Stow voters may see nine charter amendments on ballot

LAURA FREEMAN Reporter
Members of Stow Council will review nine proposed charter amendments at its July 23 meeting.

STOW – The Charter Review Commission on Thursday presented to City Council nine amendments to the city charter which may appear on the fall ballot.

The Charter Review Commission meets every five years, said Law Director Jaime Syx. The goal is to review the charter and make recommendations for clarification or change.

Charter Review Commission members met weekly to review the city charter and consisted of Chair John Baranek, Vice Chair Deborah Matz and members John Moyer, Alan Narvy, Charles Obendorf, Jennifer Snyder and Wendy Supple. Their deadline was Aug. 1 to send the ordinances to council.

The ordinances need approval before the Aug. 6 deadline, and Syx said the ordinances could be passed as emergency; waive the three-reading rule; or add a special meeting for three readings. Council reviewed the proposed charter changes during its Committee of the Whole meeting on Thursday, but decided against moving the items out of the committee for a vote of the full council. Council members said they needed more time to review the items.

The following are summaries of the ordinances:

1. The first ordinance amends 19.01 Submission to the Electors of Article XIX, Amendments to Charter, which eliminates council’s ability to submit charter amendments. The language “Council may, by affirmative vote of five or more of its members, submit to the electors any amendment to” would be deleted and would read as “This charter may be amended only as provided in Article XX of this charter or, upon petitions signed by the electors numbering 10 percent of the total vote cast in the last preceding general municipal election.”

2. The second ordinance clarifies charter section 9.05 Vacancy for the filling of vacancies in elective office of the law director. Whenever the office of the law director becomes vacant for any reason, the mayor shall appoint a replacement with confirmation of council and the appointee shall serve the remainder of the unexpired term or until a successor who qualifies is elected.

3. The third ordinance provides for the repeal of section 8.05 Safety Services Communication Center, which requires submittal to the electors of the city of Stow for approval prior to entering into any agreement that would transfer control of the Safety Services Communication Center from the city of Stow to regional or multi-agency control. This would allow administration and council to make the decision instead of putting it on the ballot for voters to give them permission to negotiate a deal.

4. The fourth ordinance clarifies the filling of vacancy in the elective office of the finance director in section 6.07 Vacancy. Whenever the office of finance director becomes vacant for any reason, the mayor shall appoint a replacement with confirmation of council. The appointee shall serve the remainder of the unexpired term or until a successor is elected. The residency requirement could be waived.

5. The fifth ordinance provides for uniform term limits for all elected officials in section 21.08 Term Limits for Elected Officials. No elected official shall serve more than four full two-year elected terms or two full four-year elected terms, or any combination of the two that would exceed eight full term years excluding appointed terms and/or filling a vacancy in the same elected office or be elected to more than four consecutive two-year elected terms, or two consecutive four-year terms, or any combination of the two that would exceed eight full term years in the same elected office for the offices of mayor, finance director, law director, and city council, ward and/or at-large. For the purpose of this section, the offices of ward councilperson and at-large councilperson shall be considered the same public office. Any elected person disqualified from holding public office due to the aforementioned term limitation shall become eligible to hold the same public office upon the expiration of four years.

6. The sixth ordinance clarifies the filing of vacancy in the elective office of the mayor in the city of Stow in charter section 3.07 Vacancy – Mayor. Whenever the office of mayor becomes vacant for any reason, the members of city council shall elect any Stow resident who meets the charter’s qualifications to serve as mayor for the remainder of the unexpired term or until a successor is elected. 

7. The seventh ordinance staggers the term of council members in section 4.02 Composition and Term. Council shall be composed of seven members. One member shall be elected by the electors of each of the four wards herein provided, and three members shall be elected by the electors of the municipality at large.

Commencing with the regular municipal election in November 2021, and continuing thereafter, each council-at-large councilperson shall be elected for a term of four years, which term shall commence on Jan. 2 next following his or her election, and he or she shall hold office until his /her successor is elected and qualified.

Commencing with the regular municipal election in November 2021, each Ward councilperson shall be elected for a term of two years for one term of office, which shall commence on Jan. 2 next following his /her election, and he/she shall hold office until his/her successor is elected and qualified.

Commencing with the regular municipal election in November 2023, Ward councilpersons shall then be elected to a four-year term, continuing thereafter which shall commence on Jan. 2 next following his/her election, and he/she shall hold office until his/her successor is elected and qualified.

8. The eighth ordinance clarifies the date, time and location requirements for regular council meetings in charter section 4.08 Regular Meetings. On the first regular working day of January of each year, council shall convene and organize by electing one of their members as president and one of their members as vice president. The mayor, or one appointed by the mayor, shall preside as temporary chairperson only until the president of council is elected.

9. The ninth ordinance clarifies the date, time and location requirements for special council meetings in Charter Section 4.09 Special Meetings. It deletes the limit of six special meetings in a calendar year and adds a location so that somewhere other than the council chambers can be used for a meeting.

Gannett reporter Laura Freeman can be reached at lfreeman@recordpub.com