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Why not let the voters decide?

By Staff | Oct 28, 2010

By Dennis Fred

and Roy M. Walsh

In August a few concerned citizens were discussing what we needed to do to improve the government process in Rugby. We had been hearing about the disrepute of the administration-which had been caused by its non- responsive, black – boot type decision making. We had listened to friends, neighbors and customers bemoan the lack of professionalism within the administration. We knew there was widespread dissatisfaction about the manner in which it was run.

And when we looked at the charter, which establishes the way the city is to operate, we knew that the only way to return the power to the people of Rugby is to repeal the charter. The charter has many deficiencies-too numerous to discuss in this letter.

The purpose of this letter is to inform voters of how the city administration is attempting to deny the right to vote on the repeal of the charter.

First, some background. Under Article X (entitled Method of Amendment and Repeal) of the charter, the people of Rugby have the right to repeal the charter. The manner in which this is to be done is referenced noting the state law. Not being familiar with the law, which we did read, and wanting to be certain we contacted the Election Division of the Secretary of State office and followed their direction.

The process requires that a petition, containing the language stating what we are requesting (repeal), be signed by 15 percent of the registered voters. Within three days of our commencing circulation of the petitions, we had more than enough signatures.

On August 30th we turned in the petitions to the City Auditor.

When we filed the petitions they were accepted.

Within hours we received a call from a reporter indicating that the petitions were not valid as they were not submitted within 60 days of the passage of the Charter in 1992. This trial balloon launched by the city was soon shot down.

Then the city auditor said that the cover sheet had to be stapled on the petition. We saw nothing in the law that requires this, but we complied.

Next we received a letter stating that the petitions were deficient as they did not comport with the requirements of Article VI. This article deals with, and is even entitled, Referendum and Initiative. Not the same thing at all. The letter stated that the measure would not be placed on the ballot. We began to wonder what lengths the city would go to in order to deny people the right to vote on the repeal.

During this time the City Auditor contacted and was contacted by the State Attorney General Office. The Assistant Attorney General informed the city auditor that the state law does not allow for undue restraint and that her actions could be construed as undue restraint.

The undue restraint was just beginning. Under state law, the City Auditor is given responsibility to accept petitions, and within 10 days, determine by reviewing the voters’ register, if there are sufficient number of signatures.

If there are sufficient signatures, she is to place the measure on the ballot at the next election.

It is now over 50 days and she has not done this. Rather, she and the rest of the city administration have engaged in a campaign of misinformation and attempted intimidation. I am very proud of my fellow citizens that they are not intimidated but rather strengthened by this heavy – handed attempt at brow beating.

When will the city administration acknowledge that it is the right of the people to vote on the repeal?

Dennis Fred is Chairman, Sponsoring Committee for Home Rule Repeal. He is a Rugby business owner and resident. Roy M. Walsh is a Rugby business owner and resident.

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