By Ken de la Bastide
The Herald Bulletin
---- — ANDERSON — The former superintendent of the Elwood Parks Department has filed a civil lawsuit against Mayor Ron Arnold, former Police Chief Sam Hanna and the city of Elwood for allegedly violating his constitutional rights.
Daniel Nance had been the superintendent of the park department for several years, serving under several different mayors.
He held that position when Arnold was elected mayor in 2011 and took office on Jan. 1, 2012. By March 2013, the working relationship had eroded and Nance was let go.
Nance was terminated in 2012 over an allegation of missing funds. The issue had been noted in an Indiana State Board of Accounts audit. Nance was subsequently criminally charged and found not guilty last November of official misconduct and failure to deposit public funds.
The lawsuit was initially filed in Madison Circuit Court Division 1 in February. Last Monday, a request to transfer the case to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana was filed. Elwood City Attorney Jim Wilson did not return telephone calls seeking comment. Nance referred questions to his attorney.
The lawsuit comes as Arnold is being investigated by the Indiana State Police and FBI concerning the alleged use of campaign funds for personal expenses and official misconduct.
Also, Hanna resigned as police chief in February. He is one of three candidates seeking the Republican Party nomination for Madison County Sheriff.
The lawsuit alleges that Nance was arrested unlawfully by Hanna in April of last year.
Court documents contend that Arnold and Hanna facilitated or assisted in Nance's arrest without probable cause and intended to retaliate against him in disregard to his constitutional right against unreasonable search and seizure.
The lawsuit also claims Arnold, Hanna and the city of Elwood violated his constitutional right to free speech and alleges that the defendants committed conspiracy, defamation, malicious prosecution, wrongful discharge, invasion of privacy because of unfavorable publicity and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Nance filed a tort claim against the city of Elwood in January 2013 seeking $300,000 in compensation for damage done to his reputation. A tort claim provides notice to a governmental entity before a lawsuit can be filed.
The lawsuit alleges that in the fall of 2011, then-mayoral candidate Arnold requested the use of a shelter in Calloway Park. Nance told Arnold the shelter was unavailable and arrangements were made for Arnold to use a ballfield.
At some point, Arnold learned the shelter house had been reserved by his opponent, Fred Mort, and believed Nance was showing favoritism. During a conversation, Arnold allegedly told Nance, "I will remember this."
After Arnold was elected in 2012 he reappointed Nance to the position of superintendent of the parks department. Nance was suspended without pay on March 30.
An audit of the parks department was conducted in June or July 2012. Hanna allegedly made public “significant discrepancies” in the audit. At that point, the audit was still confidential because it hadn’t been completed, the lawsuit claims.
In August 2012, Nance rejected a settlement offer from Elwood that would have allowed him to return to work. When the audit was released by the state there was no allegation that Nance had misappropriated or stolen funds.
Follow Ken de la Bastide on Twitter @KendelaBastide, or call 640-4863.
What's next Daniel Nance, who formerly served as superintendent of the Elwood Parks Department, has sued the city of Elwood, Mayor Ron Arnold and former Chief of Police Sam Hanna in a federal civil lawsuit. Arnold, through his attorney, has requested a jury trial. Hanna has asked for more time to file a response and set an initial response date of April 14.