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(Michelle Higginbotham / American Press)

(Michelle Higginbotham / American Press)

Westlake ordinance for electing council members deemed illegal

Last Modified: Monday, January 07, 2013 7:08 PM

By Natalie Stewart / American Press

WESTLAKE — The City Council is “back at square one” after an ordinance passed last month was found to be illegal under state statute, according to the city’s attorney.

Last month, the city council compromised with residents and unanimously approved an ordinance to return to electing council members at-large — five candidates with the most votes are elected — but they added stipulations requiring residents to vote for five candidates to keep the election “fair.”

Wally Anderson, who was absent from Monday’s meeting, stated last month that adding the stipulations would prevent votes from being manipulated and stacked in favor of certain candidates.

City Attorney John Van Norman said it is illegal, according to state statute, to require residents to vote for five candidates.

He said the Secretary of State wouldn’t allow the ordinance to carry out either.

Following the previous ordinance being rejected, Councilwoman Lori Manuel introduced another ordinance to return to the at-large system.

It failed with a split vote with council members John Cradure and Bob Hardey voting against and Manuel and Dan Racca voting for.

Mayor Dan Cupit told the American Press that he is “disappointed” in the council’s decision.

“I feel council members, Cradure and Hardey, made a mistake tonight in rejecting a return to an at-large election,” he said. “With the number of calls, attendance at meetings and signatures on a petition that wasn’t the right decision for the City of Westlake. It is very apparent that the majority of our people are for an at-large election.”

Council members are currently voted in by seat with a candidate having to chose to run against a specific council member for their seat.

Ambra Reinking, a Westlake resident, started a petition in October to move to the at-large system. The petition has more than 100 signatures. Cupit said his office has been flooded with calls from residents requesting a return to an at-large system.

Cupit said in order for a change to take affect it has to be approved by the council by September.

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