HUBER HEIGHTS — Residents of Ward 2 in Huber Heights will be voting on whether city council member Janell Smith should be removed from office – but after Monday night’s council meeting, no one was quite sure when that vote will take place.
On Wednesday, City Attorney Jerry McDonald sent an email to the Huber Heights City Council as well as Clerk of Council Anthony Rodgers clarifying that the issue will be placed on the November 6 ballot unless Smith resigns from her seat on or before August 19.
City council Monday was required by law to approve a recall election for Smith. Ward 2 residents had submitted petitions for the recall and the city’s charter says council must approve such petitions at the first council meeting after the petitions are verified so the issue can be placed on the ballot.
But things got confusing when Smith challenged the need to pass the ordinance that would approve the recall as emergency legislation.
Emergency legislation takes effect immediately. City Law Director Gerald McDonald explained this would allow time for the Montgomery and Miami County Boards of Elections to place the issue on the November ballot.
However, Smith questioned whether the issue qualified for emergency status. If passed under normal legislation, the ordinance would not take effect for 30 days, which would place it past the 60-day deadline required by the Montgomery County Board of Election for the November ballot.
“It’s very rare that I’ve ever seen an ordinance come to a council meeting without any discussion in a work session and then passed as emergency legislation right here on the spot,” she said. “If we do this as an emergency legislation, it does take away the citizens’ rights to start a referendum to counter that.”
Councilman Glenn Otto agreed with Smith. He said he felt passing the measure as an emergency would eliminate the potential for residents “on the other side” of the issue to mount a potential referendum of the ordinance. Six votes are required to pass emergency legislation; with Councilman Seth Morgan absent from the meeting and Smith and Otto voting no, the five yes votes were not enough to pass the measure.
Smith read a prepared statement about the recall, in which she said the recall was an effort by the “old guard” to remove her from office.
“There is no strategy more time-tested for doing that than to remove the agitators and cast them as pariahs, as they now try to do to me through this recall petition,” Smith said. She said she “firmly believed the voters would send a message” and return her to office. “I will continue to wage the battle they elected me to fight,” she said.
Council members Ed Lyons and Nancy Byrge both said they preferred the ordinance be passed as an emergency.
Lyons said meeting the deadline for the November ballot would result in a lower cost for taxpayers, since special elections are more costly. Byrge said, “I really am disturbed that we are taking away the voice of those 600-and-some people who signed the petition.”
After consulting with McDonald and City Clerk Anthony Rodgers, Otto suggested that council reconsider its original vote, then pass an amendment that removed the emergency stipulation on the ordinance. Council also would then waive the second reading of the ordinance.
Smith actually made the motion to reconsider, and it passed 7-0. Mayor Jeff Gore brought laughter from a confused audience when he said, “Something passed 7-0, I’m not sure what.”
Council then voted on a motion to remove the emergency wording from the ordinance. It passed 5-2, with Smith and Richard Shaw voting no. Since it was normal legislation and not emergency, five votes were enough for passage.
Council then voted 6-1, with Smith voting no, to adopt the amended legislation, which approves putting the recall on the ballot.
According to McDonald, the Huber Heights City Charter declares any ordinance regarding a “question to electorate or the determination to proceed with an election” to be in immediate effect. As such, under the City Charter Smith has 10 days from when the recall petition was found sufficient in which she can resign from office and not face the recall election.
If she does not resign on or before August 19, Rodgers will file a certified copy with the Montgomery and Miami County Boards of Elections for the November general election.
Smith said she felt council handled the question properly.
“I just didn’t like that it was an emergency clause because it didn’t fit the criteria,” she said.
And she said not matter when the election will be held, she is ready to campaign to retain her seat on council.
“Yes,” she said, “I campaign now. I’ll fight it.”
Reach Darrell Wacker at (937) 684-8983 or on Twitter @HH_Courier.