Hilliard Northwest News

Updated 5:05 p.m. Dec. 22

Attorney challenges City Council's charter-amendment decision

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An attorney for the Keep Hilliard Beautiful committee has filed a writ of mandamus to compel Hilliard City Council to place two proposed charter amendments on the ballot, according to committee member Les Carrier.

The attorney, Donald McTigue, had asked city law director Tracy Bradford to respond to a mandamus action by 4 p.m. Monday, Dec. 21, but relented when Bradford asked for an additional day.

Carrier said at 4:30 p.m. Dec. 22, after receiving no response from Bradford, the McTigue & McGinnis law firm filed a writ of mandamus with the Ohio Supreme Court.

Bradford said Dec. 21 the mandamus request was "under review." She could not immediately be reached for comment Dec. 22.

"It's an expedited hearing. ... We expect to have an answer in January," Carrier said.

Carrier said the court would make a ruling based on written arguments.

The legal definition of a writ of mandamus is an order from a court to a government official or officials to fulfill their legal duties.

Hilliard City Council on Dec. 14 voted 5-2 against an ordinance that would have placed on the March 15 primary ballot proposed charter amendments prohibiting City Council's use of emergency rezonings and tax-increment-financing districts for residential developments.

The ordinance was prepared after Keep Hilliard Beautiful's petition and signatures from residents were certified by the Franklin County Board of Elections on Nov. 18.

The filing deadline for issues to appear on the March 15 ballot was Dec. 16.

"It's a shame we have to (pay attorneys) to resolve this matter," said Andy Teater, a school board member and one of the five committee members of Keep Hilliard Beautiful.

Carrier said precedents exist for issues to appear on a ballot even after a filing deadline has passed.

"We will get there, (but) it's a process," he said.

Ben Piscitelli, a spokesman for the Franklin County Board of Elections, said he would refer all questions about any effect of the writ of mandamus to Hilliard officials.

In addition to seeking a writ of mandamus, McTigue challenged the conclusions of attorney Joseph R. Miller of Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease, who was hired by Hilliard officials to examine the ballot petition submitted by Keep Hilliard Beautiful.

City Council used Miller's opinion as a basis to reject the placement of the proposed charter changes on the ballot.

The email from McTigue to Bradford addresses three flaws Miller cited at the Dec. 14 City Council meeting.

"Each of those alleged defects are without merit as a matter of law," McTigue wrote in the email.

Miller said Dec. 14 the petition did not include a title for the proposed measures; it did not indicate whether the proposed amendments were new sections of city charter or amendments to existing sections; and it was altered by adding to each individual page the name of the committee circulating the petition.

"My understanding is that there is not a written legal opinion ... so as not to have a (public) document," McTigue wrote.

In rebutting Miller's oral opinion, McTigue wrote that the case law Miller cited regarding the lack of a title is not applicable to the petition, that there is no legal requirement to stipulate that the language is new and not amended language and adding the committee name to the petition form is not an alteration.

McTigue asked the city to "immediately institute a mandamus action ... seeking an order (that) City Council perform its duty ... and submit the proposed amendment to the Franklin County Board of Elections for placement on the ballot."

Miller said Dec. 22 he did not expect the city to respond favorably to the request of Keep Hilliard Beautiful.

"The city made the right decision (in not placing the issue on the ballot)," he said.

Miller said Keep Hilliard Beautiful had requested a record of the Dec. 14 meeting, at which a court reporter was present.

"I anticipate Keep Hilliard Beautiful will seek a writ of mandamus and I will represent the city in such proceeding," Miller said. "It moves in an expedited manner rather quickly ... so as to give the board of elections clarity."

He said once the writ is filed, a decision typically is issued in two to three weeks.

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