Monday, March 24, 2014

North Canton Should Respect Rule of Law and Recognize Citizen Initiated Healthcare Ordinance

Prepared Comments Made to
March 24, 2014
On February 27, 2014, North Canton Mayor David Held released a confidential legal opinion given by Law Director Tim Fox regarding the 2012 Initiative to Limit Health Care Benefits for Part-time Elected Officials. This action by Mayor Held was carried out despite the Law Director's written admonition to council members not to make the opinion public.
The release of the opinion contained a cover letter from North Canton's highest ranking elected official that stated the following:
The people of North Canton spoke clearly on the matter and I believe that the people of North Canton have a right to know the implications of the November 15, 2013, Legal Opinion on their vote in order to preserve the integrity of the election system.
I personally followed that decision and I encourage all elected officials to follow that decision. Furthermore, I am releasing the November 15, 2013 Legal Opinion on the matter because I believe that a transparent discussion will follow and allow the city to resolve the matter and move forward.
I do not believe that the ordinance approved by the voters of North Canton on November 6, 2012, should be challenged [emphasis added]. I believe that we should adopt the ordinance by personal practice in this term and ratify it for future effective terms.
The recent discovery that four councilmembers deceptively continued to use the City's health plan after the December 1, 2013, deadline was termed unconscionable in a March 2, 2014, Repository editorial titled, "Citizen's request for public records led to disclosures."
A previous Repository editorial on February 21, 2014, titled, "Residents should be mad as hell," the Editorial Board asks, "In what universe can officials simply bury legislation approved
by voters and pretend it doesn
't exist? 

Four members of North Canton City Council have attempted to fix the problem they created when they ignored the outcome of a citywide vote in 2012. Most taxpayer monies have been returned to City coffers. And I thank you.
Admitting a wrong is hard for anyone, even harder for public officials who know the admission of wrong is going to undercut the trust the public has in them and in the institution they are a part of.
In recent weeks, City Council has agreed to abide by the 2012 Initiative, which we all know is a duly enacted North Canton Ordinance that became effective December 2, 2012.
Although taxpayers have recovered most of the public funds that were taken to provide insurance in violation of the ordinance, the next question that presents itself to this body is this: Should North Canton City Council expend taxpayer funds fighting the taxpayers in a lawsuit?
The return of thousands of dollars to the city coffers by four Councilmembers and public apologies is recognition of the Healthcare Ordinance passed by the voters of North Canton. What will be gained in fighting the taxpayers at this point? You and members of Council must show voters that you respect the election process by ending the subversion that has gone on.
The residents you are sworn to represent will gain nothing from any litigation on this issue. Council will be abdicating their duty to safeguard and spend public monies wisely if City Council chooses to challenge the Healthcare Ordinance.
I ask at this time that City Council follow the expressed position taken by North Canton Mayor David Held and not challenge the ordinance approved by voters on November 6, 2012, and codify the ordinance passed by the voters.
It is not worth the financial expense to taxpayers nor is it worth the further erosion of trust of City Council or the loss of political capital that you yourself will suffer 

Thank you,
Chuck Osborne, Resident
City of North Canton