PIQUA — The Piqua City Commission met Thursday evening to discuss potential changes to the city charter in regard to the rules about electing commissioners and the mayor.
The current city charter mandates that in order to be elected mayor, the individual must first be elected a commissioner. That was the deciding factor in the recent local election, in which Mayor Kazy Hinds got the majority of the votes for the 5th Ward Commissioner seat and won the mayor seat by default when her opponent, Gary Koenig, got the majority of the votes for the mayor seat.
“That is a charter requirement,” City Attorney Stacy Wall said. Wall stated that part of charter has never been changed. “The discussion has been what do we do to clarify that,” Wall said.
The commission expressed their own confusion about why voters within the city, during the election, did not know that they should have been voting for the same candidate for both the open 5th Ward Commissioner seat and mayor seat since this requirement has always been a part of the city charter.
“Why is everybody getting confused now?” Commissioner Bill Vogt said.
“I don’t know what the issue is,” Wall said. Wall said that she just knew that the commissioners had been receiving calls of concern about this charter requirement.
“Is there any ballot language at would make it more clear?” Commissioner Judy Terry asked.
Wall explained that the phrasing put on the ballot is what is required by the charter. During this recent election, it was also required for Hinds and her opponent Koenig to be on the ballot twice.
“They’re running once as commissioner and once as mayor,” Wall said.
Numerous options were brought up, such as having the commission appoint the mayor or having another election for mayor after all of the commissioners have been elected. If another election was held after all of the commissioners are elected, such as during a presidential primary, there would be an added cost.
The commission also mentioned the possibility of leaving the charter as is and attempting more education of the public. The issue surrounding the mayor seat was not the only confusing part for voters, as Hinds stated that she heard from some residents who did not know that they could still vote for her even though they did not live in her ward.
Currently, each of the commissioners comes from a separate ward — or section — of the city. When running for election, the candidates can only run for commission when the commission seat for the ward that they live in is open. In order to get on the ballot, the candidates must have residents within their ward sign their petition for candidacy. Only residents living in the same ward as the candidate can sign that petition.
Once on the ballot, the commissioners are then elected at large with every registered voter in the city able to vote on each candidate for commission.
As for the question of how the mayor should be elected, the commission did not come to a decision Thursday night.
“I know this is a tough thing, and we’re not going to solve it tonight,” Hinds said.
The commission agreed to create a committee to examine this portion of the charter, and they will be choosing people within their respective wards to be on that committee.
Also during the commission’s worksession, Wall informed the commission that a resident had expressed concerns about the commission’s recent format change of their meetings. The commission recently moved the public comment portion of their meetings to the beginning of their meetings. Previously, public comment was permitted after each item of business on the agenda and again at the end of the meeting.
“The charter does not require public comment,” Wall said.
There was an ordinance, however, passed approximately a decade ago that established rules of decorum during the meeting. There is language that implies when the commission takes comments from the public.
While Wall stated that is it arguable whether the commission has to follow the implied language of that ordinance, the commission has decided to return to their old format for now. A new ordinance will go before the commission establishing the new format, which will move public comment to the beginning of the meeting. Public comment will also be televised.
The commission’s next meeting will be held on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. in commission chambers at the municpal building located at 201 W. Water St., Piqua.
Reach reporter Sam Wildow at (937) 451-3336 or on Twitter @TheDailyCall