Butler County Judge S. Michael Yeager ruled Wednesday that a referendum passed by Center Township voters in November, which reduced the number of township supervisors from five to three, is unconstitutional.
Specifically, Yeager granted an injunction filed on behalf of three township supervisors arguing that the referendum’s passage violated the state constitution by removing three supervisors from office — Ed Latuska, Philip Wulff and Ken Frenchak — before the end of their appointed terms and without cause or due process.
The ruling nullifies the referendum, which would have emptied all five current supervisor seats and allowed township voters to choose three Democratic nominees and three Republican nominees in the May 21 primary. Instead, residents now will vote to fill just two seats, those vacated by supervisor Chairman Ron Flatt and Vice Chairman Andrew Erie.
Their terms are done at the end of this year.
Beverly Schenck, a former township supervisor who championed the referendum, told Yeager that the injunction is not a challenge to the constitutionality of the referendum, but a challenge to the will of township voters.
“The township is merely an interested bystander to an action between its citizens and its elected officials,” she said.
Township solicitor Michael Gallagher reminded Yeager that “(township residents) voted in the expectation that the individuals they elected would serve out the full extent of their terms ...,” Gallagher said.
Wulff and Latuska will remain in office through the end of 2017 and Frenchak through 2015.