A Metamora attorney wants his specific arguments against charter government ballot initiatives heard alongside broader arguments by Secretary of State Jon Husted when the matter reaches the Ohio Supreme Court.
Charles Saunders filed a “motion to intervene” regarding the impending hearing on Husted’s disputed Aug. 13 ruling to keep charter reform proposals off the Nov. 3 ballot in Fulton, Medina, and Athens counties. Husted determined the charter petitions filed in the counties violate the conditions under which a charter government must be organized. He also argued the petitions run afoul of court decisions concerning oil and gas company operation rights in Ohio.
Terry Lodge and Bill Kinsman, attorneys representing the petitioners, filed a lawsuit against Husted on their behalf. They claim Husted violated their rights by refusing his legal duty to overrule illegal and improper protests against the petitions.
Citing First Amendment rights, Saunders’ 12-page motion requests that his specific arguments against a Fulton County charter government be heard with Husted’s arguments for denying the ballot initiatives. In his written decision, Husted claimed his office has the broad power to decide whether the petitions violate the state constitution.
Saunders’ motion states that Husted’s ruling, based on the Ohio Revised Code, did not address arguments and legal propositions put forth by Fulton County’s petition complainants–himself and residents RJ Lumbrezer and Roy Norman. “(A)s a result, the Attorney General of Ohio, in his representation of Respondent Husted, would not be expected to advocate those petitions sufficiently” in a Supreme Court hearing, Saunders wrote.
The motion states it’s important the court understands the nuances of the local objections before rendering a decision on Husted’s debated actions. Those nuances include what the complainants consider “illegal, vague, confusing, and precatory ballot language” in the petitions that they believe would confuse voters.
Saunders’ motion continues: “This is a subtle but important distinction…(T)he text of a ballot statement must fairly and accurately present the question or issue to be decided in order to assure a free, intelligent, and informed vote by the average citizen affected.”
Saunders also will focus on a writ of mandamus filed by Lodge and Kinsman. He and the other opponents of the ballot issue believe the mandamus offers no evidence that Husted’s ruling invoked fraud, corruption, abuse of discretion or disregard of applicable legal provision, or that it exceeded his authority by ruling the petitions unconstitutional.
A writ of mandamus requests a court order to a government official to fulfill their official duties or correct an abuse of discretion.
Saunders has cited Ohio Revised Code Section 307.95, which says, in part, “The determination by the secretary of state is final.” It also allows the office to rule on the validity or invalidity of a petition.
Last Friday, he filed a merit brief with the state Supreme Court, which expands on the reasons behind his motion.
Saunders declined comment, citing ethical restrictions.
David J. Coehrs can be reached at 419-335-2010.