There is an interesting piece of legislation currently under consideration by a conference committee of lawmakers.
For most people, when they don’t show up for work over extended periods of time, without just cause, the end result is termination.
But removing an elected official for not performing his or her duties becomes a task that in most instances can only be determined in a court of law.
By state law, elected officials only need to report for work one day a year to receive their salaries.
Fortunately, most elected county officials in Indiana take their positions seriously and do the job entrusted to them by residents.
The bill introduced in the Indiana House was a result of a situation in Lake County, where the recorder rarely turned up for work.
Locally there was a similar situation when Tim Long, a member of the Anderson Community School Board, missed more than three years of meetings.
It deprived voters of their representation on the school board and although it was discussed, no legal action was taken for his removal.
Currently, Madison County Councilman Steve Sumner has missed four consecutive meetings of the council, since other councilmen sought his resignation in January.
There have been discussions by some council members to try and remove Sumner, who is facing criminal charges.
The legislation being considered by state lawmakers will outline a way to remove an elected county official.
This all sounds reasonable, but as the old adage states, “the devil is in the details.”
The proposed bill excludes county council members and members of the Board of County Commissioners from the removal process.
It would seem logical that if the legislation should apply to some elected officials, it should include all county, city, town and township officials.
Why the legislation doesn’t include council members and commissioners is puzzling.
So the measure authorizes a super-majority of county commissioners, and a super-majority of county council members, to declare vacant an elected county position when the officeholder fails to come to work, without explanation or justification, for an entire month.
The only reason for removal is for a failure to report to work for at least a month. Again, interesting wording, since most elected officials are expected to work on a daily basis. Most county commissioners meet twice a month and the council once a month. But once the vacancy is confirmed, the county’s precinct committeemen of the same political party as the removed official would select a person to finish the officeholder’s term.
It’s encouraging that lawmakers want to establish a clear method to remove elected officials that don’t perform their assigned tasks.
But it should go further to include all elected officials.
Maybe the conference committee will expand the offices included, or at least consider a summer study committee to determine if the absenteeism problem is greater than known at the state level.