Campbell referendum OK’d for ballot

There was no special exemption for the city to submit referendum petitions.



CAMPBELL — The referendum initiative to stop Campbell from leasing or selling its water treatment plant is on the November ballot, but the brouhaha over how it got on the ballot continued at Wednesday’s council meeting.

“I’m glad the issued is on the ballot,” said Juanita Rich, a member of the Let Us Vote citizens committee that twice has forced the ballot issue. She said her issue is that city officials are trying to lay the blame on the Mahoning County Board of Elections for the referendum’s almost not being placed on the November ballot,

A citizens referendum on the November 2006 ballot rejected the city’s plan to sell its water plant to Aqua Ohio, a private water distribution company, for $3 million up front and $300,000 in annual payments for 10 years.

On Feb. 21, Campbell council approved legislation authorizing the mayor to advertise for proposals to lease or sell its plant.

The Let Us Vote committee again collected signatures on referendum petitions and turned them in to Campbell Finance Director John Leskovyansky Jr. in February.

After that, the city and the citizens committee found themselves at odds over what happened and what should have happened.

Rich said state law requires that after the petitions were turned into Leskovyansky, he was to keep them for 10 days and then turn them into the elections board, which in turn has 10 days to check signatures and certify there are sufficient valid signatures.

Leskovyansky did not immediately turn the petitions in, Mayor John Dill said, because the finance director questioned the correctness of the petitions.

The citizens committee filed suit in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court to force the city to submit the petitions to the elections board.

The suit was dismissed, however, when the city said it fully intended to submit the petitions, which it did, said Law Director Brian Macala.

Rich said once the board certified that there were sufficient valid signatures, the petitions were sent back to Leskovyansky, who then was required by state law to resubmit them to the election board by 4 p.m. Aug. 23 — 75 days before the election.

Macala disputed Rich’s interpretation of the law and the city’s obligations in the matter, however.

Macala said that an opinion given by Linette M. Stratford, the Mahoning County chief assistant prosecutor, says the referendum petitions were not required to be received by 4 p.m. Aug. 23 and that the petitions were received in time for the Nov. 6 election.

Further, in Macala’s opinion, the city and Leskovyansky never had an obligation to resubmit the petitions once the signatures had been certified by the elections board.

At that point, it was up to the board to place the issue on the ballot.

Macala strongly rejected Rich’s opinion that the Ohio secretary of state and county prosecutor’s office made exceptions to the law in the case of Campbell on behalf of the citizens committee because “we did everything right.”

There was no special exemption for Campbell. The state and county just applied the law, Macala said.

Dill said it is not true that he or council told Leskovyansky to hold off on submitting the petitions.

In fact, the mayor said, when he learned in his office at 3 p.m. Aug. 23 that the petitions had not been filed, he ordered Leskovyansky to immediately take them to the board of elections. That did not happen, however.

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