Wednesday, July 27, 2011

City Solicitor Mike Jones: Gotcha or Botcha?

Did Mike Jones play “gotcha” or botcha in the charter amendment case?

     The case of  Patricia Smith, et al. vs. the Board of Elections of Scioto County, et al., involves the challenge to the results of the special election of Feb. 3, 2009. In that election the voters approved an amendment to the Portsmouth City Charter to limit the taxing power of the City of Portsmouth. That amendment  read, in part, “No taxes may be levied on the property owners of the City of Portsmouth for the retirement of any bonded indebtedness without the approval of such levy by a majority of electors [emphasis added] of the city of Portsmouth. Bonded indebtedness for the construction, acquisition and/or improvement of city property costing more than $100,000 in total may be incurred only by approval of  a majority of the electors [emphasis added] of the city at the next general election or a special election called by the Council. . . .” If instead of “electors” that proposed amendment had said “voters,” there would have been no court case and I would not be writing this piece, but the law, like life, is not an exact science, and mistakes are often made.
Too often life is a  matter of trying to minimize or, conversely,  to take advantage  of the consequences of mistakes. Smith, Evens, et al., represented by Rodeheffer and George L. Davis, the III and IV, is trying  to take advantage of the mistake the authors of the proposed charter amendment made when they used “electors” instead of “voters.” Electors are those citizens eligible to vote. Voters are those electors who actually vote. All voters are electors, but not all electors are voters. There were approximately 6000 electors who could have voted in the Feb. 3, 2009 special election. If a majority of electors was required to pass the proposed amendment, then it didn’t pass, because only 584 of those who voted were for it, and 584 is clearly not a majority of 6000+ electors. Smith, Evans et al. challenged the results of the special election in the Scioto County Common Pleas Court, which agreed with them and invalidated the results of the election.
   However, the Ohio Supreme Court reversed the lower court’s ruling, pointing out that Smith, Evans, and other residents of Portsmouth, including city officials, such as the city solicitor, should have challenged the language prior to the special election. The Supreme Court stated, “Appellees could have raised their claims in a timely pre-election protest to the petition,” and, “Election contests may not be used as a vehicle for asserting an untimely protest.” It was common knowledge in Portsmouth prior to the special election that City Solicitor Mike Jones was telling others with relish that  the language of the charter amendment was faulty and that if it did pass it would be challenged in court. Instead of objecting to the wording of the amendment prior to the election, Jones played the game of gotcha! That is how he, like the  city solicitor before him, saw his job: betraying the people on behalf  of Portsmouth’s puppet masters.  But we now know, from things like the misfiring of Mayor Kalb and the mistrial of  Harald Daub, that Jones plays the game of botcha! much better than he plays gotcha!
Will Democracy Triumph?
The case is now under consideration in the Scioto County Court of Common Pleas, with visiting Judge William J. Corzine presiding. After showing the persistence of a bulldog, Essman is no longer involved in the case, but four citizens, Jerry Conkle, Austin Leedom, Harald Duab, and Ray Mitchell,  have become defendants in intervention, petitioning the court to dismiss the motion of Smith, Evans, et al., to invalidate the results of the Feb. 3, 2009, election. Only time and Judge Corzine will tell whether democracy will triumph. In the meanwhile the results of the special election remain in effect, and the city government cannot pull the financial shenanigans it has in the past, such as it did when it unloaded the decrepit Marting building  onto the taxpayers of Portsmouth. The taxpayers owe a vote of thanks to Essman and the others who have worked so hard and long on their behalf.