As organizers who are hoping to force a referendum on the chief operating officer proposal increase their efforts to make sure petition gatherers are following proper procedures, the city attorney is lending a hand.
Dale Clift, the city attorney, issued a formal opinion that says those gathering signatures have the full 45 days to turn in petitions.
He said in the decision that “at first reading” of the relevant state law “it appears that both the submission and the certification” of the signatures “must occur within the 45 day period However after consideration of the legal effects of this interpretation, I have concluded that the entire 45-day period should be available.”
That helps give the organizers time to scrape together than 3,100 or so signatures they need.
Organizers had worried they had to turn in the petitions as much as 10 days early in order to have them certified within the 45-day period.
City Councilor Ken Cockayne, one of those pushing the referendum, said he is "very happy at the thoroughness" and speed with which Clift issued a ruling on the matter. He is also content with the decision.Councilor Craig Minor, who is heading up the referendum drive with Cockayne, said that supporters are gathering signatures quickly. He said he anticipates that the petitions will be turned in early.
Minor and other organizers are tracking down reports that some petitions may have been left unattended at businesses, a move that would make it impossible for anyone to verify that they had personally witnessed each signature.
Any petitions that were done improperly won’t be submitted, organizers said.
The Charter Revision Commission, which recently completed its work, recommended the city create a chief operating officer post to handle administrative oversight and provide long-term planning.Supporters of the position said it would bring greater efficiency to City Hall and save taxpayers money in the long run.But Mayor Art Ward and four of the six city councilors rejected the idea. They said it wouldn’t help or it would cost too much money.If the council had approved it, the public would have the final say on the proposed charter change. It would have been on the November 4 ballot.If the petition drive succeeds, voters will still get the chance to have the last word.
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