In November 2003, voters approved a charter for the Village of Buckeye Lake. It was revised in 2005, 2007 and 2013. In good faith, residents thought they were getting a good product. They did not. It’s a widely-held opinion that the charter is poorly written, contradictory and somewhat obsolete. Recently, an attorney from the Ohio Municipal League even cited some of the weaknesses and contradictions. Read it for yourself on the village website.
In addition, the charter changed the village from a “statutory” form of government to a “strong mayor” form of government. The former checks and balances have mostly been taken away. Council used to approve all the bills before payment. Now we’re told that once the budget appropriations have been approved, we have no authority unless there’s a need to transfer funds between accounts. The people are not being well served.
For example, when a $5,800 fraudulent phone bill is paid without council’s knowledge or approval, something is wrong. By the way, two council members were instrumental in getting your tax dollars refunded even though we were told to “drop it” because we were interfering!
Council used to share the responsibilities for personnel. Recently, council was told by the “strong” mayor that the charter has virtually put all the committees out of a job and that we don’t really have much to do. So we’re asking ourselves, why have a Personnel Committee, Safety Committee or a Service Committee? In fact, why are we spinning our wheels?
What’s most unfortunate is that we currently have the most capable council yet, but they are not being utilized because we are “interfering” when we try to step up or ask questions. We only get answers if the King wants to offer some crumbs.
When the mayor and the village solicitor operate as if the solicitor’s client is the mayor instead of the village, something is wrong. When the solicitor’s legal bill is paid with the mayor’s personal checkbook, the mayor can be the client. When taxpayers are footing the bill, the VILLAGE is the client. Let’s use some common sense.
Your elected representatives on council are not allowed to hear or see the solicitor’s opinion on village issues unless the “strong” mayor allows it. However, an (unelected) commission chair and an (unelected) clerk can consult directly with the solicitor – no worries. What’s wrong with this picture?
With this charter, it’s “pick and choose” what some officials want to follow and what they want to ignore. “One year” terms of office have morphed into “ten-year” terms. How is that following the spirit of the charter? The word “shall” is interpreted as optional by some especially when they don’t want to be accountable. Some people have been around so long, it’s almost like an entitlement position. The requirement of an annual Commission report to council and regular minutes available to the public is too much to ask and suddenly becomes the fault of council because they didn’t hire a development director. Guess what? That job was also taken away from council by the charter. It’s up to the “strong” mayor.
My fellow residents and voters, the village charter needs to set sail – never to return. It’s too far gone to revise or re-rig. I propose, we put the issue on the ballot in November. No matter who the next mayor is, residents will be better served in a more balanced, cooperative and transparent manner with the statutory form of government set in Ohio law. That’s how most villages and some cities in Ohio operate.