to vote on ordinances and resolutions.

Increase mayoral term

The amendment would increase the mayor’s term of office from two years to four. Sherman Miles, a member of the charter review commission, said commissioners reasoned that the mayor’s office merited a longer term because of the mayor’s distinct role as the city’s chief executive. Rich has said she believes term increases should be extended for all elected officials – not just the mayor – to allow more time for governing. Currently, the mayor, council members and the law director all serve two-year terms.

Mayoral authority to appoint police chief

The amendment states the mayor shall have “the authority to appoint a qualified police chief,” in contrast to current language stating the mayor shall appoint the chief “from within the ranks of the Police Department according to the civil service laws of the State of Ohio and the civil service provisions of this Charter.” Under the existing charter, the police chief must be selected via civil-service exam from the rank below chief in the Campbell Police Department. Civil-service exams are intended to curtail favoritism and nepotism in government via an objective, merit-based assessment. The process, however, does limit the city’s pool of candidates.

Essentially, approval of this amendment would grant broader authority to the mayor. The mayor would have greater discretion when hiring and firing.

Clear up ambiguous language

An amendment to clear up ambiguous and contradictory language from the section of the charter referring to the police department.

Mayoral authority to appoint fire chief

The amendment would grant the mayor authority to appoint a qualified fire chief, provided the chief meets the minimum qualifications outlined elsewhere in the charter. The change would grant the mayor broader authority and flexibility in hiring and firing a fire chief.

Alignment with state civil-service laws

An amendment to bring the city’s charter into alignment with Ohio’s civil-service laws and allow the charter to automatically adjust as state laws change over time.

“A simple majority”

Another amendment to change language from “three members” to “a simple majority.” This change would be necessary if voters choose to add two council positions.

Adjust expenditures for inflation

This amendment would grant city leaders greater latitude for spending by allowing the amounts referenced in the “contract and purchasing” section of the charter to adjust for inflation. Currently, the charter requires the board of control to initiate a formal, competitive bidding process for contracts exceeding $1,000. Miles noted that when the city first adopted its charter in 1970, $1,000 represented only $163.77 in today’s money. That low monetary ceiling, Miles said, hampers the city’s ability to conduct business quickly and efficiently.

The amendment would instead require a competitive-bidding process for any city purchase greater than 10 percent of the amount allowable under Ohio law for state agencies making purchases. The ceiling for state agencies is currently $50,000, which means the city could make purchases up to $5,000 without a formal bidding process.

Change charter language referring to petitions

The amendment would change language in the charters referring to petitions. This is yet another amendment that would be necessary if voters decide to add two council positions.

Remove charter provisions struck down by Supreme Court

An amendment that would permanently remove any charter provisions should those provisions be struck down by the Ohio Supreme Court. Any remaining portions of the charter will remain in effect.

“Sufficient copies” of council agendas, ordinances and resolutions

The amendment would require the clerk of council to provide “sufficient copies” rather than “30 copies” of agendas, resolutions and ordinances to members of the public at council meetings. The commission cites a desire to reduce paper waste.

Maintain law director’s two-year term

An amendment that would keep the law director’s term of office the same length as it is now by stating the law director shall be elected to a two-year term. The charter now states the law director’s term “shall be the same as that of the Mayor.” Therefore, this amendment would be necessary to preserve the status quo if voters approved a term increase for the mayor from two to four years.

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