County Issue 6 - Charter Amendment, Office of Sheriff

Ballot Language:  Shall the Charter of the County of Cuyahoga be amended to repeal Section 5.08 which provides for the appointment of the Sheriff by the County Executive; and to enact new Article XVI to provide for the appointment of the Sheriff by the County Executive and subject to confirmation by Council, and to establish the powers, duties, qualifications, required certification, term, and removal process including the requirement of at least eight (8) affirmative votes on Council for the Sheriff’s removal?

YES vote means approval of the proposed amendment

NO vote means rejection of the proposed amendment

League Explanation of County Issue 6: This amendment is a compromise between those who want to return to an elected Sheriff and those opposing election. It preserves the new charter’s vision of integrated, ethical, professional and accountable administration. Those goals are addressed in this amendment through the following measures: 1) A Sheriff’s appointive 4-year term would NOT coincide with the 4-year interval for electing the County Executive, therefore helping keep the Sheriff out of electoral politics. 2) To be appointed, a Sheriff would have to have a bachelor’s or associate degree in law enforcement or criminal justice, plus five or more years of experience in those areas or in the managing of jails. 3) Before taking office or being reappointed, the Sheriff would have to undergo the County Council confirmation process or a repeat of it. 4) In the first year a new Sheriff would have to earn one of several “corrections executive” certifications, unless Council deems that he or she has already earned the equivalent. 5) A Sheriff would gain increased authority to hire or dismiss such assistants and deputies as needed to carry out his or her duties, subject of course to the County’s civil service rules. 6) A Sheriff could not be arbitrarily fired by the County Executive but could instead be removed by the County Executive OR by a resolution of County Council—but only “for cause,” only after having the right to a public hearing in his or her defense, and only by a super-majority vote of the County Council.

Pros: These measures will address the current problems with jail management and Sheriff authority that the County has experienced, without resorting to the discredited practice and unintended consequences of independent, partisan election. This amendment will result in the appointment of a professionally competent Sheriff with enough autonomy and authority to manage the jail and other duties without undue bureaucratic interference and with protections against untimely removal from office. A NO vote would not result in Sheriff elections, but rather in continuation of the current appointive status. Electing the Sheriff is not on the ballot.     

Cons:  This measure does not go far enough to fix the problems in the county jails and elsewhere. Eighty-seven of Ohio’s 88 Sheriffs are elected and have to face voters every four years. Past sheriffs, police chiefs, prosecutors and judges all endorse electing the County Sheriff. They need to be independent of all other elected officials, so that they can take matters into their own hands, investigate them if necessary, and hire or fire their own assistants and deputies. Degrees and certificates are no substitutes for good job performance and the periodic mandate only voters can give.

League of Women Voters

The 2019 Voters Guide to Candidates and Issues is published as a public service by the League of Women Voters of Greater Cleveland, CH-UH and FutureHeights. The League of Women Voters is a non-partisan organization whose mission is to encourage the informed participation by citizens in government. FutureHeights is a nonprofit community development organization. Election Day is Nov. 5, 2019. Polls are open 6:30 a.m.-7:30 p.m.

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Volume 12, Issue 10, Posted 12:20 PM, 10.07.2019