Council poised to let voters decide on raising recall requirements

July 21, 2009

Akron City Council is taking the steps to raise the requirements for a mayoral recall in advance of the 2010 Akron City Charter review.

Council Monday night tabled until next week an ordinance which would allow voters in November to change the charter to require that mayoral recall petitions be signed by 20 percent of the city's registered voters, as opposed to just 20 percent of those who voted in the prior municipal election.

Recall proponents were able to secure more than enough signatures to prompt a special election because of the low turnout in the last election in which Akron Mayor Don Plusquellic ran unopposed.

"There is a leak in this process and we are trying to patch it up so it doesn't rain inside for now," said Council President Marco Sommerville (W-3). "We need to ask if we should have any other reason to recall an elected officer besides the fact that you just don't like him.

"I think clearly the process was abused."

What will remain unchanged is a requirement that a recall petition be submitted with a 200-word statement explaining the grounds for removal. Council members said their constituents have complained that the recall proponents' accusations that the mayor misspends city money on travel for economic development and has a brash personality did not rise to the level of removal from office.

"At every other door I've gone to in my ward I heard constituents complain about the fact that we wasted money on a recall based on nothing, with no charges ever proven," said Ward 7 Councilwoman Tina Merlitti. "I look forward to having a full charter review, but we need to first listen to what the majority of the constituents are telling us. Seventy-five percent is loud and clear."

Prior to the recall election, Merlitti requested a review of overtime requests from the city law department after it asked for $200,000 in overtime compensation for staff to respond to an unprecedented number of constituent public records requests, many from citizens backing the recall of the mayor.

Council will hold further discussions on the charter change ordinance during next Monday's afternoon committee meetings in Council Chambers.