The village of Uniopolis could experience a legislative problem with the new year — with four seats open and only one person running, they will not have a quorum to pass legislation or to even appoint councilors.
They also may not have a mayor since the current mayor is not running and not enough votes exist for councilors to appoint a new council president, who would then become acting mayor.
Uniopolis Village Council members Elaine Wenning and David Kohlreiser both hold unexpired seats and will retain their positions in 2014. However, four seats and Mayor Greg Ritchie’s term are expiring at the end of the year. Only one person, Marilyn Fleck, a current member of council, filed for re-election.
Based on regulations as set forth in the Ohio Revised Code, it appears the village may set a precedent in Ohio. Ritchie, who served as the president of council, was voted by fellow councilors to serve as mayor last December after Mayor Bill Rolston resigned the post. Ohio Revised Code allows for the president of council to move into the position to finish an expired term. However, the term is expiring and Ritchie is not seeking the post, nor did any other village resident file to serve as mayor.
This would leave the village with three councilors, including Kohlreiser, who now serves as village president. However, Kohlreiser will be ineligible to move into the position of mayor. State law restricts the council president from moving into the mayor’s spot only to fill unexpired terms or terms where an elected mayor fails to take office.
Even if Kohlreiser was eligible, council may not be able to appoint him mayor. Councilors select president of council for 2014 at its organizational meeting in January, but they may not be able to this. Since council will have only three sitting members out of six positions, they will not have the members needed to have a quorum to elect or president or take any action at all.
ORC does give county central committees the ability to appoint vacated political positions, but only in partisan positions. Uniopolis council seats are non-partisan.
Village Solicitor Bob Fitzgerald said he was unaware of a solution and referred calls to the Auglaize County Board of Elections, who in turn referred to the Secretary of State’s office.
While problems with filling legislative positions for council and mayor seats have arose numerous times in the past, representatives at Secretary of State John Husted’s office said they were unaware of a comparable predicament the village of Uniopolis now finds itself in.
Husted’s office said local elections were not within their jurisdiction and referred the matter to Auglaize County Edwin Pierce.
Pierce said since the village is incorporated, it did not fall within his jurisdiction. With no mayor, and no way to appoint council members or a president, the village may be in a position with no legislative answer.
The one answer for the village would appear to be someone filing as a write-in for either the mayor’s seat or a council seat.
In either case, sitting councilors may then be in position to fix the problem. With someone filing for mayor, the mayor could appoint someone to a council position to give the council its minimum four members needed for a quorum. If someone filed for a council seat, the council could then appoint a president, who could in turn become the de facto mayor and fill that seat.
However, the deadline to file as a write-in is 4 p.m. Monday and according to Board of Elections officials. None yet has filed.
Fleck and Ritchie said the were unaware of anyone who is considering filing before the deadline.
Fleck commented on the lack of interest.
“The people that have complained in the past, I don’t feel they should complain,” Fleck said. “If you don’t want the village to dissolve, then come you council.”
A petition to dissolve the village’s corporation status and be absorbed into the township was narrowly defeated last November. The issue is on the ballot again this year, along with three separate tax levies to help replace funds lost due to budget cuts at the state level.
“As it appears to be right now, we won’t be able to vote,” Fleck said. “We can’t even hold a meeting.”