BEAVER TOWNSHIP- Local fracking opposition has been denied in an attempt to place a Home Rule issue on the November ballot.
The Ohio Supreme Court on Sept. 14 denied a writ of mandamus that would have forced the township trustees to submit the issue to the Mahoning County Board of Elections. The ruling found that the group used an incorrect form to collect petitions to place the issue on the ballot.
"The form was given to me by the Mahoning County Board of Elections and has been used recently and successfully in another township to put home rule on the ballot," explained township resident and organizer Julia Fuhrman Davis. "The form contains all the required information so it is hard to explain why the Supreme Court is forcing citizens to come up with their own form.
"This petition form was used and modified for our use because it is in accordance with Ohio Revised Code...The trustees can easily accept it because the important information meets the requirements."
In a written statement, Akron Attorney Warner Mendenhall, who is representing Davis and co-organizer Patti Gorcheff said, "at least the Supreme Court opinion provides guidance for all other township home rule petitioners." Based on the guidance provided by the ruling, Mendenhall has agreed to provide a compliant petition to anyone seeking to circulate future home rule petitions.
Home rule allows municipalities to pass laws and ordinances as they see fit to further their operations, within the bounds of the state and federal constitutions. Davis said the group was attempting to put the home rule issue on the ballot so that if passed the trustees would have the authority to pass ordinances regulating actions related to fracking such as noise pollution and weight on the roads. Additionally the group would have been able to form another citizens initiative to petition residents to place another issue on a future ballot that would have strongly influenced fracking in the township.
The ruling stated that the group presented to the trustees a form that did not request the board to place the issue on the ballot, but instead used a form that allows residents in unincorporated areas of townships that already have limited home rule to petition voters to place an issue on a ballot.
In July Davis and Gorcheff collected 369 signatures (only needing 296, the10 percent of township voters who voted in last election) from township registered voters. However their petitions were rejected by the township trustees, who said that the wrong forms were used. Davis and Gorcheff represented by Mendenhall then filed a writ of mandamus on July 31 to compel the trustees to accept their petitions to place Home Rule for the township on the November ballot.
A call to the township's Administration Office for comment was not immediately returned.
Kevin Howell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org