2013 Issue 5, Charter (Board of Revision)

Issue 5 Charter (Board of Revision)

I.          Summary

            This measure will appear on the ballot for all Cuyahoga County voters for the General Election on November 5, 2013.  A yes vote on this measure would mean that the language of the Cuyahoga County Charter will be amended to significantly redefine the Board of Revision.  A no vote would leave the language unchanged.   

II.        Background

            A.        Ballot Language

5 PROPOSED CHARTER AMENDMENT CUYAHOGA COUNTY

A majority affirmative vote is necessary for passage

Shall Article VI, Section 6.02 Board of Revision of the Charter of the County of Cuyahoga be amended to clarify the role of the Board of Revision?

5 PROPUESTA DE ENMIENDA A LOS ESTATUTOS CONDADO DE CUYAHOGA

Se requiere un voto afirmativo por mayoría para su aprobación

¿Deberá enmendarse el Artículo VI,Sección 6.02 Junta de Revisión de los Estatutos del Condado de Cuyahoga para aclarar el rol de la Junta de Revision?

III.       Analysis

            A.        Report of the Charter Review Commission

BOARD OF REVISION

[Amendment as formally adopted by the C.R.C. on 6/18/2013 by a vote of 6-0]

CURRENT LANGUAGE

SECTION 6.02 BOARD OF REVISON

There shall be one or more Boards of Revision, each consisting of three electors of the County. Two members of each board, who shall not be of the same political party, shall be appointed by the Council, and one member shall be appointed by the County Executive, each for a term of three years. Each Board of Revision shall exercise all duties of a county board of revision as prescribed by general law. The Council may provide for compensation for members of a Board of Revision.

PROPOSED LANGUAGE

SECTION 6.02 BOARD OF REVISON

There shall be one or more Boards of Revision, each consisting of three electors of the County. Two members of each board, who shall not be of the same political party, shall be appointed by the Council, and one member shall be appointed by the County Executive, each for a term of three years. Each Board of Revision shall exercise all duties of a county board of revision as prescribed by general law. The Council may provide for compensation for members of a Board of Revision.

(1) The County shall have a single Board of Revision, consisting of three members, which shall perform all powers and duties of county boards of revision under general law and such other powers and duties not inconsistent therewith as provided herein or by ordinance. As of the effective date of this provision, the Board shall consist of the County Executive, one appointee of the Council President, and, at the choice of the County Executive, either the Fiscal Officer or Treasurer.

a. At the choice of the Council President, the Council President’s appointee may either be a member of Council or any other elector of the County. The term of the Council President’s first appointee shall be from the effective date of this provision until January 4, 2016. The term of subsequent appointees shall be for a period of two years commencing on the fifth day of January and every two years thereafter.

b. If a vacancy occurs in the Council President’s appointee position, the Council President shall appoint a new member to complete the unexpired term.

c. The Council President’s appointee shall not belong to the same political party as the County Executive at the time of the appointment.

(2) The Board shall elect a chairperson, a secretary, and other officers as it deems appropriate at its organizational meetings.

(3) The Board shall have the power to set the hearing schedule for matters before it, and to make and amend its own internal operating rules, procedures, and regulations.

(4) The Board may employ administrative staff, including an administrator, as it deems necessary, to assist it in the performance of its powers and duties. All employees of the Board shall be unclassified employees.

(5) The Board shall employ or otherwise engage individuals to serve on one or more three-member hearing panels to hear complaints as to the value of real property and to perform other duties assigned to them by the Board. The individuals serving on hearing panels shall be electors of the County; shall serve at the pleasure of the Board; and shall abide by the Board’s hearing schedule, rules, procedures, and regulations in performing their duties.

(6) The Board shall establish merit qualifications for the individuals serving on hearing panels as it deems necessary for them to perform their duties. In establishing the merit qualifications, the Board shall strive to employ or otherwise engage highly qualified individuals to elevate the citizens’ trust in the system.

(7) The Board may not itself hear complaints related to the valuation of real property, and no member of the Board may serve on any of the hearing panels. The decisions of the hearing panels relating to real property valuation complaints shall constitute the final decisions of the Board and shall not be subject to further review by the Board itself.

(8) No member of the Board or any of the hearing panels may have any ex parte communications with any party, elected officials, county employees, or any other person regarding the merits of a pending matter before the panel. The Board shall enact and publish additional rules, procedures, or regulations to ensure that the system is administered fairly, including rules, procedures, or regulations governing conflicts of interest.

(9) The Board may utilize any boards of revision or hearing panels in existence as of the effective date of this provision as hearing panels to avoid any interruption of services.

Rationale: It became clear that the charter language regarding the Board of Revision (“BOR”) had some inconsistencies and needed stronger language to define the role of the BOR and the Hearing Panels that actually decide the cases that come to the board. This proposal delineates the membership on the statutory BOR and clarifies that the statutory BOR will handle the administration of the Board and its operations. This proposal also clarifies the employment status of the members of the Hearing Panels.

B.        Final Language Approved by Council

Issue 5 – Full text Charter amendment language

(Additions to current language bolded, deletions in strikethrough)

SECTION 6.02 BOARD OF REVISION.

There shall be one or more Boards of Revision, each consisting of three electors of the County. Two members of each board, who shall not be of the same political party, shall be appointed by the Council, and one member shall be appointed by the County

Executive, each for a term of three years. Each Board of Revision shall exercise all duties of a county board of revision as prescribed by general law. The Council may provide for compensation for members of a Board of Revision.

(1) The County shall have a single Board of Revision, consisting of three members, which shall perform all powers and duties of county boards of revision under general law and such other powers and duties not inconsistent therewith as provided herein or by ordinance. As of the effective date of this provision, the Board shall consist of the County Executive, one appointee of the Council President, and, at the choice of the County Executive, either the Fiscal Officer or Treasurer.

(a) At the choice of the Council President, the Council President’s appointee may either be a member of Council or any other elector of the County. The term of the Council President’s first appointee shall be from the effective date of this provision until January 4, 2016. The term of subsequent appointees shall be for a period of two years commencing on the fifth day of January and every two years thereafter.

(b) If a vacancy occurs in the Council President’s appointee position, the Council President shall appoint a new member to complete the unexpired term.

(c) The Council President’s appointee shall not belong to the same political party as the County Executive at the time of the appointment.

(2) The Board shall elect a chairperson, a secretary, and other officers as it deems appropriate at its organizational meetings.

(3) The Board shall have the power to set the hearing schedule for matters before it, and to make and amend its own internal operating rules, procedures, and regulations.

(4) The Board may employ administrative staff, including an administrator, as it deems necessary, to assist it in the performance of its powers and duties. All employees of the Board shall be unclassified employees.

(5) The Board shall employ or otherwise engage individuals to serve on one or more three-member hearing panels to hear complaints as to the value of real property and to perform other duties assigned to them by the Board. The individuals serving on hearing panels shall be electors of the

County; shall serve at the pleasure of the Board; and shall abide by the Board’s hearing schedule, rules, procedures, and regulations in performing their duties.

(6) The Board shall establish merit qualifications for the individuals serving on hearing panels as it deems necessary for them to perform their duties. In establishing the merit qualifications, the Board shall strive to employ or otherwise engage highly qualified individuals to elevate the citizens’ trust in the system.

(7) The Board may not itself hear complaints related to the valuation of real property, and no member of the Board may serve on any of the hearing panels. The decisions of the hearing panels relating to real property valuation complaints shall constitute the final decisions of the Board and shall not be subject to further review by the Board itself.

(8) No member of the Board or any of the hearing panels may have any ex parte communications with any party, elected officials, county employees, or any other person regarding the merits of a pending matter before the panel. The Board shall enact and publish additional rules, procedures, or regulations to ensure that the system is administered fairly, including rules, procedures, or regulations governing conflicts of interest.

(9) The Board may utilize any boards of revision or hearing panels in existence as of the effective date of this provision as hearing panels to avoid any interruption of services.

C.        League Commentary

            The County Executive and the Treasurer or Fiscal Officer should work to ensure political fairness in selecting members of the review panels.  While the new language appropriately puts the emphasis on merit, there no longer is a provision relating to party affiliation.  It is likely that the majority party will control the Board of Revision because it will almost always control two seats.  This control could be used to ensure that no member of a review panel, despite his or her merit, will be a member of the minority party.  While the League appreciates the prohibition against ex parte communications to preserve the fairness of the proceedings, members of the review panels should be selected without regard for their party affiliation.  Otherwise, the panels will be seen as a vehicle for party patronage.

            The revision also enhances the power of the County Executive.  Under the existing rule, Council appoints two members (one from each party) while the Executive appoints one.  The Board will now consist of the Executive, the Treasurer or Fiscal Officer (either of which are appointees of the Executive), and someone from the other political party appointed by the Council President.  The Executive and his or her appointee, the Treasurer or Fiscal Officer, will be able to control appointments to the review panels.