Removing elected officials not that simple|State law requires written complaint, hearing, then trial as part of process mulled by Perkins citizens' group

PERKINS TWP. It's not that easy to remove someone from elected office. The Committee
Sandusky Register Staff
May 24, 2010



It's not that easy to remove someone from elected office.

The Committee for a Better Perkins warning to township trustees to shape up or risk being removed from office isn't as simple as a recall. In fact, the process isn't a recall at all.

In Ohio, two sections of the Ohio law spell out just what it takes for a trustee to be removed from office and how the process would take place.

According to The Ohio Township Association's Law Director, Heidi Fought, the removal proceedings that apply to the governor or a county official also apply to township trustees.

Any elected official who "willfully and flagrantly exercises authority or power not authorized by law, refuses or willfully neglects to enforce the law or to perform any official duty imposed upon him by law, or is guilty of gross neglect of duty, gross immorality, drunkenness, misfeasance, malfeasance, or nonfeasance is guilty of misconduct in office," according to the Ohio Revised Code.

Malfeasance and misfeasance mean an official has done a job poorly while nonfeasance means they've neglected to do the job at all.

Should the citizen group choose to try to oust the elected Perkins Township officials they don't think are doing a good job, the process would start with filing a written complaint, setting forth a specific charge signed by voters within the township.

For the complaint to move forward, 15 percent of voters in the township who voted in the 2006 Gubernatorial election, the last general election in Ohio, would have to sign the complaint.

According to Erie County Board of Elections statistics, 5,216 township residents voted in the governor's race, so 15 percent of that would mean 782 voters' signatures would have to be collected to move the process forward.

The complaint would then be filed with the common pleas court in Erie County.

The judge or clerk of the court then serves a copy of the complaint to the public officers involved at least 10 days before the complaint is heard in court. The official can be suspended from duty at the court's discretion pending the hearing of the complaint.

The hearing takes place within 30 days of the filing. The removal complaint is tried by a judge unless a jury trial is demanded.

A jury trial would require 12 jurors, according to Ohio law. If fewer than nine members of the jury find the charges to be true, the complaint is dismissed.

Jim Caldwell, spokesman for the citizen group and a former township employee terminated 18 months ago, has not indicated the process would begin right away.

The group has asked the trustees to honor its requests to change the township meeting time from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., along with investigating employee actions and proactively making decisions on township business.