Thanks to a surprise petition forcing their hand, Johnstown Village Council members begrudgingly passed a resolution to put collective bargaining for village employees on the Nov. 4 ballot.
The petition, which blindsided village officials, asks that Johnstown allow collective bargaining as if it were a community of at least 5,000 residents, which is the state's threshold for city status and eventual collective bargaining. Johnstown's population was 4,632, according to 2010 figures from the U.S. Census Bureau.
The village had to submit the issue to the Licking County Board of Elections by 4 p.m. Aug. 6. The issue appears on the elections board's website as a certified issue.
If voters approve, the issue would change the village charter to overrule state law on the issue.
"In providing for the wages, hours, terms and conditions of employment for all employees within the village, council shall adhere to the provisions set forth in Chapter 4117 of the Ohio Revised Code regarding collective bargaining as if the village were a public employer as defined in Chapter 4117," states the petition, which was submitted to council July 1. "This amendment shall become effective on January 1, 2015, and any ordinances in effect at that time, relating to wages, hours, terms of conditions of employment, shall be amended or repealed as determined by the results of the ORC 4117 process."
Former Johnstown-Monroe High School principal Kim Jakeway, who signed for the petition packet at the elections board, told ThisWeek his involvement came after Johnstown police asked for it.
Jakeway said he wasn't leading the movement but was working on a volunteer basis with the group. He wouldn't specify who was leading the effort.
He alluded to the need to hire more police officers.
"Getting more officers out there is important," he told ThisWeek. "There are several members of the force who I've been in contact with, but I'm just a volunteer collecting signatures."
The petition comprised 201 valid signatures, 130 more than the required 71 that would represent 10 percent of those who voted in the last general municipal election.
Because of the petition, council was required to pass an ordinance placing the issue on the ballot. Ordinance 06-2014 authorized the clerk of council to submit the proposed amendment to the Licking County Board of Elections.
Although council members didn't have any choice in the matter, many made it clear they didn't support the ordinance.
"Us doing this is not showing support for the citizens' movement," Mayor Sean Staneart said. "It's just procedural. It's pretty mandatory."
In his letter to the board of elections, Village Manager Jim Lenner reiterated that Johnstown isn't giving up its fight.
"Submission of this ordinance," his letter states, "is not intended to waive the right of the Village to pursue a protest of the petition."