Tom Farley is not in violation of the Home Rule Charter and is eligible to run for another term on St. Marys City Council since, if elected, there will be a two-year gap between when he last served and when he rejoins the board. This opinion was presented to members of council in the form of a letter from Attorney Tom Wagner on Monday evening.
Mayor Sally Geyer explained that she had requested an opinion from Attorney Wagner following the discussion at council's April 4 meeting regarding how long an individual must sit out after serving on the board for two consecutive terms. Geyer read a brief portion of the letter for council.
In the letter, Wagner states, "I believe that this issue is clearly and specifically addressed in the Charter. Section 304(b) of the Charter states: 'No Council Member may serve for more than two (2) terms consecutively.' The operative word in Section 304(b) is 'consecutively'. It is a fundamental principle of legal interpretation that every word in a statute, agreement, or ordinance is intended to have meaning. The use of the word 'consecutively' in Section 304(b) indicates the clear intent of the Charter to prohibit a citizen from serving more than two council member terms in succession."
After establishing this, Wagner goes on to state that "neither the Charter nor the Commentary contain any language which specifies the amount of time which must elapse before a council member who has served for two consecutive terms may assume another term of office. As [previously noted in the letter] the Charter provides for staggered elections of council members (Section 302). Therefore, it is within the contemplation of the Charter language that a citizen who has served two consecutive terms need only wait a period of two years before assuming a new staggered term."
Geyer noted that she also inquired as to whether an individual serving as mayor was eligible to run for a position on city council without sitting out for any period of time.
In his letter, Wagner states that, "Section 402 states that the mayor may not serve for more than two terms consecutively. Nothing in Article IV or in any other provision of the Charter prohibits the mayor from subsequently serving as a council member. Therefore, the Charter does not specifically prohibit a two-term mayor from following up immediately with a term as a council member."
Geyer added that all members of council were provided with copies of Wagner's letter.
Councilman Dick Dornisch remarked that he was unhappy with some of the wording in Wagner's letter and added that he personally disagreed with the attorney's assessment that an individual could run for another term on council after sitting out only a period of two years. He also disagreed with Wagner's statement that a two-term mayor could immediately run for election for a term on city council.