Friday, August 25, 2000

Fairfield fine-tunes charter

'Moral turpitude' grounds for removal

By Earnest Winston
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        FAIRFIELD — As former councilman Jon V. Saylor's trial date nears, City Council members want to tighten up the city charter to prevent cases similar to his.

        At its meeting Monday, council is expected to pass three charter amendments, including two that are a result of the Saylor case.

        Mr. Saylor, who has vowed to fight charges of voter fraud in last November's election, said he resigned his council seat last month to avoid spending taxpayers' money on a recall vote. Free on bond and awaiting a Sept. 25 trial, Mr. Saylor faces a 68-count felony indictment.

        The charter amendments have to be certified by the Butler County Board of Elections before they can be placed on the Nov. 7 general election ballot. Fairfield voters have passed all six charter amendments placed before them since the charter's inception in 1979.

        The proposed amendments would:

        • Require the mayor, council members and members of boards to live in Fairfield and one of the four wards for at least one continuous year prior to filing for election or being appointed to office. County board of elections officials said it was hard to tell whether Mr. Saylor was legitimately residing in the First Ward when he was elected to represent the area.

        “It at least gives the citizens a way to find out something about the candidate if he is a member of the community for a while,” said Howard Dirksen, a member of the Charter Review Commission.

        • Allow removal of a council member convicted of a felony or misdemeanor involving “moral turpitude” after the election or while holding office; or if the person is found incompetent to serve on council by the court.

        “I think it's good for the citizens to know that our elected officials can be held accountable under law,” said Evelyn Jones, a member of the Charter Review Commission.

        • Clarify that candidates for mayor and city council may not be employed by the city.

        Ms. Jones said the proposed amendments “will maybe raise the quality of persons that we have running for election.”

        Mr. Dirksen, a former councilman, said the commission was careful to not give City Council too much power in the proposed amendments.

        “We didn't want to take away the rights of the vot ers,” Mr. Dirksen said. “They need to be able to elect their representatives, and we didn't want to go overboard and council have the ability to remove a candidate (because of political difference). It was a tough call.”

        Councilman Erick Cook said the changes are needed.

        “The charter review commission did an excellent job in developing their recommendations, and they took some heat from doing it because some people wanted to empower council in a greater way,” Mr. Cook said.

        Charges Mr. Saylor faces include false registration, inducing illegal voting, absent voter ballot violation, illegal voting and election falsification.


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