FAIRMONT, W.Va. — 2,460 signatures from ‘Keep Fairmont Safe’ won’t be enough to force Fairmont City Council to reconsider Ordinance 482, which re-establishes a Human Rights Commission with LGBTQ-protected language in the city.
That’s because 785 of those signatures didn’t meet the specifications laid out by the City Charter, putting the petition 304 signatures short of the magic number of 1,979.
“They were invalid for a variety of reasons,” City Manager Robin L. Gomez said. “They were not registered to vote on November 8, 2016, or they were registered to vote outside of the corporate limits of the city of Fairmont. Those were the two main reasons. Some of the signatures were dpulicates. Some of the signatures were illegible. We could not determine the name of the signer.”
That doesn’t end the group’s desire to force the question of Ordinance 482 though. The ordinance, which re-establishes an active Human Rights Commission in Fairmont for the first time in two decades, offers new protections in the city for the LGBTQ community.
Gomez said the group must find those valid signatures elsewhere by Nov. 9.
“Once they received our notice of the signatures we reviewed that the petition that they submitted was insufficient, they then had two days to notify us of their intent to submit an amended petition,” Gomez said. “Which they did yesterday.”
The City Charter sets up a process to reconsider ordinances, requiring a committee form and successfully gather a petition of signatures with 15 percent of voters who comprised the electorate in the most recent (Nov. 8, 2016) election.
“A qualified city voter is somebody that was registered to vote at the November 8, 2016 elections,” Gomez said. “That was the last municipal city of Fairmont election — November 8, 2016. And they have to be a resident of the City of Fairmont.”
Although Gomez has never needed to pursue this process before, he said he feels confident it’s being executed properly.
“In my nearly two years here — 23 months — this is the only ordinance that has gone before this process to be reconsidered,” Gomez said.
If ‘Keep Fairmont Safe’ successfully finds the additional 304 signatures, the ordinance would return to City Council for a vote. Council initially passed Ordinance 482 by a 7-2 vote on Sept. 12. If they vote in the affirmative again, the ordinance would then be placed on a ballot for city-wide referendum.
Earlier this month, Allen Whitt of the Family Policy Council suggested the group ‘Keep Fairmont Safe’ would also attempt to gather signatures to recall the seven council members who voted for Ordinance 482.
Whitt said the priority on that petition would be lower — because there is no deadline to conduct a recall vote.