Petitioners not ‘discouraged’ by auditor’s action

Group’s mission against traffic cam program continues

EAST LIVERPOOL — Despite its petition being rejected by the city auditor earlier this week, a member of Citizens Against Traffic Cameras said the group will continue its mission to get the initiative on the November ballot.

The group had filed a petition which asked for an initiative to appear on the Nov. 7 general election ballot, calling for the end of the city’s traffic camera enforcement program. The Columbiana County Board of Elections determined the petition had more than enough valid signatures to request the initiative, and forwarded the matter on to city auditor Marilyn Bosco.

Per Ohio Revised Code, an initiative petition must have signatures of at least 10 percent of the amount of electors who voted in the most recent general election for the office of governor. Once enough valid signatures are verified, the petition is then sent to the city auditor, who then must certify the sufficiency and validity of the petition, which would then place the initiative on the ballot.

That amount of signatures needed, as determined by the county elections board, was 173. The petition ultimately attracted 330 signatures, 224 of which were determined valid.

However on Wednesday, Bosco stated in a letter sent to the group that she could not “certify the sufficiency and validity of the petition to the board of elections” and ultimately denied the petition.

Alethea Kelly, a committee member for the group, said members were disappointed with Bosco’s decision, but they will continue to work to get the initiative before registered voters.

“We’re disappointed, but we’re not discouraged,” Kelly said. “We’re looking into the validity of her decision, and we’re still going to make every effort we can to get this in front of the voters.”

In making her decision, Bosco stated the group “waited too long” to file the petition, adding, it was her belief, that citizens who had a concern with the program should have challenged it prior to city council enacting the ordinance earlier this year.

Bosco based her decision on a 2008 case in Stark County Court of Appeals, which involved then-finance director Alexander Zumbar, who also failed to approve a petition to be placed on a ballot to which he found the petition to be an untimely referendum. His decision was upheld in court.

Kelly, however, said the group disagrees with Bosco’s assessment.

“No we don’t think we waited too long,” Kelly said. “The election process is there. There’s 365 days in a year, and if you enact something on Jan. 1 and people wait until (Nov. 7) to vote against it, I don’t think it would be too late.

“Essentially we don’t agree that this is referendum language. Therefore, we don’t agree that there is a timeframe placed on our complaint.”

Last month, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that local speed enforcement, such as cameras, are permissible under the law in charter cities and do not require a three-year safety study required by the city, an officer to be present, or fine a driver only if they exceed the posted limit by certain amounts, such as 6 mph in a school zone and 10 miles elsewhere.

Kelly, however, stated this law does not apply to statutory cities, which is what East Liverpool is considered.

“(Charter cities) don’t have to do a three-year study. They don’t have to post an officer. They can put it at one mile over, but a statutory city still has to follow the rules put in place by state legislature,” Kelly said.

Kelly said the group may consider filing an emergency writ before the Ohio Supreme Court, but she could not elaborate further on the legalities of the situation.