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Trustee Taletha Coles files for re-election, as state reveals records it took from Fairfield Twp. for audit
Plus, a second bill targeting township trustees survives to see second half of ’22 General Assembly session
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COLES FILES FOR RE-ELECTION, AS STATE REVEALS TOWNSHIP RECORDS IT HAS
What exactly the State Board of Accounts is looking for in Fairfield Township Trustee Taletha Coles’ financial records isn’t clear.
But now we know what state agency in its hands – and it’s quite a bit, a state official said Tuesday – as the State Board of Accounts continues an audit of the township books in August 2021.
Meanwhile, Coles – in a running feud with her board and the subject of two bills in the Statehouse directly tied to her management of the township office – filed Tuesday to run for re-election, according to Tippecanoe County election office records.
That sets up a Democratic primary May 3 between Coles and township board members Monica Casanova and Rocky Hession.
First a significant piece of audit update …
Coles raised all sorts of speculation late last week when she sent notes to Fairfield Township Board Rocky Hession and lawyers for the Journal & Courier, saying she couldn’t fulfill their public records requests for financial records because she didn’t have them.
Here was her note, sent to Hession Friday:
“I returned to the office today after having Covid and found a letter from you. In response to your letter, all of my financials are at the SBOA office and will not be returned to me for 3-6 months. At the time of the returned Fairfield Township financial documents I will contact you and give you a time frame as to when the documents will be available for your review. Thank you and have a wonderful day.”
This week, Indiana State Police Sgt. Jeremy Piers said ISP was working with the State Board of Accounts and that the “SBOA is in possession of documents that were turned over by Fairfield Township.”
On Tuesday, Paul Lottes, general counsel for the State Board of Accounts, told Based in Lafayette that the state agency “took possession” of some township records on Jan. 11. He said it was part of the audit he confirmed in August.
Lottes said that “in an effort to avoid any confusion about the location of certain financial records of Fairfield Township,” he confirmed the State Board of Accounts had the following:
Vendor invoices to support disbursements
“We anticipate that we should be able to return the records to the township in March 2022,” Lottes said.
No other details about the audit were offered Tuesday. (The same was true when the audit started in August.)
Coles did not immediately return a message and a call for comment about the audit, her records or her re-election bid.
Coles, a Democrat in her final year of her first term as trustee, has rejected or ignored records requests from her township board and media outlets, as questions fester about her spending and accounting. (See: The Fairfield Township budget hearing, when she circled the table, swapping accusations. Video included.)
If you’re looking for a recap, here’s an account from the weekend that covers some of the high points, along with plenty of links for the details – including how Coles insists that how she runs the township affairs is her business, no one else’s.
SPEAKING OF TOWNSHIPS … ANOTHER BILL TARGETING TRUSTEES PASSES
The second of two bills inspired by the trustee woes in Wabash and Fairfield townships in the past year cleared the Indiana Senate Tuesday.
Senate Bill 304, co-sponsored by state Sen. Ron Alting, a Lafayette Republican, passed on a 36-12 vote Tuesday. The bill would make it easier for communities to oust a township trustee who proves to be a problem.
Sen. Rick Niemeyer, a Lowell Republican, and Alting touted the bill as a multi-stage approach to removing township trustees who didn’t show up to serve or were otherwise derelict in their duties.
The Senate bill is modeled after one signed into law in April 2021, targeting certain county elected officials – auditors, treasurers, recorders, surveyors and assessors – who were no-shows on their jobs. The law laid out a process for county commissioners to call for the elected official’s ouster. The county council also would need to agree. Then a judge would get final say whether the elected official was doing a poor enough job to lose their position. At each stage, the elected official accused has ways to defend themselves in public hearings or in court, according to the law. Senate Bill 304 would add another step, initiating the process with a majority vote of a township board.
Alting told senators that criminal charges caught up with Wabash Township Trustee Jennifer Teising. But he said the township should have had some other recourse as things went so badly with a trustee living far from her township. (I’d go deeper into that, but you know the story by now, right?)
The bill has been endorsed by the Indiana Township Association. Sen. Greg Taylor, an Indianapolis Democrat, raised warnings he brought up two weeks ago when the bill advanced out of a Senate committee. His point: If made law, it could be a step toward taking decisions about who should be in office out of the hands of the voters.
The measure faces its next test in the Indiana House during the second half of the General Assembly’s session.
Swapping sides, House Bill 1157, sponsored by state Rep. Chris Campbell, was approved on an 86-0 vote Jan. 20. The West Lafayette Democrat’s bill would force township trustees to submit township board-approved annual budgets to the state rather than letting budgets from the previous year roll over. Fairfield Township Trustee Taletha Coles ignored cuts in the 2021 budget and vowed to ignore them again in 2022. (Hence, the audit. See above.)
WINTER STORM, HELLO
Help me out here. Do I want to look outside at what the storm brought overnight? The National Weather Service was predicted more than 10 inches between now and early Friday.
The better question is: Did you get your vehicle off the street? Lafayette, West Lafayette and Purdue were stressing that Tuesday, with snow emergencies in the two cities and plow warnings on main campus roads.
Here are some quick ways into the maps and other details about the roads:
Lafayette’s snow routes: Click here.
Pro tip: As Lafayette Mayor Tony Roswarski was announcing the city’s snow emergency Tuesday, he suggested that residents hold off on shoveling sidewalks immediately Wednesday. He said that with the snow expected to come over two days, city plows likely would make several passes, pushing snow back up onto sidewalks. Duly noted.
Faith Church and Faith Biblical Counseling, not Lafayette Citizens for Freedom, have hired Indianapolis law firm Barnes and Thornburg as it tracks pieces of West Lafayette’s proposed ordinance that would ban conversion therapy. The edition sent Tuesday night was incorrect. The web version of that story has been corrected. In case you missed it in your inbox Tuesday night, here you go …
Thanks, again, to sponsor Little Engine Ventures for the help to make this edition possible. Click on the graphic below to learn more about their Lafayette-based businesses.
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