FAIRBORN — Fairborn citizens will not vote to decide whether or not CEMEX property will be rezoned for mining use in the upcoming March Primary Election.
Referendum protesters raised seven issues. However, one issue, regarding circulators permitting individuals to sign names other than their own and/or not witnessing individuals as they signed the petitions, was critical in the matter.
Greene County Board of Elections member Doris Adams, who was one of the two individuals responsible for making the decision, read a statement that revealed the decision during a special meeting Tuesday at the Greene County Board of Elections Office.
It said citizen Victor Berberich, who testified during the referendum protest hearing Thursday, Jan. 21, was presented with a petition and had his name signed by another individual. Petition circulator Terri Pence, who also testified at the hearing and said she works as a nurse practitioner, said she printed his name due to Berberich living with a health condition that prevented him from writing as clearly as he had in the past.
Pence testified that she did not believe she was stepping out of line by doing so. However, the board found that although she was unaware that she was not supposed to sign another’s name, the petition was still invalid. The board also found that Pence did not have any criminal intent in her actions.
The statement said according to Ohio Revised Code 3501.38, if a circulator knowingly allows an individual to sign another individual’s name on a petition, the entire paper is thrown out. Due to this rule, 34 signatures were invalidated, reducing the amount of total valid signatures collected below the required amount for the matter to be presented as a referendum.
“CEMEX is pleased that the Board of Elections upheld the protests and invalidated the referendum,” a written statement from CEMEX said. “Our operations will continue to provide quality jobs and locally source materials to the region.”
City of Fairborn officials are ready to move forward from the matter.
“I’m pleased for CEMEX and the City of Fairborn because this allows us to move forward,” Fairborn Mayor Dan Kirkpatrick said. “I know people who don’t like this decision and all I can say is the board did what they felt was legally the correct thing to do. To me, that’s the important thing. We’re a country, we’re a state, we’re a city of laws and the board saw that the law had been violated and they chose to follow the law. I can’t fault them for that. It’s now time to put this past and lets move forward.”
Rezoning opposers, who sought to have the matter appear on the ballot out of concerns for blasting taking place near their homes, said they are prepared to continue the fight.
“What could possibly be more disgusting than a company that wants to keep an issue off the ballot because of an 80-year-old man with Parkinson’s Disease couldn’t physically sign a petition he wanted to sign?” rezoning opposer Karen Combs said. “That’s what we’ve come to. That’s who CEMEX is.”
“[I’m] really disappointed,” opposer Dawn Falleur said. “Our canvasers, petitioners, worked so hard and it was the first time they had ever done it and I think they did a really great job in a short time frame. I’m really disappointed.”
“It’s another case where a giant corporation is going to continue to do what they have to do to get their way,” opposer Pete Waltz said. “But we’re going to continue to do what we have to do to allow the people to be heard and to get what they want. The people should have had the opportunity to vote on this and that’s what the whole point of it was. They’re taking away the Fairborn citizens’ rights to be able to vote, and I think it’s underhanded.”