The authors of Toledo's 1992 city charter amendment may have thought they were limiting City Council members to three consecutive terms in office.
But city Law Director Barb Herring has ruled that the language of the charter doesn't exactly say that.
An opinion written last year gave Councilman Bob McCloskey the green light to jump from the middle of his four-year term as District 3 councilman to run for a new four-year term as an at-large councilman.
Ms. Herring's memo, dated Nov. 5, 2004, was stamped "CONFIDENTIAL." Both the law department and Clerk of Council Gerald Dendinger yesterday refused to release it to The Blade, claiming attorney-client privilege. It was provided to The Blade after Mr. McCloskey approved the release.
Ms. Herring wrote that the "clear language" of the charter is that a councilman may "serve" no more than three consecutive four-year terms. If Mr. McCloskey leaves his current seat in the middle of his third term, then he has not "served" four years, Ms. Herring wrote.
According to Ms. Herring, if Mr. McCloskey wins one of the six at-large seats this November, and completes that term, then he will have served three consecutive four-year terms.
Mr. McCloskey has begun raising money to run at-large in November. His current term ends Dec. 31, 2007. If elected at-large, he could serve until Dec. 31, 2009.
He said yesterday that the city's budget crisis is his reason for seeking an additional two years. "I'm very much involved in the budget of the city of Toledo, and I feel the expertise I've gained would be an asset for the taxpayers," he said.
Republican at-large council candidate Dave Schulz said Ms. Herring's memo really means that Mr. McCloskey is starting over.
"It doesn't make sense. The logical sense is that they [would be free to] serve another two terms because the consecutive terms have been broken," Mr. Schulz said.
Term limits were established when voters approved the city charter amendment in 1992.
Mr. McCloskey is one of three councilmen to face term limits for the first time. At-large Councilman Betty Shultz, also elected in 1993, is planning to run for re-election this November, too. She was elected to represent District 5, but was appointed to an at-large vacancy in April, 1997, meaning she did not serve a full four-year term.
Ms. Shultz, a Republican, said she also got a legal opinion, but would not say from whom. Ms. Herring's memo was written only in response to an inquiry about Mr. McCloskey, a Democrat.
The other sitting council member facing term limits is District 2 Councilman Rob Ludeman, a Republican, who is considering a run for mayor this November.
"I think the intent of the charter was that you have three terms and that's it," Mr. Ludeman said. He said the district council members already got a "bonus," in the two-year terms they served in 2002 and 2003.
The charter was amended in 2000 to create a one-time two-year term for district council members to stagger the terms of the at-large and district members. The charter made it clear the two-year term would not be counted toward the term limits.
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