Athens County Commissioners Certify Charter Government Petition

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A petition for a charter government is one step closer to the ballot after the Athens County Commissioners certified the petition on Thursday.

The certification of the petition was approved unanimously at the commissioner’s regular meeting Thursday morning.

Commissioner Lenny Eliason said the Athens County Board of Elections still has the right to appeal a decision by Athens County Court of Common Pleas Judge George McCarthy on July 15 which allowed the petition to go onto the ballot. The board had previously rejected the petition, leading to an appeal by the Athens County Bill of Right Committee, creators of the ballot measure.

The committee had filed an initiative petition with the Board of Elections on June 24, to be placed on the November ballot. Athens County Prosecutor Keller Blackburn requested an opinion from the Ohio Attorney General’s Office in reference to the petition, but recommended that the board allow the petition onto the ballot, so voters could decide on the measure.

After Thursday’s commissioners meeting, Eliason said he views the charter as “problematic” for several reasons. He said the charter form of government “takes away the eminent domain powers, which is a problem for certain situations in the county.”

“The fact that you are going to take away businesses by banning hydraulic fracturing disposal, that is a problem as well,” Eliason said.

If the charter government is approved by voters, the county commissioners become a legislative body, according to Eliason. It has the right to make laws, regulations, and ordinances like city council without voters’ opinion.

The commissioner said, in his opinion, the charter government “is not the proper way to go about regulating what people want to regulate.”

“But, if people decide that’s what they want to do,” Eliason said. “That’s what we are gonna live with.”

Board of Elections Deputy Director Penny Brooks said an Aug. 4 meeting to decide on the appeal of the court decision will go on as planned. The board has 30 days from the date of the court’s decision to appeal.