The Upper Arlington Charter Review Commission is expected to recommend that voters be asked in November to change the process for filling vacancies on Upper Arlington City Council.
It's one of three changes the commission will send to council. The second deals with how long former council members and those who run for council must wait before they are eligible to be named city manager, city attorney or city clerk.
The third recommendation is to have the clerk of courts report to the city manager instead of council.
Over the past four months, the 10-person Charter Review Commission appointed by City Council met nine times to discuss possible changes to the legal document that defines the city government's structure, functions and procedures.
Such a review happens every 10 years. Should council accept any of the recommendations expected to be presented at its June 18 meeting, those proposals would be put on the November ballot.
The review of how council vacancies are filled was prompted by an Ohio Supreme Court ruling in September 2016 against city officials who said remaining council members could fill a council vacancy, no matter how many years were left on a term, by appointing someone annually.
Instead, the Supreme Court sided with resident Omar Ganoom, who was able to force an election for the final three years of former Councilman Mike Schadek's term in office after Schadek resigned in March of the first year of a four-year term.
Ganoom was a candidate for that seat but ultimately lost in November 2016 to Sue Ralph, who had been appointed roughly seven months earlier to succeed Schadek, but not before the Supreme Court struck down council's annual appointment practices.
In what Charter Review Commission Chairman John C. Adams said is an effort to further clarify the council appointment process, the group will recommend that remaining council members maintain authority to appoint a replacement within 60 days of a vacancy.
The commission also will recommend establishing a June 30 cutoff date.
If an appointment is made before June 30, an election to serve the term remaining for a council seat would take place in that year's November election.
If an appointment is made after June 30, an election to fill the remainder of the term would not be held until November the following year.
The Ohio Supreme Court has interpreted Upper Arlington's city charter to say if there are more than 18 months remaining in a term, an election must be held to fill the seat.
"If there is a vacancy, the position should have an election to fill the spot relatively quickly after the vacancy comes up," Adams said. "Our philosophy was there should be an election and the voters should have a chance to fill that position as soon as practically possible."
Adams said the commission will recommend elections to fill vacancies happen in November so the city doesn't have to pay for special elections for a single race.
He said the majority of commission members opposed making candidates run campaigns for elections that would only put them in office for a single year.
"You should have to run for at least a two-year term," he said. "We don't want somebody to have to run for a one-year term and then turn around and have to run for a four-year term."
Residents Robert Foulk and Jim Becker, who have attended many of the Charter Review Commission's meetings, opposed the recommendations.
Both said appointments to fill council vacancies shouldn't go beyond the year in which they're made.
They also said the Supreme Court interpreted the city's charter to say that if there are more than 18 months left in a vacant term, an election must be held.
"I happen to think personally the language in the charter presently really does a fairly good job of accommodating all concerns in a balanced way and has the additional advantage of being validated by the state Supreme Court," Foulk said at the commission's May 16 session. "I'm trying to figure out what the problem is that is trying to be solved here.
"I really come from the standpoint that when it comes to representative government, that all processes should bend in favor of allowing people to vote for who represents them. So any effort to try to constrain that, I think, represents a problem."
Becker said the city should continue to limit the length of time an appointed council member can serve to less than 18 months.
Under the current charter, he said, a person could serve 37 percent of a four-year term without being elected. Under the proposed change, Becker said, an appointee could serve up to 62 percent of a four-year term without being elected.
As for the other two recommendations, the commission proposes to extend the length of time former council members and those who run for council are prohibited from being employed as city manager, city attorney or city clerk from one year to two after service or running for office. Those three positions report directly to council.
"We want to avoid any, I'll call it collusion," Adams said. "The charter is designed to assume the worst."
The third recommendation is to remove the clerk of courts from the list of city employees who report directly to council and instead have the position report to the city manager.
Currently, the city manager, city attorney, city clerk and clerk of courts all report directly to council, meaning council has the ability to hire to fill those positions and terminate those employees.
In Upper Arlington, the clerk of court serves as a staff member to the city's mayor at Mayor's Court, held weekly for people charged locally with traffic and minor criminal charges.
The clerk of courts maintains the Mayor's Court docket and records and collects payments from offenders who aren't required to appear at the court.