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Dornisch questions Home Rule Charter election requirements

April 4, 2011

During Monday evening's council meeting, City Councilman Dick Dornisch questioned how long an individual must sit out after serving two consecutive terms on the board before they are eligible to run again. Photo by Becky Polaski

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.


Home Rule Charter - Term Limits

April 5, 2011 by cosa69 (not verified), 4 years 21 weeks ago
Comment: 98

Dick Dornisch is 100% correct.

City Council Meetings

April 5, 2011 by J Yetzer Sr (not verified), 4 years 21 weeks ago
Comment: 97

Seems Councilman Dick Dornisch is frequently standing alone in his quest for representing all the voters in Elk County. Since his arrival to the Council he has shed light on many subjects that effect each of us on a daily basis. It's too bad more council members don't echo his principles of good government. Tom Farley should have to sit out a full term in accordance with the Home Rule Charter. Exactly what is not understood here?

Council Meetings

April 6, 2011 by changer77 (not verified), 4 years 20 weeks ago
Comment: 100

Dick Dornisch and good government should not be included in the same sentence!

I suggest you read the Home Rule Charter, Mr. Dornisch is incorrect no where does it state that a previous member has to sit out four years. It only states that they must NOT serve 2 consecutive four year terms. Mr. Farley sat out the 2009 election, which if he were not term limited he would have been able to run. Thus Mr. Farley met his obligation of not serving anymore than 2 consecutive terms. Go to City of St. Marys website under St. Marys City Code Book then Home Rule Charter. Then maybe YOU will have a clear understanding!

Home Rule Charter

April 6, 2011 by Chuck (not verified), 4 years 21 weeks ago
Comment: 99

Until we disconnect ourselves from these same politicians (Mr. Roberts, Mr. Farley and Mr. Marshall) we will continue to be plaqued by violations of the Home Rule Charter. They are of the opinion that this community will fold and fall without them. To answer your question Mr. Yetzer, what exactly is not understood here is the fact that we have a Home Rule Charter that was approved by the electorate
prior to the consolidation, some elected officials just don't seem to get that.

Home Rule Charter

April 8, 2011 by changer77 (not verified), 4 years 20 weeks ago
Comment: 103

Chuck, you and Mr. Yetzer should go back and read the Charter! The Charter only says a council member may NOT serve more than 2 CONSECUTIVE terms. There is nowhere in the charter that states how long they need to wait before running again. Mr. Farley did NOT run in 2009 which he could have had he not already served 2 consecutive terms. By Mr. Farley not being a candidate in 2009 he fulfilled the obligation of not serving more than 2 CONSECUTIVE terms! Enough said!

Changer 77 - B.R.:

April 10, 2011 by cosa69 (not verified), 4 years 20 weeks ago
Comment: 106

Sounds like you don't like it when someone expresses their 1st Amendment right to voice their opinion. Where does it say anywhere that you are always correct? Enough said.......

Home Rule Charter & Changer77

April 9, 2011 by Chuck (not verified), 4 years 20 weeks ago
Comment: 105

A member of the first Government Study Commission suggested that I read the Commentary of Home Rule Charter, pp.33, which is not on the city's web page version of the Charter (HRC). To read it, you must obtain a copy of the HRC. It reads - "This commentary is offered as a guide to public officials and citizens in the interpretation of those parts of the Charter most likly to be analyzed and discussed in the future."
Turning to pp. 38, it talks about term limits and says this - "The Commission has proposed that no Council member may serve for more than two terms consecutively." It goes on to say - "A regular turnover of Council members offers the best opportunity for new ideas and fresh approaches to community problems."
I contend that "new ideas and fresh approaches" have been scarce in St. Marys since we combined. That is due, in part, to the same old elected officials coming back time and again to work on their agendas. We need new, fresh faces.
We need people with a vision for the future. A parking garage and planting trees just isn't making it. It's high time to move off of dead center!

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