The Clay Center clerk must accept referendum petitions on a zoning issue that would allow voters to decide whether White Rock Quarry can expand local operations in the village, an appellate court ruled yesterday.
The Ohio 6th District Court of Appeals said that Joan Truman filed referendum petitions within the 30-day requirement to place the zoning ordinance on the ballot, reversing the decision of Ottawa County Common Pleas Court Judge Paul Moon.
The decision stems from a civil lawsuit that Ms. Truman filed in 2003 against Clay Center and White Rock Quarry to stop the village from rezoning 94 acres that the quarry had annexed into the village.
She later amended the complaint, adding village Clerk Richard Iffland as a defendant after he rejected the petitions.
Richard Gillum, an attorney for Ms. Truman, said the appellate decision means the referendum will go on the ballot in the primary or November elections.
"Unless the village or quarry decides to appeal the decision, the voters will decide the zoning.
Council approved the rezoning change in June 9, 2003.
According to the decision, Ms. Truman made six to seven hourly trips to the clerk's office on July 8, 2003, but the office was closed and locked. She returned the next morning - the final day to file - and again found the office locked.
She returned hourly and, about 3 p.m., tried unsuccessfully to call Mr. Iffland, a councilman, and the mayor at their homes. She even drove to the houses of the clerk and the councilman, but no one was home.
Ms. Truman, desperate to get the petitions into the hands of an elected official, went to the post office next to the village hall, filled out a certified mail ticket and attached the referendum petitions.
A postal clerk deposited the petitions in Mr. Iffland's mailbox at the post office. He signed for the mail the next day, but informed Ms. Truman he could not accept the petitions.
In ruling on a summary judgment motion in favor of the village, Judge Moon said that despite her efforts Ms. Truman missed the deadline and did not meet state law which requires strict compliance.
However, in writing for the three-judge panel, Judge William Skow said Ms. Truman's attempts to get the petitions into the hands of the clerk on the final date satisfied election law.
Mr. Iffland said he was unaware of the decision and would not comment.
Rahn Huffstutler, the village attorney, said he had not read the decision and couldn't comment.
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