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During Monday evening's St. Marys City Council meeting, City Councilman Dick Dornisch indicated that there needs to be a clearer interpretation of the Home Rule Charter regarding the length of time a former council member must sit out before once again seeking election to the board. He specifically called into question candidate Tom Farley's ability to be listed on the primary ballot, since Farley had served two consecutive terms and has only sat out since his last term ended at the end of 2009.
"I talked this over with my old friend and compatriot, former councilman Tom Farley. He knows I'm going to do this. I had brought this up. Being as adamant in my position on term limits as I am, I have some problem with Tom Farley, who I certainly had no problem working with. He's an old friend of mine from many years back," Dornisch said. "However, I told him I was going to make a formal protest and comment on him running before a full term has passed between him seated on this council and being seated on it again."
Dornisch noted that the wording in the Home Rule Charter makes for an ambiguous interpretation regarding how long an individual must sit out after serving two consecutive terms on the board.
Noting that the Home Rule Charter states that "the mayor and all council members shall be elected at municipal elections for four-year terms" and that "no council member may serve for more than two terms consecutively," Dornisch interpreted the document to mean that an individual must sit out a full four-year term period before they are eligible to run for election again.
"I think that this is something that has to be clarified. I maintain at this time that Tom is running illegally," Dornisch said.
Councilman Bob Roberts disagreed with Dornisch's interpretation.
"I don't agree with Dick. I think that the mere fact that it says 'may not serve for more than two terms consecutively' means that if you sit out until the next election and there's a period of time between it, whether you say it's four years, whether somebody else says it's two years, whatever that period of time is, you are running at the next available election. You served your time out," Roberts said.
Farley also explained his interpretation of what the Home Rule Charter allows.
"I agree with what Mr. Roberts has said, that you need to sit out at least until the next election cycle, which [in this case] is this election this year," Farley said.
Mayor Sally Geyer sided with Dornisch and suggested that it would now be up to the voters to determine whether Farley can have his name on the ballot.
Councilman Rick Gabler disagreed, stating that while he did not agree with Dornisch, it was now important for the city to determine whether it was legal or not for Farley to be on the ballot.