The State ex rel. Beard et al.
Hardin et al.
Submitted March 26, 2018
Fitrakis & Gadell-Newton, L.L.C., and Robert J. Fitrakis,
Klein, Columbus City Attorney, and Richard N. Coglianese,
Joshua T. Cox, and Charles P. Campisano, Assistant City
Attorneys, for respondents Shannon G. Hardin, Michael
Stinziano, Elizabeth Brown, Mitchell J. Brown, Jaiza Page,
Emmanuel V. Remy, and Priscilla R. Tyson.
J. O'Brien, Franklin County Prosecuting Attorney, and
Harold J. Anderson III, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, for
respondent Franklin County Board of Elections.
1} In this expedited election case, relators,
Jonathan C. Beard and a committee in support of an initiative
petition, Everyday People for Positive Change, seek a writ of
mandamus to compel respondent members of the Columbus City
Council to approve an ordinance placing a proposed
city-charter amendment on the May 8, 2018 ballot. Relators
also seek to compel respondent Franklin County Board of
Elections to place the proposed amendment on the ballot. We
deny the writs as to all respondents.
2} In May 2017, Beard submitted to the Columbus city
clerk a certified copy of a petition for an initiative that
would amend 11 sections of the Columbus City Charter. He was
acting on behalf of Everyday People for Positive Change, the
petition committee organized to support the proposed ballot
3} The petition's title states its objectives,
in general terms:
To enact electoral system and related administrative changes
to Columbus City Council by amending Sections 3, 4, 5, 6, 14,
17, 18, 20, 22, 41, and 46 of the Charter to create ten city
council districts, establish nomination requirements for
candidates from districts, provide for election of council
members from districts, reduce the number of council members
elected at-large to three, regulate growth in council
staffing, change the process for mid-term appointments to
vacant council seats, create term limits, establish
contribution limits for council elections, and provide public
access television for council elections.
proposed changes would increase the size of city council
(from 7 to 13 members); introduce district representation for
10 of the seats; impose term limits; establish new rules for
filling vacancies on council; establish new eligibility
requirements for members; limit the number of staff employed
by council; and introduce rules for city-council campaigns,
including contribution limits and guaranteed time on
4} The city attorney reviewed the petition in May
2017, as required by Columbus Charter 42-5. In a memorandum
to the city clerk and council members, the city attorney
stated his opinion that the petition violates the
one-proposal rule, which provides that "[a] petition may
only contain one proposal, which shall not address multiple
or unrelated subject matters." Columbus Charter 42-2(d).
Relators knew of the city attorney's concerns in May
2017, as shown in a letter dated May 16, 2017, in which their
attorney expressed his disagreement with the city
5} Relators circulated the petition for signatures,
and on February 6, 2018, Beard filed signed part-petitions
with the city clerk. The Franklin County Board of Elections
validated a sufficient number of signatures for the proposal
to be placed on the May 8 ballot.
6} On February 26, as required by Columbus Charter
42-9, the city attorney advised the city clerk and the city
council on the legal sufficiency of the petition. In this
memorandum, the city attorney again stated his opinion that
the "petition violates the single-subject
requirement." Based on his conclusion that the petition
is not legally sufficient, the city attorney told the council
that it could "reject forwarding these proposed
amendments to the City Charter to the Board of Elections for
voter consideration." The same day, the council passed
an ordinance providing that the proposed charter amendment
would not be placed on the May 8 ballot.
7} Relators filed this original action for a writ of
mandamus on March 5.
Argument of the Parties Regarding Issuance of the Writs of
8} Relators argue, relying on jurisprudence
interpreting the one-subject rule in Article II, Section
15(D), of the Ohio Constitution, that the proposed charter
amendments do not violate the one-proposal rule, because the
provisions all share a "common purpose, which is the
comprehensive improvement of Columbus City Council."
Respondent members of the city council argue that we need not
reach the merits of relators' claim, because it is barred
under the doctrine of laches. Respondents also assert that
this court should not follow the
constitutional-one-subject-rule jurisprudence, because the
one-subject rule "is not applicable" here. The
council members argue that the proposed amendment fails
because it contains "disjointed and unrelated topics and
subjects." Respondent Franklin County Board of Elections
argues that it carried out its legal obligation and duty ...