Saturday, March 09, 2002

Roach hiring may go to court

2nd opinion: No action on Evendale vote

By Randy McNutt,
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        EVENDALE — Village Council on Friday made public a second legal opinion that said administrative actions, such as the hiring of Police Officer Stephen Roach, are not subject to referendum.

        But council didn't say if it would place a proposed referendum on the ballot, as some residents have demanded.

        The second legal opinion, however, makes a public vote on his hiring less likely this fall.

        Village Clerk Donna Lefevre said council would neither meet Friday nor issue a statement on the matter. Mayor Douglas A. Lohmeier was unavailable for comment.

        Dr. Randy Cox, an organizer of the referendum petition drive, said his group would comment on the situation today.

        If council declines to place the referendum on the ballot, he said, supporters have an option.

        “We can take it to court,” he said.

        Village Council's next regular meeting will be April 4.

        In a letter Tuesday to the mayor, Dayton attorney John C. Chambers wrote, “The power of referendum, even in the charter municipality such as the village of Evendale, is limited by the Ohio Constitution to legislative enactments. The petition seeking a referendum ... is therefore invalid on its face.”

        Evendale's charter “appears to be constitutional ... inasmuch as it expressly limits the referendum power to legislative matters,” added Mr. Chambers, of the firm Coolidge, Wall, Womsley & Lombard.

        Village Solicitor Christian Schaefer has also told council that administrative matters aren't subject to referendum.

        James Lee, a spokesman for the Ohio Elections Commission, said he cannot comment on Evendale's case, but a community's solicitor is likely the best authority on a local charter.

        “Home rule means just that — charter villages may have laws that differ from what we have around the rest of the state,” he said.

        Officer Roach, 27, whose fatal shooting of an unarmed, fleeing man in Over-the-Rhine April 7 sparked riots, quit the Cincinnati force in January and started with Evendale Jan. 22. Last fall, he was acquitted of negligent homicide and obstructing official business.


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