Whitehall News

Thompson to city: Close term-limit 'loophole'

Former council member says city leaders who switch seats violate spirit of law

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Whitehall resident and former City Councilwoman Jacquelyn Thompson, during last week's council meeting, criticized the practice of council members -- specifically at-large Councilman Chris Rodriguez -- of seeking alternative elected offices to avoid term limits.

During public polling at the Dec. 3 meeting, Thompson said the practice thwarts the will of the city's residents who, last month, rejected a proposed charter amendment to rescind term limits currently enforced. Voters shot down a similar proposed amendment in 2002.

"Whether you are for or against term limits, we should all condemn the distortion and manipulation of the law," said Thompson, singling out Rodriguez, who is not the only elected city official to seek election to another office while holding a seat.

Rodriguez served a four-year term as the city's Ward 1 council representative from 2002-05. In the middle of his second term, he was elected to an at-large council seat.

He resigned his Ward 1 seat and completed a four-year at-large seat from 2008-11.

He was not successful in a bid for auditor in 2011, but was appointed in January 2012 to an expired at-large council seat, with a term that expires Dec. 31.

Rodriguez was unopposed in his campaign for a Ward 1 council seat earlier this year, and will commence a four-year term Jan. 1. It's the first of two potential terms he could serve as the city's Ward 1 representative.

Thompson alleged the practice violates the city charter, but added if not, the city needs to "close a loophole" that allows elected officials to "ignore the spirit and intent" of term limits.

No city official responded to Thompson during the meeting, but Whitehall City Attorney Mike Shannon said the charter regards at-large council seats and ward seats as separate and distinct offices.

Consecutive terms of at-large and council seats and ward seats are no different than consecutive terms of other elected offices such as auditor and mayor, Shannon said.

Rodriguez, speaking after the meeting, said as much as the residents showed support for term limits, the same residents elected him to represent the citizens of Whitehall on council, reflecting their confidence in his service.

Also at last week's meeting, council members introduced legislation allowing a special permit for the construction of two apartment buildings with more than 12 units each.

The units would be an addition to existing units at Eastway Village, a senior-housing facility the Columbus Housing Partnership opened earlier this year at East Broad Street and Pinewood Drive.

The Whitehall Planning Commission has yet to consider the application. The ordinance is scheduled for a public hearing at the Jan. 7 council meeting.

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