The Committee for a New Ashtabula wants the proposed county charter to be judged on its own merit, which is one of the reasons the charter's authors are not being revealed.

The Committee for a New Ashtabula wants the proposed county charter to be judged on its own merit, which is one of the reasons the charter's authors are not being revealed.

While a number of people contributed to the contents of the charter, several did not want to attach their names to it for fear of public reprisal, said Isaac Arthur, committee member who was present when the charter was written.

Doc Malinowski said the Democratic Central Committee is part of the problem with the current way the county is running.

"They weren't invited because they are the problem," he said. "What possible solution could they come up with when they are the problem?"

Arthur said those behind the charter chose not to elect a committee to develop the charter because they wanted to keep the nay-sayers out.

Malinowski said one of the biggest selling points of the proposed charter is the ability to change it if something is not working.

"The ability to change the charter is tremendous," he said. "We can't change anything in our government now. We can't even change (officials') pay."

The charter proposes a seven-person non-partisan part-time council to replace the three county commissioners. Each proposed council person will represent a different area of the county.

The charter would cut the elected officialsÕ salaries and combine some of the county offices to potentially save the taxpayers more than $500,000 a year.

Additionally, the charter proposes no sales tax increases without a vote of the people first; county meetings to be held in the evenings so more people can take an active roll in local government; a law director to handle all civil matters for the county and townships; an economic development department to centralize efforts to grow the county's workforce; and a maximum of three four-year terms for elected officials.

Most of the county elected offices would be retained including the county prosecutor, auditor, sheriff, coroner and county engineer; however, the charter would remove the county treasurer, recorder and clerk of courts as elected positions and they would be appointed by the council.

Arthur said the reason the treasurer, recorder and clerk of courts are being eliminated as elected positions is because the only current qualification is to be 18 years of age.

"We couldn't find a reason why those positions had to be elected," he said. "The five offices that will continue as elected positions have qualifications that have to be met before they can be elected."

"The current Clerk of Courts can't do her job and had to hire a consultant," Malinowski said.

Arthur said the committee felt the county would be better served if those positions were appointed so certain qualifications could be set.

As for the seven-person council, Arthur said there was a study done at one time that determined the best size for a group was between five and 21 people. The committee felt seven was a good fit, he said.

Each council person will represent one district and there will be no at-large council representatives as there are on city charters such as Conneaut's for example.

Arthur said the only reason city charters have at-large representatives is because 'they are lazy.'

The committee opposing the charter has maintained that voters will lose representation with the new form of government. Charter advocates say that is not the case. The proposed charter will increase representation.

"When you are voting for three county commissioners, they have to represent 100,000 people which they can't do, so they don't represent anyone but themselves," Malinowski said. "They do whatever they can do to get themselves re-elected, re-elected and re-elected."

Malinowski said if ever there is a vacancy on the board of councilors, a replacement will be appointed by the council, not a political party.

Vince Gildone, committee member, said radical change is what is needed to snap the county back. The economic development portion of the charter is his favorite part, he said.

"We need aggressive economic development in this county," Gildone said.

The proposed charter will create an economic development commission. One member will be selected by the county administrator, the council, the city manager of Ashtabula, the city manager of Geneva, the city manager of Conneaut, the Ashtabula County Port Authority and the Growth Partnership for Ashtabula County. Council may further appoint one elected officials from the villages and four elected officials from the townships. Other members representing small business and manufacturing may also be appointed to the commission.

Growth Partnership has been the economic development tool in the county.

"Growth Partnership will still exist as long as the companies are stupid enough to keep paying into it," Malinowski said. "They will get a seat on the EDC."

Arthur said as far as the prosecutor/law director debate is concerned, those opposing the charter are taking the law out of context. He said the Ohio Revised Code designates the County Prosecutor as the legal advisor for the county, but it can be changed. He said Cuyahoga and Summit counties, the counties the proposed charter is modeled after, have been operating with a law director and prosecutor with no problems.

Gildone said separating the two jobs will give the townships in the county much better representation.

"Townships are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars in outside legal fees because the prosecutor isn't doing his job," Malinowski said. "Let's get a prosecutor who's doing his job."

There has also been a lot of discussion as to the council and county administrator being given subpoena power. Arthur said that is a routine tool.

"It's a routine power that almost every city has," he said.

Gildone said the bottom line is the proposed charter will create a more streamlined, more efficiently managed government which will in turn lead to good economic development.

"Voting out current elected officials changes the faces, not the problem," he said.