The Ohio Supreme Court has indeed ruled on almost a dozen cases involving proposed county charters. The rulings were inconsistent and unpredictable, and all the rulings stopped community efforts to protect their local environment from commercial exploitation.
In the case of Williams County the Court faulted us because we did not bring our concerns to two parties: the Secretary of State and the Common Pleas Appellate Court. The local Board of Elections refused to forward our protest to the Secretary of State because we were pursuing an action in the Common Pleas Court.
Had we appealed the decision of the Common Pleas Court to their Appellate Court, that process would not have been completed in time to get the petition on the ballot. (Athens County followed this procedure in 2017 and oral arguments for their case are being heard Sept. 19, 2019.)
Our only alternative was to file our appeal to the Ohio Supreme Court.
The Ohio Supreme Court ruled against us. They ruled we had “an adequate remedy at law” to pursue:
- the Secretary of State (BOE refused to forward our complaint to the SOS)
- the Common Pleas Appellate Court (and wait 2 years for a hearing).
Why were we appealing? Our “main argument is that the board (BOE) impermissibly examined the substance of the proposed charter, when it should have determined only the sufficiency and validity of the petition and signatures.”
The Ohio Supreme Court ruled in 2017 that the Wood County Board of Elections’ decision to keep a Bowling Green petition off the ballot because of its “substance” was unconstitutional. This was a municipal petition.
The Williams County case would have forced the Ohio Supreme Court to rule on the BOE’s actions dealing with a county petition. If the Supreme Court ruled for Williams County as they had for Wood County, our petition would be on the ballot.
For some reason, the Ohio Supreme Court does not want to consider our case and is grasping at technicalities to keep from doing so.
Bob Golding believes the charter “exceeds the powers given to the county.” That is the heart of the matter.
First, it is not for Bob Golding or for the Board of Elections to decide whether the charter exceeds powers given it by the state. That is an issue of constitutionality which is for the courts to decide.
Second, the Ohio Constitution states: “All political power is inherent in the people. Government is instituted for their equal protection and benefit, and they have the right to alter, reform or abolish the same, whenever they may deem it necessary ….”
More than 2000 registered voters in Williams County reacted to threats to their water in the only way they could. They wanted to take back to the local level the power needed to protect that water. They have been thwarted by laws and courts acting against their constitutional right to self-govern.