How many clerks do we need?

We saw snow plows in South Park yesterday. First, a neighbor with a plow did a sweep through and later, the city came through. Someone mentioned on Facebook “The City plow went up Park 4 times! How does that save the city $$$?” to which I thought- it’s not about saving the city money- it’s about clearing streets- and most of the time- one pass of a plow isn’t enough.

But, when it comes to clerks of courts- how many do we need? And how many courts do we need? Doing a background check in Montgomery County- there isn’t just one site to look up for misdemeanor criminal offenses- there is a whole slew of them. Dayton, Kettering, Oakwood (not online), Miamisburg, etc. Each with different systems- and sites.

The real question is why?

A friend is considering running for municipal judge in Columbus- and it’s a countywide race. They have one municipal court for the entire county! Imagine that? Proof that it can be done.

For those of you who don’t know the difference between a municipal court and a county court- the difference is that municipal courts only deal with misdemeanor crimes, while the county courts get all felonies. Note- the county courts do handle misdemeanors in unincorporated areas- like townships, or they sub them out to the nearest municipality.

Of course, Franklin County probably doesn’t have near as many patronage jobs- the Dayton Clerk of Court has 59 employees- that feeds a lot of political cronies- who then sit on the party central committee.

Trying to find out the rules about Municipal Court Clerks is a bit difficult. It’s not mentioned in the city charter at all- but ruled by state law. See this webpage for all the exceptions to the rule: http://codes.ohio.gov/orc/1901.31

The Dayton Clerk of Courts position is coming up for re-election, currently held by Montgomery County Democratic Party Chair Mark Owens. The pay is around $100,000 a year- although I can’t find it online.
I’m going to take guesses at the following- if anyone can correct me, I’d appreciate it:

  • 6 Year term
  • Partisan election.
  • Requires different form than City Commission, and only 50 signatures if you are a party candidate.
  • Must be 18.
  • Must be a resident.

Note- ideally, the Board of Elections website should have the duties, qualifications, responsibilities, compensation, filing instructions, etc. on its website for every position that is elected.

I did find this document: http://www.sos.state.oh.us/SOS/Upload/publications/election/2015_CRG.pdf

Turns out the deadline passed if you are running as a major party candidate- but, in an odd case, to run as an independent, you may not need more signatures- and the deadline is later:

PETITION FILING DEADLINES
: By 4 p.m. on February 4, 2015 (90 days before the
primary election) for party candidates; or by 4 p.m. on May 4, 2015 (day before the
primary election) for independent candidates
SIGNATURE REQUIREMENTS:
Major party candidates: 50 valid signatures, unless otherwise provided in law
(R.C. 1901.31,3513.05)
Minor party candidates: 25 valid signatures, unless otherwise provided in law
(R.C. 1901.31,3513.05)
Independent or nonpartisan candidates: 50 valid signatures, unless otherwise
provided in law (R.C. 1901.31,3513.05,3513.257)

Ad for Harveysburg clerk of courtsOwens is an attorney- but, I’m sure you don’t have to be one, since Dan Foley and Greg Brush are not attorneys and both have served as Clerk of Courts.

Maybe we’d have more money for snow plowing, if we had one county-wide municipal court, with one clerk, and one website.

What brought this post on was a call a week ago from Mike Bock of DaytonOS- asking why no one was challenging Owens- and a reminder in today’s paper that all communities don’t elect a clerk of courts- some hire them, like in Harveysburg.

If Ohio really wanted to have a law about term limits- (which don’t apply to local offices currently) it should be if an elected position goes more than 2 elections cycles without a challenger, the incumbent is forced out, and the position is reevaluated as an elected position.

It’s time to reevaluate a lot of how Ohio is governed, but as long as patronage mills like Clerk of Courts offices sit unchallenged- we’re pretty much doomed to maintain this expensive, duplicative, government overhead.

 

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