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Murrysville residents, not municipality, can circulate petitions for ballot inclusion

| Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014, 9:01 p.m.

Murrysville residents will be responsible for circulating any petition regarding drilling leases under the community park, despite information released earlier this month by the Westmoreland County Election Bureau.

Under the municipal home charter, residents can circulate a petition to put a referendum on the November ballot regarding any enacted ordinance, solicitor George Kotjarapoglus. However, some residents who called the election bureau for direction were told that the municipality had already filed for a referendum.

“They were told they could not do it — that we were doing it,” Councilman Jeff Kepler said. “There seems to be some confusion between the election bureau.”

Jim Montini, director of the election bureau, said there was no confusion. Murrysville officials had inquired about placing a referendum on the ballot, Montini said. Once the county solicitor realized that Murrysville is governed by a home-rule charter, the county's involvement was nil, Montini said.

That charter explains that residents are permitted to circulate a petition to put a yes-no referendum question on an election ballot if it is in response to an act of legislation.

“It's no question that the charter authorizes it,” Kotjarapoglus said. “It's nothing that we prepare and circulate on our own. It has to be a citizen's initiative.”

Resident Linda Marts said she initially was told that there was a referendum question filed by the municipality but later received a call saying that wasn't true.

Murrysville officials said they agree that the process is complicated, but they are prohibited from taking the lead.

“It would be easier for us to initiate it,” Councilman Dave Perry said. “But the charter is pretty clear.”

Montini said residents interested in circulating a petition should rely on the municipality for direction.

Daveen Rae Kurutz is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8627, or dkurutz@tribweb.com.

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