County residents won't vote on charter board membership

November 17, 2006|by TARA REILLY

Washington County residents will not be voting on the membership of a board charged with writing a county charter.

A group hoping to change the charter board's makeup fell about 800 signatures short of the 2,000 it needed to force a special election.

Dan Seiler of Citizens for Elected Charter Board said the group needed more time to obtain the signatures.

"We gave it a good try, and we just fell short on the time," Seiler said.

The Washington County Commissioners on Sept. 19 appointed nine people to serve on the charter board in an attempt to change the county's form of government from commission to charter home rule.

Registered voters were given 60 days to challenge the selections.

Seiler said by the time Citizens for Elected Charter Board organized and found residents interested in serving on the board, it had about two weeks to obtain signatures.


He said the group would have needed a few more weeks to get all 2,000 signatures by the deadline. Seiler said the deadline is today.

A switch to charter home rule would lessen the commissioners' dependency on state legislators when creating some local laws, county officials have said.

The county would be governed according to what is written in the charter. County voters approve the charter, and have the ability to challenge some local laws by referendum.

The county's plan is to have voters decide on approving or rejecting the charter in the November 2008 general election.

Seiler said he hopes the charter board will make the charter process open to the public.

County Attorney John Martirano said the public will have a say in what's in the charter. The charter board is required to hold public meetings and publish the entire charter in the newspaper before residents vote on it. The county commissioners, as a board, do not vote on the charter.

Martirano said the charter board has 18 months to write the charter. The first tasks for the charter board likely will include creating a meeting schedule and deciding what they would like to be in the charter.

"It's a long process for them to put a charter together," Martirano said. "It's all in their hands right now how it works."

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