Huber Heights attorney: Janell Smith recall to make November ballot, referendum still possible

The recall of Ward 2 Councilwoman Janell Smith will appear on November’s ballot, but could still be subject to a referendum if organized by voters, Gerald McDonald, the city’s law director, said Wednesday.

In an email to council, McDonald cited a part of the charter that states ordinances dealing with elections shall “take effect immediately.”

“As such the recall ordinance became effective on” Monday, McDonald wrote. “There is no 30-day waiting period for it to become effective.”

McDonald's finding could clear up some confusion after Huber Heights City Council exercised Monday its responsibility under the city charter to pass an ordinance asking the Montgomery and Miami counties' boards of elections to put the citizen-organized issue on the ballot.

But the finding also leaves open the possibility for citizens to begin the process of overturning the ordinance through referendum. While emergency legislation and other types of ordinances are excluded from referendum, McDonald told council the ordinance passed regarding the recall “is not excluded from referendum under the city charter.”

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The outcome of such a scenario remains unclear. McDonald has said he would further research the matter if a written statement for a referendum were filed.

Still, the bar to get a referendum on the ballot is higher than the bar to get a ward-specific recall on the ballot.

Unlike the petition for recall, which could only be signed by Ward 2 voters, a referendum petition seeking to overturn council’s required approval of the Ward 2 recall petition could be signed by any voter across the city.

For a ward-specific recall, organizers need to collect signatures equal in number to at least 15 percent of the votes cast within the ward in the last gubernatorial election. But referendum petitions must be signed by 15 percent of the number of votes cast in the last gubernatorial election across all city wards, not just Ward 2.

In a statement sent to this news outlet, the organizers of the recall effort thanked city council for putting the question on the ballot.

“We feel that over the course of her term, Councilwoman Smith has consistently displayed behavior that calls into question her abilities to effectively serve and fairly represent her constituents in Ward 2,” wrote Walter Sturgeon, of Huber Heights Ward 2 United for a Better Tomorrow PAC.

“While many of her antics caused concern and led to promoting an environment of division in the Huber Heights community, it was her actions surrounding the vote on the water pressure measure that led to many residents feeling that they have been left with no other choice than to initiate actions of a recall,” he said.

Smith has vowed to fight the recall. On Monday, Smith said “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.”

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