How to remove a councilman? Riverside may put question to voters

Riverside voters will get to decide in November if the city charter should add language for removing a city council member.

City council on July 18 passed an amendment to the city charter that would make the process for removing a council member more specific. Riverside residents will get to vote on this amendment, and others, on Nov. 5.

This comes after the council unsuccessfully tried to boot councilman Steven Fullenkamp in 2016.

Riverside Police Chief Frank Robinson accused Fullenkamp of interfering in a police investigation, leading the other council members and city employees to seek to remove him.

Fullenkamp and 11 other Riverside residents filed a lawsuit against the rest of council, saying the charter was “vague” when it came to removing a council member and possibly unconstitutional. Montgomery County Common Pleas Court Judge Richard Skelton granted a preliminary injunction, putting a halt to the suit before it went to trial.

City Manager Mark Carpenter, who was interim city manager at the time of the lawsuit, said the whole ordeal cost the city nearly $100,000 in legal fees.

MORE: How to remove a councilman? Riverside may put question to voters

Fullenkamp resigned in December 2018 and Dan Teaford was appointed in his place.

The charter amendment says council may “sanction, discipline or remove any member” by a vote of five members. A council member can be removed if they are no longer a resident of Riverside, hold a paid office with the city, have violated the charter, have been convicted of a felony or other serious crime, have broken state law, have engaged in gross misconduct or refused or neglected to enforce the law.

The proposed charter amendment also states council can vote to approve filing a complaint with the Probate Court of Montgomery County charging that a council member has done wrong. Some things that would lead a complaint to be lodged against a council member include getting paid, directly or indirectly, for their capacity as a council member; having a stake or having been involved with a project taken on by the city or prosecuted by the city; or abusing their authority as a member of council.

The council also voted to put four other charter amendments on the ballot.

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These amendments include how to fill a council vacancy and the reading of new ordinances.

If approved by voters, any seat that opens up during the regular term would be filled with the person who got the next highest number of votes during the election. If there isn’t one or that person doesn’t want the seat, the city council can appoint someone. The vacancy must be filled within 45 days of coming open.

Another amendment would allow ordinances to be read by title only, but posted in the fire station and the Riverside Municipal Building after the first reading. This was on the ballot last year and failed. Currently, ordinances must be read in full on a first reading and then can be read by title only. The city is seeking this amendment because some ordinances can be pages long, Carpenter said.

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