Charter review suggestions sent to Canal Winchester City Council for action

Scott Gerfen
ThisWeek

The 11 members and one alternate on the 2020 Canal Winchester Charter Review Commission have completed their work. 

Now City Council must decide if any of the recommended changes will be put before voters. 

Every 10 years, appointed citizens are charged with reviewing, line by line, the city charter, which includes 12 articles related to Canal Winchester City Council, the mayor, boards and commissions and other leadership functions. 

Canal Winchester municipal offices

“I appreciate how every committee member engaged and contributed to the discussion of changes to the charter,” commission Chairman Michael Stobart said. “There was a significant amount of agreement on the recommended changes. Nine of the recommended changes passed unanimously, and three of the recommended changes passed by overwhelming majority.” 

However, the commission voted 7-4 against adding term limits for council members and unanimously rejected a term limit for the mayor. 

“While we debated the potential for term limits, there was a general feeling that term limits would unduly limit the pool of qualified candidates seeking office,” Stobart said. “Ultimately, the committee agreed that it should be left to the public to decide whether an individual should stay in office.” 

Commission members “spent a large amount of time exploring other structures of local government,” but ultimately voted 9-2 in favor of keeping the current “strong mayor-council form of government,” Stobart said in his report to council. 

The commission began its review of the document that serves as the city’s constitution in late February. It unanimously recommended: 

• Requiring City Council and mayoral candidates to live in Canal Winchester for at least one year prior to running for office

• Requiring notice of a recall election to be posted on the city’s website

• Permitting City Council to assign other duties to the clerk of council 

• Clarifying that City Council is not required to adopt rules every year at its first meeting

• Providing gender-neutral language in the section on council vacancies

• Allowing copies of the city’s ordinances to be kept at other locations in City Hall

• Requiring ordinances and resolutions to be published on the city’s website

• Updating references of “village” to “city"

The three recommendations that passed by an overwhelming majority would, if approved:

• Reduce the time between charter reviews from 10 to five years

• Prohibit any mayoral or council candidate from “seeking, accepting, publishing or communicating an endorsement

• Provide for the removal of the mayor or any council member “for cause” upon determining he or she violated charter Section 11.02 related to conflicts of interest, ethics and campaign financing. 

Finally, the commission voted 6-5 in favor of recommending that the clerk of council be prohibited from holding other employment or a position within the city. 

Stobart is expected to review the commission’s recommendations during City Council’s next regularly scheduled meeting Dec. 21. 

Members of the review commission included council appointees Stobart, Jim Bohnlein, Jackie Marion, Nick Franklin, Liana Obert and Amy Giesecke and mayoral appointees Charles Carpenter, Ryan Rose, Pat DeWitt, Marilyn Rush-Ekelberry and Steve Donahue. The alternate was Rick Deeds. Rush-Ekelberry was the commission’s vice-chairwoman. 

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