Pivotal moment tonight for Trustee Taletha Coles
Will the Fairfield Twp. Board follow through, start process to oust trustee? Public hearing’s today. Plus, Day 2 of post-Roe special session at Statehouse. And community rallies for the Barrett family
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Mixed bag this morning …
PIVOTAL MOMENT TONIGHT FOR FAIRFIELD TOWNSHIP TRUSTEE TALETHA COLES
UPDATE, 10:30 a.m. Wednesday: Tonight's meeting to vote on the Fairfield Township trustee's ouster is back on, after board members initially announced it would be postponed, due to a death in the family for Taletha Coles' attorney. Board president Perry Schnarr said he’s not open to delaying this public hearing and vote. Here’s the initial story that went out this morning …
After three years of tussling over spending records, accusations of obstinance and defiance, not to mention an ongoing state police investigation and state audits, the Fairfield Township Board tonight is poised to be the first in Indiana to use a new process designed to dump trustees not living up to their duties.
The three-member board will hold a special meeting, including a public hearing, that could end with Fairfield Township Trustee Taletha Coles defending why she shouldn’t be ousted from her position before her term is up at the end of 2022.
The move comes after a new law, inspired in part by Coles’ performance since being elected in 2018 and passed by the Indiana General Assembly during the 2022 session, went into effect July 1. This law is designed to take on no-shows and trustees for “refusing or neglecting to perform the official duties.”
During a meeting in early July, board members discussed that booting Coles would take some effort – the law requires votes by the township board, county commissioners and the county council, followed by a hearing and ruling in Tippecanoe Circuit Court – and could shave just weeks off her term. (Coles received 11% of the vote in a failed re-election bid in the May Democratic primary.)
But they seemed adamant then to follow through, given Coles’ continued reluctance to share township financial records, credit card receipts and other operational plans with the board. Board members said that given Coles’ track record – and given that the state legislature handed them a solution specifically designed for their situation – they weren’t sure they wanted to give the trustee any extra time in office, no matter how much that was.
According to a timeline provided by county officials, provided the township board passed a resolution by the end of July, the county commissioners could hold a hearing Aug. 1, with a vote Aug. 15; the county council could hold a public hearing Sept. 13 with a vote on Oct. 11; a court hearing could come by Oct. 27. That schedule doesn’t account for any possible special meetings.
Coles’ attorney, Alexandra Hawkins, told the board that the evidence they had might get through the county boards but that it wouldn’t stand up in court.
(In case you’re new here, this is how the conversation played out earlier this month, when the Fairfield Township Board signaled that this was about to happen. The headline that day on a story that included a laundry list of accusations against Coles over the past three years: “Fairfield trustee’s ouster defense: OK, but what has she done wrong lately?”)
Tonight, we’ll see whether the township board takes that first step.
Here’s a look at the resolution the township board is expected to consider:
IF YOU GO: The Fairfield Township Board will meet at 5 p.m. Wednesday at the Tippecanoe County Public Library’s McAllister Room, 627 South St. in Lafayette. The meeting will include a public hearing on a resolution that would start the process to oust Trustee Taletha Coles.
DAY 2 AT THE SPECIAL SESSION
An Indiana Senate committee on Tuesday tightened what was an already proposed near-total ban on abortion, during the second day of a special session revolving around a post-Roe review of the state’s abortion laws. The bill heads next to the full Senate.
Here are some key reads from reporters at the Statehouse this week:
AP reporter Tom Davies and Arleigh Rodgers had this overview of the Senate committee vote, testimony at the Statehouse and the crowds gathered to watch and chant. Here’s their account.
Indiana Capital Chronicle reporter Casey Smith took a look at proposed amendments that did and didn’t survive the Senate committee vote, along with the prospects for Senate Bill 1 as it heads to the full Senate. Here’s her account.
Indianapolis Star reporter Rachel Fradette looked at the proposed end to sales tax on diapers, part of a House bill that also includes a package of spending and tax credits related to prenatal care, adoptions and dependents. Here’s that story. WBAA reporter Ben Thorp had this look at the same bill, as it cleared a House committee Tuesday.
Indianapolis Star reporter Ko Lyn Cheang had this scene Tuesday inside the Statehouse: “Anti-abortion rally calls for outright ban.”
COMMUNITY RALLIES FOR THE BARRETT FAMILY AFTER FIRE
The story of Nick Bostic – a Lafayette man who stopped his car to race into a burning house in the 2200 block Union Street, helping to save a child’s life with a dramatic leap from a second-floor window – has brought an outpouring of donations to the tune of more than $500,000, at last count on a GoFundMe account made on his behalf.
A new account for the family of David and Tiera Barrett, who lost their home that night, has quietly raised more than $22,000, as of Tuesday night.
Organized by David Barrett’s sister, Ebony Barrett, and others, the goal is to raise $100,000 to continue to help the family get settled after the fire and the rush of national attention. Ebony Barrett said the hope was to get her brother’s family a replacement for the family van and in position for longer-term housing for a large family.
During a bowling event Monday – one where bowling was provided free by Market Square Lanes, with all donations going to the fire recovery – David Barrett, an assistant principal at Lafayette Tecumseh Junior High, said the community already had rallied immediately after the fire, with clothes, beds and more. He and Tiera said the family was grateful for the community’s help as they sorted out what would come next.
WHAT YOU CAN DO:
Here’s a link to the GoFundMe effort called Band Together for the Barretts.
Digby’s Pub and Patio, on Fourth Street across from the county courthouse, will host a night of local acts, from 5 p.m. to close Friday, Aug. 5, to help raise money for the Barrett family. The show will be all ages, on Digby’s patio.
FOR MORE: Here are stories about the fire, the rescue and the national media attention that followed.
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