Middletown charter changes rejected by elections board

The city of Middletown has until Aug. 28 to re-approve and re-file four charter amendments in order to get them on the Nov. 6 election ballot.

Middletown officials want voters to change five items within its charter, and passed legislation in late June and filed their elections paperwork at the beginning of this month.

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But that vote happened too early, according to the Ohio Constitution.

Questions to change a city's charter must be passed between 60 and 120 days before the election. Butler County Board of Elections Deputy Director Eric Corbin said the city could re-file the request if they are re-submitted before the election board's Aug. 28 scheduled meeting, which is 70 days before the November general election.

“That would give us plenty of time to prepare our ballot and be able to meet our deadlines for the federally mandated deadlines,” said Corbin.

Election boards must have ballots prepared and available on the 45th day before the general election — which is Sept. 22 this year — for military and overseas citizens who request absentee ballots.

The city of Middletown does meet on Tuesday but would have to prepare new legislation and pass it Tuesday and file it with the board of elections before the Aug. 28 meeting.

“The city was notified (Monday) morning there was an issue with the certification of the charter amendments that were to be placed on the November ballot,” said Shelby Quinlivan, Middletown’s spokeswoman, in an email response. “These ballot requests have been added to the Aug. 21 City Council meeting agenda to resolve this issue.”

Quinlivan declined to answer whether city officials were aware of this provision in state law and how this provision was missed.

The last time Middletown voters considers changes to the city charter was in 2009 when one provision eliminated the ward system and reduced the size of City Council from seven ward and at-large members to five at-large members.

The charter amendments voters would be asked to consider include removing references to wards and elections by wards; allowing the annual report to be kept electronically; eliminating city council’s advice/consent to appointment/removal of employees by the city manager; allowing public notices of legislation or public hearings to be issued on the city’s website instead of the newspaper of record; and removing the civil service Commission and Parks Board as boards under the charter but continue as boards under city ordinances.

The issue with Middletown’s charter questions came to light at the end of the day Friday, but Corbin said they didn’t know at that time if there was a way for Middletown to get their charter issues on the ballot. He said he spoke with the county prosecutor’s office late Sunday on a pathway to the ballot for Middletown.

“It’s not our responsibility, but we definitely want to help people get on the ballot,” he said.

RELATED: Oxford amendments about police, fire, more rejected by elections board (June 2017)

This is not the first time a municipality has filed too early to change its charter. The city of Oxford during the 2017 election passed legislation some 11 months before the 2017 general election. The elections board rejected the charter issue request, but the city had several weeks to get the issue resolved without having to rush a vote.

Corbin said the elections office will make some procedural changes to their internal checklists to help local governments from making a similar mistake, even though it’s the local entity’s responsibility procedures are followed, and information is accurate.

“We’re not trying to keep them, or anybody, off (the ballot),” Corbin said.