The Herald Bulletin

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Local News

January 30, 2013

New County Council hopes lawsuit will be dismissed

Firings last year prompted dispute

ANDERSON, Ind. — With an improved working relationship with the Board of County Commissioners, Madison County Council members hope the lawsuit that divided local government for much of 2012 will quickly and quietly recede into obscurity.

The council’s new president, John Bostic, D-District 3, said the fiscal body moved quickly earlier this month to restore jobs cuts in the Information Technology Services and Central Records departments, and in voter registration and the commissioners’ offices.

“Those were the jobs that the council wasn’t giving the commissioners,” which prevented them from doing their work, Bostic said. “As the president of the council, I would like to see the lawsuit go away.”

That would be the best thing for county government and Madison County taxpayers.

“We have spent a lot of money on the battle between the council and commissioners, money that should be going to the people of this county,” Bostic added.

The commissioners filed suit against the council last April voting 4-3 to eliminate five of nine positions in the IT department as well as cutting other county jobs. The previously Republican controlled council said it made those cuts to close a budget shortfall.

Commissioners said in court pleadings that the council’s decisions harmed public safety and encroached on their authority to function as county executive.

In late August, Boone Superior Court Judge Matthew Kincaid, who was appointed to hear the case, ruled that regardless of the council’s motives, it was acting within its state constitutional discretion in cutting the county budget and setting the number of employees. If voters disagreed with those decisions they could give voice to their displeasure at the ballot box in November.

And voters did just that. They turned out two of the council’s most conservative members and gave Democrats a majority.

One issue in the case remained unresolved, however, an allegation that the council violated Indiana’s open door law. That assertion was raised after Bostic said he was informed by his Republican colleagues that the firing decisions had been made before the meeting.

Council members denied the charge, and then raised a number of counterclaims.

They claimed the commissioners also committed an open meeting violation, and improperly transferred money between accounts without council authorization.

“I don’t see any reason for it to linger on,” said Rick Gardner, R-District 4. He said Kincaid’s decision vindicated the council. Moreover, if commissioners don’t ask for dismissal, they would eventually lose that part of case, he added. “I don’t want to see it continue to eat up money.”

Commissioners have said privately that they are also looking to put the lawsuit behind them and move forward.

Find Stu Hirsch on Facebook and @StuHirsch on Twitter, or call 640-4861.

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