Free petition; Initiative; Referendum; Recall

Section 8-1. Free Petition.

[a) Individual Petitions, Action Discretionary - The City Council and the School Committee shall receive all petitions which are addressed to them and signed by a voter and may, in their discretion, take such action in regard to such petitions as they deem necessary and appropriate.

[b) Group Petitions; Action Required - The City Council (or the School Committee), as the case may be, shall hold a public hearing and act by taking a vote on the merits of every petition which is addressed to it and which is signed by at least one hundred fifty voters. The hearing shall be held by the City Council or the School Committee, or, in either case, by a committee or sub-committee thereof and the action by the City Council or School Committee shall be taken not later than three months after the petition is filed with the City Clerk. Hearings on two or more petitions filed under this section may be held at the same time and place. The City Clerk shall mail notice of the hearing to the ten petitioners whose names first appear on each petition at least seven days before the hearing. Notice by publication at least seven days prior to all such hearings shall also be made, and shall be at public expense. No hearing shall be heard upon any one subject matter more than once in any given twelve month period.

Section 8-2. Citizen Initiative Measures.

[a) Commencement of Proceedings – Initiative procedures shall be started by the filing of an initiative petition with the City Clerk. The petition shall be addressed to the City Council or the School Committee, shall contain a request for passage of a particular measure set forth in the petition and shall be signed by not less than ten per cent of the total number of voters.

Signatures to initiative petitions need not be all on one paper. All such papers pertaining to any one measure shall be fastened together and shall be filed in the office of the City Clerk as one instrument, with the endorsement thereon of the names and addresses of the persons designated as filing the same. With each signature to the petitions, shall be stated the place of residence of the signer, giving the street and number, if any.

Within five days after the filing of said petition the registrars of voters shall ascertain by what number of voters the petition is signed, and what percentage that number is of the total number of voters and shall attach thereto their certificate showing the result of such examination.

The City Clerk shall forthwith transmit the said certificate with the said petition to the City Council or to the School Committee, according as the petition is addressed and at the same time shall send a copy of said certificate to the persons designated on the petition as filing the same.

When such certificate has been so transmitted, said petition shall be deemed to be valid unless written objections are made with regard to the signatures thereon by a voter within forty-eight hours after such certification by filing such objections with the City Council or the School Committee, and a copy thereof with the registrars of voters. Any such objection shall be determined forthwith.

[b) Referral to City Solicitor - If the City Clerk determines that a sufficient number of signers are voters, he shall transmit a copy of the petition to the City Solicitor.

Within fifteen days after his receipt of the petition the City Solicitor shall advise the City Clerk in writing whether the measure may be proposed by initiative procedures and whether it may lawfully be passed by the City Council or the School Committee. If the opinion of the Solicitor is that the measure may not lawfully be passed, he shall state his reason or reasons therefor in his reply. The City Clerk shall forthwith furnish a copy of the City Solicitor's opinion to the person designated on the petition as filing the same.

[c) Initiative Petition; Requirements for Passage and Submission to Electorate - If any initiative petition is signed by voters equal in number to at least ten per cent of the total number of voters, and, in the opinion of the City Solicitor, such measure may lawfully be passed by the City Council or the School Committee, the City Council or the School Committee, within twenty days after the date of the certificate of the registrars to that effect:

(1) shall pass said measure without alteration, subject to the referendum vote provided by this Charter; or

(2) the City Council shall call a special election to be held on a date fixed by it not less than thirty nor more than forty-five days after the date of the certificate hereinbefore mentioned, and shall submit the proposed measure without alteration to a vote of the voters at that election; provided, that if any City election is otherwise to occur within one hundred and twenty days after the date of said certificate, the City Council may, at its discretion, omit the calling of a special election and submit the proposed measure to the voters at such approaching election.

The ballots used when voting upon a proposed measure under this section shall state the nature of the measure in terms sufficient to show the substance thereof.

Section 8-3. Citizen Referendum Procedures.

Referendum Petition; Effect on Final Passage – If within twenty days after the final passage of any measure, except a revenue loan order, by the City Council or by the School Committee, a petition signed by voters equal in number to at least ten per cent of the total number of voters, and addressed to the City Council or to the School Committee, as the case may be, protesting against such measure or any part thereof taking effect, is filed with the City Clerk, the same shall thereupon and thereby be suspended from taking effect; and the City Council or the School Committee, as the case may be, shall immediately reconsider such measure or part thereof; and if such measure or part thereof is not entirely rescinded, the City Council shall submit the same, by the method herein provided, to a vote of the voters either at the next regular City election, or at a special election which may, in its discretion, be called for the purpose and such measure or part thereof shall forthwith become null and void unless a majority of the voters voting on the same at such election vote in favor thereof.

The petition described in this section shall be termed a referendum petition and section 8-2 (a) shall apply to the procedure in respect thereto, except that the words "measure or part thereof protested against" shall for this purpose be understood to replace "measure" in said section whenever it may occur, and "referendum" shall be understood to replace the word "initiative" in said section.

In addition to the requirements for filing as mentioned above, the following shall apply: referendum petitions shall be on a form as prepared by the City Clerk and such petition forms may not be issued on any referendum matter until the same has been finally passed in accordance with Article 2, Section 2-9(a) of the Methuen Home Rule Charter. Failure to comply with the above procedure shall invalidate any petition otherwise proper in form and substance. (Approved by voters November 5, 1985; see resolution #1359).

Section 8-4. Submission of Proposed Measure to Voters.

The City Council may, of its own motion, and shall upon request of the School Committee if a measure originates with that committee and pertains to the affairs under its administration, submit to a vote of the voters for adoption or rejection at a general or special City election any proposed measure, or a proposition for the repeal or amendment of any measure, in the same manner and with the same force and effect as are hereby provided for submission on petition.

Section 8-5. Measures with Conflicting Provisions.

If two or more proposed measures passed at the same election contain conflicting provisions, only the one receiving the greater number of affirmative votes shall take effect.

Section 8-6. Recall Petitions.

(a) Who Can Be Recalled - The holder of any elective City office may be recalled therefrom by the voters as herein provided.

(b) Recall Petition - Any one hundred fifty voters may file with the City Clerk an affidavit containing the name of the officer sought to be recalled and a statement of the grounds for the recall. The City Clerk shall thereupon deliver to said voters making the affidavit copies of petition blanks demanding such recall printed forms of which he shall keep available. The blanks shall be issued by the City Clerk with his signature and the official seal attached hereto. They shall be dated, shall be addressed to the City Council and shall contain the names of all persons to whom they are issued, the name of the person whose recall is sought, the grounds of recall as stated in the affidavit and shall demand the election of a successor in the said office. A copy of the petition shall be entered in a record book to be kept in the office of the City Clerk. The recall petition shall be returned and filed with the City Clerk within sixty days after the filing of the affidavit, and shall have been signed by at least fifty per cent of the number of voters of the City who have voted in the last preceding local election, or in the case of a district councilman, of the district, who shall add to their signatures the street and number, if any, of their residences. The City Clerk shall within twenty-four hours of receipt submit the petition to the registrars of voters and the registrars shall forthwith certify thereon the number of signatures which are names of voters.

(c) City Council's Action on Receiving Petition - If the petition shall be found and certified by the City Clerk to be sufficient, he shall submit the same with his certificate to the City Council without delay, and the City Council shall forthwith give written notice of the receipt of the certificate to the officer sought to be recalled and shall, if the officer does not resign within five days thereafter, order an election to be held on a date fixed by them not less than forty-five nor more than sixty days after the date of the City Clerk's certificate that a sufficient petition is filed; provided, however, that if any other City election is to occur within sixty days after the date of the certificate, the city council shall postpone the holding of the recall election to the date of such other election. If a vacancy occurs in said office after a recall election has been ordered, the election shall nevertheless proceed as provided in this section.

(d) Nomination of Candidates - Any officer sought to be removed may be a candidate to succeed himself, and unless he requests otherwise in writing, the City Clerk shall place his name on the ballot without nomination. The nomination of other candidates, the publication of the warrant for the removal election, and the conduct of the same, shall all be in accordance with the provisions of law relating to elections, unless otherwise provided in this section.

(e) Incumbent Holds Office Until Election – The incumbent shall continue to perform the duties of his office until the recall election. If then re-elected, he shall continue in office for the remainder of his unexpired term, subject to recall as before, except as provided in this section. If not re-elected in the recall election, he shall be deemed removed upon the qualifica-tion of his successor, who shall hold office during the unexpired term. If the successor fails to qualify within five days after receiving notification of his election, the incumbent shall thereupon be deemed removed and the office vacant.

(f) Propositions on Ballot - Ballots used in a recall election shall submit the following propositions in the order indicated:

For the recall of (name of officer)

Against the recall of (name of officer)

Immediately at the right of each proposition there shall be a square in which the voter, by making a cross mark (X), may vote for either of the said propositions. Under the proposition shall appear the word "Candidates", the directions to voters required by Section 42 of Chapter 54 of the General Laws, and beneath this, names of candidates nominated as here- inbefore provided. If a majority of the votes cast upon the question of recall is in the affirmative, the candidate receiving the highest number of votes shall be declared elected. If a majority of votes on the question is in the negative, the ballots for candidates need not be counted.

(g) Re-appointment of Person Recalled - No person who has been recalled from an office, or who has resigned from office while recall proceedings were pending against him, shall be appointed to any city office within two years after such recall or such resignation.