With Census 2020 on the horizon, and the village of Sunbury on the cusp of becoming the city of Sunbury, residents will be given a choice this November to vote to establish a charter, and if so, which 15 individuals will be elected to serve on the Sunbury Charter Commission that will be tasked with creating the charter.
Sunbury would have the option to apply for charter status following the first census after the village reaches a population of 5,000. With current estimates of Sunbury’s population already exceeding 5,000, that status is going to happen during Census 2020.
According to the website Ballotpedia: “A chartered city, county, or municipality is one that possesses a unique set of laws that forms the legal foundation of its local system of government. The actual legal document that articulates these laws is called a charter. Charters stand in relationship to a county, city, village, or town the same way that a state constitution does to a state or a federal constitution does to a nation. They define the powers and functions of elected officials as well as the organization and procedures of local government.”
The first informational meeting was held July 16. During that session, Becky Princehorn and Nick Gordon of Bricker & Eckler Attorneys at Law office in Columbus; Anthony Saadey, deputy director of the Delaware County Board of Elections; and David Brehm, Sunbury solicitor, discussed the purpose and reasoning for cities’ to adopt a charter form of government, the process and timeline relative to filing a petition if interested in becoming a charter member, and the duties of being on the charter commission once elected. The Sunbury Charter Commission would consist of 15 village residents. State law prohibits the village administrator and current council members from serving. The charter commission will meet 1-2 times per month for approximately 10 months and will draft a proposed charter. That proposed charter will be mailed upon completion to Sunbury residents for review in October and then voted upon in the November 2019 election.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is a municipal charter?
A municipal charter is a legal document created by residents that establishes how a municipality is organized and operates. It is often described as a constitution for a municipality.
2. Why is a charter important?
A charter provides a municipality with maximum control over its organizational structure, administrative procedures and other matters of local concern. Municipalities without a charter operate in the generic framework imposed by state law, thus are limited in using Ohio’s municipal home rule authority. By adopting a charter, residents can tailor the structure and procedures of their municipal government to address the specific needs and preferences of the local community.
3. What subjects are covered in a charter?
Subjects typically covered in a charter include:
• Form of government
• Composition of council
• Legislative procedures
• Allocation of powers and responsibilities among municipal officials
• Administrative departments
• Personnel systems for municipal employees
• Boards and commissions
• Finance, taxation and debt limitations
• Elections, initiative, referendum and recall procedures
4. Why does Sunbury need a charter now?
As a result of population growth, Sunbury will officially transition from a village to a city following the release of the 2020 U.S. Census results. Because cities without a charter are organized differently and have a different statutory legal framework than villages, changes to Sunbury’s government will occur when Sunbury becomes a city. Adopting a charter is a way for Sunbury’s residents to better control those changes and determine how Sunbury’s government will operate in the future versus being forced to accept the de facto statutory framework.
5. Who decides if Sunbury adopts a charter?
Sunbury’s voters. In fact, successfully adopting a charter requires two different approvals from Sunbury’s voters. The first opportunity is this November, when voters get to decide whether or not to establish a charter commission and who gets to serve as members of the charter commission. If the charter commission is formed, Sunbury’s voters get the final approval of the charter that is proposed by the charter commission.
6. If the charter commission is formed, do voters still control whether to adopt a charter?
Correct. Voting “yes” to forming a charter commission this November merely gives the charter commission an opportunity to propose a charter for Sunbury. The proposed charter will be mailed to all Sunbury residents, who will have the opportunity to vote to adopt or reject the charter at the November 2019 election.
7. What is a charter commission?
A charter commission is an elected group of 15 Sunbury residents that will meet for approximately 10 months (from early December 2018 to late September 2019) to frame Sunbury’s charter. Charter commission meetings are open to the public.
8. What are the responsibilities of a charter commission member?
The charter commission will meet 1-2 times per month for approximately 10 months. Each meeting will last 2-3 hours. In addition to attending meetings, charter commission members will be expected to review material in between meetings so that they can be prepared to participate at the next meeting.
9. Who is eligible to serve on the charter commission?
With a couple exceptions, any Sunbury elector (i.e., Sunbury resident that is registered to vote) is eligible to serve on the charter commission. State law prohibits the village administrator and current village council members from serving on the charter commission.
10. How can a Sunbury resident run for a seat on the charter commission?
Eligible Sunbury residents who have successfully filed their nominating petitions with the Delaware County Board of Elections will be placed on the Nov. 6 ballot for the charter commission. The 15 candidates receiving the most votes will be elected to the charter commission.
NOTE — The candidates on the ballot are Patti Cavinee, Cindi Cooper, John Dankovich, J. David Diehl Jr., Anne Frost, Eugene Frost, Michael League, John Maar, Steven Mazzi, Murray Neff, Jodi Norton, Randall J. Rentz, Richard A. Ryba, Daniel Sexton Jr. and Thomas H. Zalewski.
If elected, their term would commence Nov. 27, 2018.
11. Who at the village should be contacted with further questions?
Allen Rothermel, administrator, firstname.lastname@example.org
Kathy Belcher, fiscal officer, email@example.com
Office phone: 740-965-2684
Information for this story was provided by the Village of Sunbury.