As Bexley's Charter Review Commission continues its work of reviewing and making recommendations to update the city document, members recently discussed whether to add language to the charter, spelling out the process for removing the mayor and council members in recall elections.
The commission, which convened in November 2019, is formed approximately every 10 years to study the city charter and provide recommendations to Bexley City Council concerning possible amendments. The charter covers everything from building codes to how city government's executive, administrative and legislative branches operate.
The topic of recall elections was addressed at the commission's June 2 biweekly meeting.
City attorney Marc Fishel said Ohio Revised Code contains a provision that allows citizens to initiate petitions to remove a mayor or council member who has been indicted for a felony. The petition must obtain valid signatures from 25% of voters in the municipality, and the recall vote would be placed on the next statewide election closest to when the petition was certified by the county's board of elections, according to state statute, Fishel said.
"On the one hand, that could be great so the city wouldn't have to pay extra for that (recall vote) to the board of elections," Fishel said. "On the other hand, it could literally delay (the vote) by six months."
Fishel said some Franklin County municipalities have added recall provisions to their city charters that contain more specific guidelines than Ohio Revised Code. He mentioned Groveport, which gives council the power to set a recall election within 30 to 45 days after a petition has been certified. He said Whitehall allows its council to set a recall election within 60 days after a petition has been certified.
Commission member Eloise Buker said other city charters require 35% of voters, rather than 25%, to initiate a recall vote. The additional 10% of required signatures, she said, ensures the recall vote reflects the will of a greater segment of the community beyond a small yet vocal minority.
"Not that many people vote, and that elector body can be fairly small, and you can get a petition going with not that many people," Buker said. "I would like to also see a provision that the petition could only be circulated by residents of Bexley so that someone wouldn't be hired from the outside to come and circulate a petition."
Commission member Larry Long said he's concerned that allowing a special election for a recall vote could be expensive for the city. But he said he's equally concerned that Ohio Revised Code requires municipalities to reimburse a mayor or council member who is not successfully removed from office for a portion of any legal expenses incurred in a recall election. If the mayor or council is removed, Ohio Revised Code requires the municipality to replace the individual with a candidate who files for the position with the county board of elections.
"If you recall someone, you also have to have people who filed to take the office, under the (state) statute," Long said. "Under (local) charter provisions, they simply fill the vacancy if the person would be recalled."
Commission members said they would discuss the recall process in greater detail as they continue the review process. The commission meets at 7 p.m. on the first and third Mondays of each month via Zoom links that can be accessed on the city's website, bexley.org.