Monday, October 27, 2008

North Canton Officials Ignore City's Charter & Voters

Prepared Comments Made to
October 27, 2008

The North Canton City Charter as well as city voters are getting the bum’s rush and the citizens of North Canton do not have to look very hard to find examples that the laws of the city only have meaning when it is convenient to the individuals in power.

Section 3.02 of the North Canton City Charter states: “The Director of Administration shall be a resident or establish residence in the municipality of North Canton within a reasonable time after appointment and shall remain a resident during tenure of office.”

Mr. Earl Wise took office as North Canton’s City Administrator in Mayor David Held’s first term as mayor. Mayor Held was sworn in for his first term as mayor on December 1, 2005. Throughout Mayor Held’s first two-year term as mayor, City Administrator Earl Wise failed to comply with the residency requirements of the North Canton City Charter.

As we all know, Mayor Held was elected for a second term as mayor in the 2007 general election and was sworn in for a second time on December 1, 2007. Mayor Held is now one year into his second two year term as mayor. City Administrator Earl Wise, in his mayoral appointed position, is also into the second year of his second term in the Held Administration and Mr. Wise continues to defy the mandate of the North Canton City Charter.

I am aware that the issue of residency requirements required by city charters in Ohio is being challenged and is now before the Ohio Supreme Court but is that a valid basis to ignore the law as it currently is written? Often laws are challenged but until they are overturned by a judicial body they are still valid laws. Mr. Wise, a licensed attorney and former Stark County prosecutor, should be well aware of that fact.

In the 2007 general election, city council sent to the voters of North Canton an opportunity to rescind the residency requirements outlined in section 3.02 of the North Canton City Charter. North Canton voters reaffirmed the residency requirements for the city administrator and rejected the proposed change by nearly two to one.

Isn’t three years a reasonable time after appointment to comply not only with the North Canton City Charter but also with the recent reaffirmation of that requirement by the voters of the city?

Do any office holders of the city recall their oath of office to support the laws of the City of North Canton? You are culpable as well for sitting idly by and saying nothing on this issue.

North Canton officials feel they can violate the city charter with impunity and ignore the wishes of the voters. Who cares what the voters decide? Apparently North Canton city officials do not care how the voters feel.

This past summer an initiative petition was circulated and signed by 880 North Canton voters to place an issue on the ballot. The proposed legislation would have allowed North Canton voters the opportunity to decide whether city tax dollars should continue to be used to fund the city’s CIC or whether these funds should be returned to city coffers to reduce projected deficits and defer cuts in city services.

The filed initiative petition needed 764 signatures for placement of the issue on the ballot. The Stark County Board of Elections (BOE) validated 847 signatures and certified that there were sufficient signatures to place the issue on the ballot.

After certification of the petition by the Stark County BOE, North Canton city officials apparently felt that the voters of North Canton did not deserve an opportunity to decide how or where their tax dollars should be spent and unilaterally elected to spend taxpayer funds to fight the taxpayer and prevented the issue from appearing on the ballot.

It appears that North Canton officials feel they can ignore and override the wishes of the voters. Who cares what the voters want? Apparently city officials do not care how the voters feel and have no desire to hear from the voters in the voting booth.

A few weeks ago, specifically at an August 25, 2008, council meeting, Mr. Glenn Saylor, a city resident spoke publicly about the legal fees incurred by the city to thwart placement of a ballot issue before the voters. The issue was an initiative, noted earlier, regarding use of taxpayer dollars to fund the city’s CIC.

During Council President Revoldt’s remarks regarding the expenditures for legal fees to fight placement of the issue on the ballot, City Finance Director, Alex Zumbar, interjected: “[we] will have for you, Mr. Saylor, a copy of the bill and he will announce it here publicly when it is available.” I can only presume that the “he” Mr. Zumbar was referring to was to Council President Revoldt.

I do not mean to speak for Mr. Saylor, but I have talked to him and Mr. Saylor has advised me that he has not heard anything, from any city official, regarding the amount of taxpayer funds that were expended for legal expenses to fight placement of the taxpayer initiative on the ballot.

Nor have I heard any announcement in this chamber, on the record, of the legal expenses incurred by the city. In the minutes of the above noted council meeting it was stated that the amount of the legal fees would be announced publicly. Council President Revoldt, I have not heard of any announcement by you or anyone else in this chamber on the promise to publicly announce the cost of the legal challenge to prevent placement of the legislation on the ballot.

It appears that North Canton city officials feel they are not accountable for expenditures of taxpayer funds that are spent unilaterally to fight the taxpayer. And, when confronted by concerned taxpayers in this forum make promises that they do not keep.

The City of North Canton is not only experiencing a financial crisis of monumental proportions, it is also experiencing a crisis of leadership by North Canton city officials.

Apparently city officials no longer feel they are accountable to the voters. They would rather just forget the charter and forget the voter.

Maybe it works for city officials but it does not work for democracy and the rule of law.

Thank you,
Chuck Osborne
City of North Canton