(UPDATE @ 9:10 p.m., Aug. 13) Huber Heights City Council passed an ordinance to put a recall of Councilwoman Janell Smith before Ward 2 voters, but opened up questions about whether the measure will make November’s ballot because the measure was not passed under an emergency clause that would have immediately enacted the legislation.
During the meeting, the city’s law director said the Montgomery County Board of Elections would need notification of a recall 60 days before the Nov. 6 election date. But the ordinance would not take effect for 30 days after Monday, past the deadline to deliver the matter to the elections officials. The recall would also need to make some Miami County ballots.
Among the other possibilities that could complicate the recall is the possibility of citizens organizing a referendum effort in the next 30 days, before the ordinance takes effect — a situation so unusual, the city’s law director acknowledged he did not know what would happen.
The text of the ordinance specifies the recall should be put on the Nov. 6 ballot, but council members raised the question of whether the recall would instead appear on the February special election if the county boards of elections did not make an exemption for the recall’s inclusion — potentially, said some council members, costing the city more money. The law director did not yet know if council would need to re-pass legislation to make the February ballot.
The legislative maelstrom left even senior city staff unsure of what exactly would happen next.
“I really have to look at everything. I have to review what they said and what they passed,” said Gerald McDonald, the city law director. “All I know is they had to pass an ordinance tonight and they did that.”
Council member Glenn Otto expressed his frustration with the arcane parts of the charter requiring council “shall” pass such recall-related legislation.
“I take issue with our charter from the standpoint of it saying we have to vote, but we don’t get a vote. We have to vote yes,” Otto said. “I do not feel comfortable being told I have to vote a certain way. That’s not a vote in my mind.”
After four procedural votes to waive a second reading and strip the legislation text of its emergency clause, all members — except Smith, who voted no, and Seth Morgan, who was absent — voted to pass the ordinance.
“I believe this council is elected to carry out the charter,” said Mayor Jeff Gore. “Based off what the charter says we are serving the people in making this action.”
Smith said she would “continue to wage the battle,” arguing she was elected “to ask tough questions about this city’s government and administration that had gone unanswered for too long; and to insist on answers to those questions.”
“The old guard in any shielded system will always fight tooth-and-nail to maintain it,” Smith wrote in a multi-paragraph statement given to reporters at the council meeting. “There is no strategy more time-tested for doing that than to remove the agitators and cast them as pariahs; as they now try to do to me through this recall petition.”
Smith said she had “faith that the last bastion of our democracy — the voters — will recognize those tactics for what they are. It is the voters, not the council or the oligarchs, who have the right to recall a council member under our city charter.”
Last month, this news outlet reported a group of citizens organized to gather enough signatures to put the removal option on the ballot. The group — named Huber Heights Ward 2 United for a Better Tomorrow PAC — is organized as a political action committee, according a the letter from the group’s organizers to the city clerk of council.
To put the measure on the ballot, the group was required to collect signatures equal to at least 15 percent of the total number of votes cast in Ward 2 in the last gubernatorial election.
The group alleges Smith “withheld crucial information from the rest of city council that could have affected the approval of $2.4 million of taxpayer money” during debate over the city’s water pressure project.
Smith was elected in 2015 and began her term on Jan. 1, 2016. Her term expires Dec. 31, 2019.
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