Everybody has to pay their bills, even government officials.
To make sure none of Oxford Village’s officials are indebted to the government they serve and in violation of the charter, council last week directed Interim Manager Evan Teich to have it presented with a bimonthly report showing who is not in compliance.
The first report will be presented at council’s 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 12 meeting.
Last year, village residents voted 1,399 to 206 to approve a charter amendment that prohibits people from seeking or holding elected and appointed offices if they’re indebted to the municipality, meaning they’re “more than 90 days past due, in whole or in part” on “any water bill or other financial obligation to the village,” which includes property taxes, fines, accounts receivable, etc.
Basically, you can’t run for village office or be appointed to an office or board, if you’re delinquent in some way to the municipality. You also face potential removal from office if you don’t pay your bills.
The amendment applies to members of the village council, planning commission, zoning board of appeals, downtown development authority as well as positions such as village manager, clerk and treasurer.
Prior to the amendment’s passage last year, village attorney Bob Davis explained the need for it to the Leader.
“The goal is to clarify that we don’t want elected officials, or appointed officials, to be indebted to the government they serve while they’re running for (office) or while they’re serving because it produces a conflict when they have to vote on issues that impact (what people are paying to the village),” Davis said at the time. “If you’re voting to shut somebody’s water off, you shouldn’t be behind on your water bill . . . You shouldn’t be in the service of a government that you’re indebted to.”
In a Nov. 22 memo, Teich explained council has the power “to take action on any violation of the charter,” but it’s the administration that has the information regarding any debts.
“Administration, to my knowledge, has not been previously directed to perform any scheduled audit of all the persons serving (the village),” he wrote.
Given this, Teich sought some direction from council as to how often the manager should “perform a records search.”
“I personally would like a bimonthly report,” said Councilman Erik Dolan.
“I would like it monthly, but I will, for the moment, go with bimonthly,” said village President Sue Bossardet.
Councilwoman Maureen Helmuth opposed having such a report generated.
“I personally think if they’re meeting all of our criteria, not having their water shutoff, it’s none of my business if they haven’t paid their water bill,” she said. “I think it’s elitist and exclusionary. That’s just my opinion. So, I don’t really need the report.”
Dolan said he respects Helmuth’s opinion on this issue, but “the village constituents have spoken.”
“They’ve advised the council that they want their representatives to not be indebted to the village in which they serve,” he said.
This reporter filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the village to find out if any officials are indebted to the municipality.
Teich replied via email that one of the planning commissioners was one month delinquent on his water/sewer/trash bill and owed $76.59. “He was unaware of the late bill,” Teich wrote.
“As of this morning (Nov. 30), he has paid all of his outstanding debt and does not owe the village any monies,” Teich continued. “After our review, we found that no other village council, planning commission, downtown development authority or zoning board of appeals member had any outstanding debts to the village.”
In his response to the FOIA request, Teich wished to reiterate that appointed and elected officials “are not out of compliance” with the charter “until they are 90 days past due.”
“So, at any given time, any number of those people may be outstanding for a given month or two, but as long as they pay within 90 days, they are still in compliance with the charter ordinance,” he wrote.