WARREN, Ohio (WKBN) — Warren City Council members voted not to bring forth an ordinance for passage Wednesday despite their legal obligation to pass it, according to the city law director.

Back in December, a petition was filed to add an issue to the May ballot. This would allow Warren residents to vote on whether or not to change the city from a statutory form of government to a charter form of government. 

According to the Warren City Law Director Enzo Cantalamessa, city council has to pass the ordinance to place the issue on the ballot.

“It is different than many of the ordinances considered by council as far as, there’s not a lot of choice in this matter. The method by which the initiative was pursued in this case to pursue a charter was done so by a petition initiative…. Council then is obligated to pass this ordinance which, all this does is place the matter as a question on the ballot for the May Primary,” he said.

However, at Wednesday’s meeting, council voted not to suspend the rules of council and did not vote on the ordinance.

“I’m just surprised at the total disrespect to the community,” said Tina Milner, a volunteer charter committee member. “Like I said, council tried twice to pass this and they were not successful and the community decided we would take it upon ourselves to make sure that it got through. So here we are, we’ve done our due diligence, we are in compliance and they are not.”

Milner says some council members may have further questions on the ordinance, but despite questions they are legally required to pass the ordinance.

“This was a petition driven initiative, which means we bypass them in order to get it on the ballot. According to Ohio constitution, it is mandatory that they pass an ordinance for it to be on the ballot,” Milner said.

Seven council members voted not to bring the ordinance to the floor for passage, with Second Ward Councilman Andrew Herman, Sixth Ward Councilwoman Cheryl Saffold and Councilman at Large Ken MacPherson voting yes.

“One of the necessary, first, legally required steps is for council to take the formal action of passing an ordinance to place the very question of, ‘should this occur,’ on the ballot,” Cantalamessa said.

First Ward Councilman Todd Johnson said he wasn’t ready to pass it.

“I didn’t vote no on the legislation. I voted not to pass it as an emergency (foregoing standard three readings). There was some discussion around dates and deadlines that had been unresolved so I wasn’t comfortable voting until I saw how that was going to shake out,” he said in a statement to First News.

Milner said the next step will be to call for an emergency council meeting and if it is still not passed they may file a lawsuit with Ohio Eleventh District Court of Appeals.

Milner said they began collecting signatures in June of last year. Almost 600 signatures were collected, and only 358 were needed to place the issue on the ballot.

Should Warren residents vote to change the city from a statutory form of government to a charter form of government, a charter commission of 15 people will be adopted. Those 15 people will be responsible for writing a new form of government, which will go on the November 2024 ballot to be voted on.