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City Auditors Must Submit Petitions to Board of Elections

In the case of State ex rel. LaChapelle v. Harkey, Slip Opinion No. 2023-Ohio-2723, the Ohio Supreme Court held that the city finance director, acting as the city auditor, was required to transmit a referendum petition to the board of elections when the realtor complied with all referendum procedures pursuant to R.C. 731.28 through R.C. 731.41.

In this case, the realtor argued that the finance director was required to transmit the realtor’s referendum petition when the realtor submitted and filed an exact copy of the ordinance plus certification with the finance director, circulated the referendum petition, and submitted it to the finance director with the requisite number of signatures within a 30-day window pursuant to R.C. 731.28 through R.C. 731.41. In response, the finance director argued that (1) the ordinance submitted by the realtor was not properly certified and (2) that the ordinance was administrative in nature and therefore not subject to referendum. The Ohio Supreme Court agreed with the realtor.

In support of its decision in favor of realtor, the Ohio Supreme Court explained that the finance director’s argument that the ordinance was not properly certified was premature as questions about the sufficiency and validity of petitions are not to be addressed until after the board of elections examines the petition. The Ohio Supreme Court further explained that the finance director does not have direction to withhold a petition on the grounds that the finance director believed it to be administrative in nature as that is a judicial or quasi-judicial determination that exceeds the finance director’s authority.

To read this case, click here.

Authors: Matthew John Markling and the McGown & Markling Team.

Note: This blog entry does not constitute – nor does it contain – legal advice. Legal jurisprudence is like the always-changing Midwestern weather. As a result, this single blog entry cannot substitute for consultation with a McGown & Markling attorney. If legal advice is needed with respect to a specific factual situation, please feel free to contact a McGown & Markling attorney.

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