Councilor Martin Estrada was registered to vote in Wood County, but not Fulton County when he was sworn into office on September 2, 2014.
At February 16 council meeting, Councilor Jeff Stirz pointed out that Estrada was in violation of the city charter, which states that a council member must be an electorate of the municipality when elected and while in office.
Estrada was appointed to fill the unexpired term of the late Don Matthews to December 31, 2015. He has lived in Wauseon since 2013. Estrada said that on September 11 he became aware that his address at the Board of Elections was incorrect when he renewed driver’s license and the clerk asked him if he wanted to change his voter registration to his new address as it was still set to a Bowling Green address. Estrada agreed and also filled out the change of address form at the Board of Education to be sure.
“I filled out a change of address card. There was nothing alarming about the situation. Nobody had asked me any particular questions. Everything was filed. If there was something that they’d seen that may have been wrong-doing, I would have thought the Board of Elections would have contacted somebody. Nobody thought it was a large offense,” said Estrada.
He went on to say that his appointment happened very quickly and that when he noticed the mistake he had it corrected. “There was no concealment, no as Jeff had pointed out with the oath ‘faithfully, honestly, and impartially’ as far as I know everything was done in that nature. It was a common mistake,” Estrada said. “I didn’t know it was a problem until three days ago,” he continued.
Stiriz, however, said “I felt that when I voted [to appoint Estrada] I was given false information. I really do.” He found about the charter violation and brought it to Council’s while doing other business at the Board of Elections.
Law Director Thomas McWatters said that council must determine what action to take against Estrada, if any. McWatter’s said that the charter does not include provision for an automatic forfeiture of the office upon an occurrence or an existence of a disqualifying factor. So, council could disregard the matter as an oversight, pass a resolution of censure or begin the formal process of removal.
Councilor Shane Chamberlin said regarding the appointment process, “Is it an oversight on my part as a member of council that I should have asked that question or should have been aware of that? I think it’s an oversight on our legal department not to make sure we are reminded of that. There is some oversight that took place here and it is shared by many.”
Councilor Jon Schamp agreed that it was an oversight and “It’s a learning issue going forward.”
However, Stiriz said “If we don’t do nothing about it…number one we might as well get rid of the charter; we don’t need it. Number two, I gave my word just like everybody else here did and something needs to be done,” he said.
McWatters said that Mayor Kathy Huner would have to begin the removal proceedings. Huner said that she would not begin those proceedings unless council directed her to do so through a resolution.
Council decided to table the issue, so that Stiriz could do additional research and resume the discussion at the next council meeting on March 2.
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