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Retired state Supreme Court justice among judges in play for Fairfield trustee ouster case
Plus, Election Board sets early voting sites as first day of voting is a week off. Debate tonight between Campbell, Duttlinger in Indiana House District 26. And how to catch LFD’s fire safety show
Thanks to the West Lafayette Public Library for sponsoring today’s edition. The library will host a pair of events on back-to-back Saturdays on homes designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. The first will be Saturday, Oct. 8, featuring Scott W. Perkins, senior director of preservation and collections at Fallingwater, a Frank Lloyd Wright home in Mill Run, Pennsylvania. The free lecture, sponsored by the Cornelius O’Brien Lecture Series and the Indiana University Committee on Historic Preservation, begins at 6 p.m. at the library, 208 W. Columbia St., and will be livestreamed on the West Lafayette Public Library’s Facebook page.
JUDGE STEPS ASIDE IN FAIRFIELD TRUSTEE OUSTER CASE, BUT KEEPS MATTER IN TIPPECANOE COUNTY
Fairfield Township Trustee Taletha Coles’ attempt to move her case – one that could remove from office – to a courtroom out of Tippecanoe County didn’t work Tuesday.
But during a preliminary session on the matter Tuesday morning, Tippecanoe Circuit Judge Sean Persin said he would step aside in favor of a special judge from outside the county to oversee a hearing that would mark the fourth and final step in a process to oust Coles that started in July.
Alexandra Hawkins, Coles’ attorney, said the trustee didn’t believe she could get a fair hearing from a judge in Tippecanoe County and pressed to move the case. She argued that statute backed Coles getting a hearing outside Tippecanoe County because of a state law that says a judge shall change the venue of any civil action if the county is a party to the suit. (County attorney Doug Masson countered that, arguing that the county didn’t have a claim in the court filing, but instead was acting on behalf of the township.)
Persin declined the change of venue, saying that would take more time than in the state process to remove a township official.
By the end of the afternoon, Hawkins and county attorney Doug Masson had agreed to Persin’s suggestion to reach out to recently retired Indiana Supreme Court Justice Steven David, now working as a senior judge, to see whether he was open to taking the case.
If David isn’t open, the judge offered a list of other senior judges from White and Clinton counties, with a backup plan to randomly pick a sitting judge from Carroll or White counties to hear and rule on the case.
The judge was expected to set a two-hour hearing for the afternoon of Oct. 18.
“Another stall tactic, that’s all it is,” Perry Schnarr, Fairfield Township Board president, said after Tuesday’s hearing. “Especially for something that’s inevitable. She did what she did. And she knows she did what she did.”
Coles, a Democrat, is accused of neglecting her duties since elected in November 2018, including refusing to submit to the state board-approved budgets that tried to rein in spending. The township board and several former employees presented evidence that Coles was prone to spending sprees, using township money for questionable purchases for the township offices and for her personal use.
Using a new state law inspired in part by Coles’ situation, the Fairfield Township Board – three Democrats – initiated a four-stage process to dump Coles before her before her term is up at the end of 2022. The Tippecanoe County commissioners and the Tippecanoe County Council voted unanimously to back the township board’s claims.
State law sets the final stop as a court hearing in Tippecanoe Circuit Court.
Hawkins, appearing with Coles Tuesday via Zoom, told Persin that she planned to bring witnesses to counter the claims made against Coles before the township and county boards. (Coles and Hawkins have been absent from several of the meetings, including the votes of the county council and county commissioners.)
According to state law, the court has 20 days to hold a hearing and make a decision from the date the county filed the petition. That was Sept. 29, two days after the county council voted on the matter.
After Tuesday’s hearing, several former township employees commiserated over another step in a process they’d been pressing local officials to pursue in recent years.
“How much more?” Kelli Stump, a former employee now running as a Republican for a township board seat. “I mean, when will this be over?”
For more on the case, here are recent accounts:
EARLY VOTING SITES SET, ABSENTEE BALLOTS UP AHEAD OF NOV. 8 ELECTION
Requests for absentee ballots in Tippecanoe County were running roughly double what they were four years ago, during the most recent mid-term election, County Clerk Julie Roush told the election board Tuesday.
Roush said more than 1,000 voters had requested absentee ballots, so far, for the Nov. 8 election. That was up from roughly 500 absentee ballots during the 2018 general election.
“The number of absentee ballots is unprecedented for an election like this,” Roush said.
Roush told the board she expected a larger turnout this year than the election four years ago. The 2018 general election in Tippecanoe County had 52,072 voters, or 47% of the 110,715 registered voters at the time.
The prediction came during a pre-election public test of the county’s MicroVote machines, accounting for a randomly selected 5% of those that will be used Nov. 8 and during early voting. The board determined the machines did what they were supposed to do.
EARLY VOTING SITES: Early voting opens Oct. 12. Here’s a list of times, dates and locations.
Oct. 12-14: 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m., Tippecanoe County Office Building, 20 N. Third St.
Oct. 17-21: 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m., Tippecanoe County Office Building, 20 N. Third St.
Oct. 22: 10 a.m.-1 p.m., Ivy Hall, Ivy Tech Community College, 3101 S. Creasy Lane, Lafayette; and Wabash Township Fire Station No. 2, 51 S. Newman Road, West Lafayette
Oct. 24-28: 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m., Tippecanoe County Office Building, 20 N. Third St.
Oct. 25: 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Tippecanoe County 4-H Fairgrounds, 1400 Teal Road, Lafayette.
Oct. 26: 10 a.m.-2 p.m., Mackey Arena, East Entrance, 900 John Wooden Drive, West Lafayette.
Oct. 29: 8 a.m.-3 p.m., Tippecanoe County Office Building, 20 N. Third St.
Oct. 29: 9 a.m.-1 p.m., Otterbein United Methodist Church, 405 E. Oxford St., Otterbein; West Point Fire Station, 4949 Indiana 25, West Point; and Clarks Hill Christian Church, 9510 Pearl St., Clarks Hill.
Oct. 31-Nov. 4: 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m., Tippecanoe County Office Building, 20 N. Third St.
Nov. 2-5: noon-6 p.m., Wea Ridge Baptist Church, 1051 E. County Road 430 South, Lafayette; Eastside Assembly of God Church, 6121 E. County Road 50 South, Lafayette; Faith West Community Center, 1920 Northwestern Ave., West Lafayette; and Northend Community Center, 2000 Elmwood Ave., Lafayette.
Nov. 5: 8 a.m.-3 p.m., Tippecanoe County Office Building, 20 N. Third St.
Nov. 7: 8 a.m.-noon, Tippecanoe County Office Building, 20 N. Third St.
ELECTION DAY SITES: The county will have 16 polling places open 6 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 8. Voters in Tippecanoe County may vote at any vote center. Note: The county will not use Faith East Community Center, one of the more popular vote centers, due to construction.
Battle Ground Fire Station No. 1, 112 North St., Battle Ground
Tippecanoe Volunteer Fire Station No. 2, 448 W. County Road 650 North, West Lafayette
Margerum City Hall, 222 N. Chauncey Ave., West Lafayette
Krach Leadership Center, Purdue University, 1198 Third St., West Lafayette
Wabash Township Fire Station No. 1, 2899 Klondike Road, West Lafayette
Lafayette City Hall, 20 N. Sixth St.
Northend Community Center, 2000 Elmwood Ave., Lafayette
Lafayette Fire Station No. 5, 750 N. Creasy Lane, Lafayette
Eastside Assembly of God, 6121 E. County Road 50 South, Lafayette
Tippecanoe County 4-H Fairgrounds, 1400 Teal Road, Lafayette
River City Community Center, 2842 Old U.S. 231, Lafayette
Evangelical Covenant Church, 3600 S. Ninth St., Lafayette
Wea Ridge Baptist Church, 1051 E. County Road 430 South
Gathering Point Church, 7201 Wesleyan Drive, Dayton
Stockwell United Methodist Church, 6941 Church St., Stockwell
BALLOTS, VOTER REGISRATION, ETC.: Who will be on your ballot? Are you registered to vote? If not, how can you register to vote? That and more, available at Indiana’s voter portal, Indianavoters.in.gov.
This and that …
TONIGHT: INDIANA HOUSE DISTRICT 26 DEBATE ON WBAA: As far as I can tell, this likely will be the lone, scheduled debate for any of the seven General Assembly seats with districts in Tippecanoe County. Democratic incumbent Chris Campbell and Republican challenger Fred Duttlinger will debate at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 5, in an event hosted by WBAA radio. The live, half-hour debate will be moderated by WFYI reporter Emilie Syberg and me. Listen on WBAA-105.9 FM, WBAA-920AM or wbaa.org.
THURSDAY: TOWNSHIP TRUSTEE DEBATES: The League of Women Voters and WLFI-TV18 will host a pair of debates Thursday featuring candidates for Fairfield and Wabash township trustee. Candidates for Wabash Township trustee – Democrat Angel Valentin and Republican Eric Hoppenjans – and Fairfield Township trustee – Democrat Monica Casanova and Republican April O’Brien – will debate from 5-6 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 6, at the Lafayette Jefferson High School auditorium, 1801 S. 18th St.. Those debates will be broadcast on WLFI’s website. That event will be open to the public, as well.
MIKE THE MATCH, YOU KNOW WHAT YOU ARE: My insider at Sunnyside Intermediate School informed me she spied “Mike the Match” roaming outside the school auditorium Tuesday. One grader-school called him out in the hallway: “You’re mean.” It’s good to see that some things never change. Here’s a quick bit I had a few weeks ago, ahead of the Lafayette Fire Department’s night family-friendly, public performance Wednesday:
The Lafayette Fire Department will have a free public performance of its Fire Prevention Show – the one that tours each year to Greater Lafayette schools – at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 5, at Sunnyside Intermediate School, 530 N. 26th St. in Lafayette. The show, designed for grade-schoolers, includes an hour of songs and skits about fire prevention, seat belt safety, the phone number to dial in an emergency, what to do if your clothes catch on fire and the importance of having smoke detectors and home escape plans – as LFD says, “just to name a few.” (I’m not promising anything, but when we last had a grade-schooler, one of the hits was, “Don’t play with fire/Don’t ever play with fire,” played to the tune of Billy Ray Cyrus’ “Achy Breaky Heart.” And, man, did she get infuriated with Mike the Match.) The free show is open to all ages, including parents and guardians.
Thanks to the West Lafayette Public Library for sponsoring today’s edition. For more about the library’s lectures on homes designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, scroll to the top of the page or check and check the West Lafayette Public Library’s Facebook page.
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