It has been nearly ten years since the citizens of Rome collectively elected a mayor, a clerk, or village council to govern the small village of 92 located near the Ohio River.
Although the citizens of this small village have not elected anyone to serve village government in years, there are office holders that have been appointed to fill the terms of these offices. According to the Adams County Board of Elections, Kelly Frost was appointed to the position of mayor. This appointment expires on December 31, 2019. Carla Renee Brown was appointed to the position of village clerk. This term expired on March 31, 2019. Daniel Hunt, Nancy Hunt, and Amanda Markwell were appointed to the vacant positions of village council. These appointed terms expire on December 31, 2019.
In the most recent general election, the mayor and two village council seats were on the ballot for the election. According to the Adams County Board of Elections, no person filled for these positions. The two vacant village seats listed on the 2019 General Election Ballot are set to expire on December 31, 2021.
According to the Ohio Revised Code (ORC), when a vacancy in the village council membership occurs, the council has thirty days from the date to the fill vacancy. If the council fails to fill the appointment within this period, the mayor shall appoint someone to fill the vacancy. The ORC also states that if a vacancy exists in the office of the village clerk, the village council may pass, by two-thirds vote, an ordinance or resolution appointing a village fiscal officer and the change will take effect on the effect date of the ordinance or resolution. According to the Ohio Auditor, a member of village council shall be elected to president pro tempore at the first January meeting each year, to serve as president in the mayor’s absence. If the mayor becomes permanently absent from office, the president pro tempore fills that office until a successor can be elected to the unexpired term. The successor will be elected at the first general election that occurs more than forty days after the vacancy, unless the year after such election, a new mayor would normally be elected. In that case, the president pro tempore would serve the unexpired term.
So, what does this mean for the 92 residents of Rome? On January 1st, the Village of Rome will not have an elected or appointed mayor, a clerk, or a council. Since there will be no one to govern, there will be no one to make appointments to fill a vacant seat. With less than 40 days left until the appointed positions expire, current office holders could appoint two people to the vacant seats. It would then be up to the two to appoint a mayor and four other councilmen.
Many small villages that have faced troubles around the state have chosen to dissolve. In 2014, Cherry Fork was dissolved. According to the Ohio Township Association, there are two statutory provisions that allow villages to dissolve. The provisions are contained in Ohio Revised Code Title 7. Villages may surrender their corporate powers upon the petition to the legislative authority of the village of at least forty percent of the electors, to be determined by the number voting at the last regular municipal election. An affirmative vote of a majority of such electors at a special election, which shall be provided for by the legislative authority, and conducted, canvassed, and the result certified and made known at the regular municipal elections. If the result of the election is in favor of such surrender, the village clerk shall certify the result to the secretary of state and the county recorder, who shall record it in their respective offices. Then the corporate powers of such a village shall cease.
A forced dissolution may also happen. A forced dissolution process commences if the auditor of state finds, in an audit report issued under of section 117.11 of the Revised Code that a village has: a population of one hundred fifty persons or less (determined either at the last preceding federal decennial census or according to population estimates certified by the department of development between decennial censuses); and consists of less than two square miles; and the above determinations are made by the auditor of state, the auditor shall send a certified copy of the report together with a letter to the attorney general requesting the attorney general to institute legal action to dissolve the village. Within twenty days of receipt of the auditor of state’s report and letter, the attorney general may file a legal action in the court of common pleas on behalf of the state to request the dissolution of the village that is the subject of the audit report. If a legal action is filed, the court shall hold a hearing within ninety days after the date the attorney general files the legal action with the court. If the court finds that the village meets these requirements, it shall order the dissolution of the village and provide for the surrender of corporate powers in accordance with section 703.21 of the Revised Code.
In 2016, the state auditor’s office ruled the Village of Rome “unauditable.”
According to Cincinnati.com, the village’s last financial audit covering 2010 and 2011 revealed Rome had a small surplus of money each year, and enough funds to cover at least three times what the village paid out in expenses each year.
Rome was laid out in 1835 by William Stout. The village was named after Rome, Italy, according to local history. While the village is officially named Rome, it is often called “Stout” even the community’s post office is named “Stout,” not “Rome.” A post office called Stout has been in operation since 1893.