It is TIME to clean this county up. Folks, please, get involved and get informed. It has been so corrupt for so long some may feel there is no hope for us. Not so! As long as you have breath and a mind that thinks, as long as you have have a firm sense of right and wrong, it is never to late. As a matter of fact, there isn’t a better time than now.
A Report by JIM ARNOLD
As a long-time supporter of and volunteer for the Citizens of Delaware County for Property Tax Repeal , I took time off from my job to attend the election board hearing at 11 a.m. Jan. 22.
It was a case that had started Dec. 18, when Joe Evans, president of East Central Indiana Building Trades, filed a complaint with the Delaware County Election Board alleging the Citizens of Delaware County for Property Tax Repeal overstepped its bounds by publicly endorsing candidates in a full-page ad Nov. 3 in The Star Press. Evans alleged the CDCPTR is prohibited by state law from spending money to influence an election because it is incorporated as a non-profit organization and not as a political action committee.
The Election Board members were Phil Nichols, Steve Craycraft and Mark Delgado, who was filling in for Tom Bennington. Chris Hiatt represented the CDCPTR. Noticeably absent was Evans.
My first clue that we had taken a wrong turn on the road to due process came when CDCPTR President Chris Hiatt suggested Evans should be present to defend the serious claims that he had levied, to which Phil Nichols casually noted that it was not mandatory for him to attend the hearing. Hiatt further protested that even though the claim was filed on Dec. 18, the notice of the complaint was not delivered to him until Jan. 14, just 20 hours before the initial hearing. Hiatt further protested the actual complaint was not included in the mailing, but was handed to him at the hearing on Jan. 15. Subsequently, Nichols generously allowed Hiatt seven days to research and prepare his defense.
Nichols used the holidays to explain the late delivery of the paperwork and suggested that the handling of the complaint was similar to other comparable complaints.
The next hint that due process was not on the agenda came when Nichols interrupted Hiatt mid-sentence in one of his attempts to “move the meeting forward.” Nichols noted it is the responsibility of the election board to enforce the election statutes. Nichols suggested he likes to see people from both parties participate in the election process, but he wants people to follow the guidelines. Nichols also clarified that the hearing was not a trial, and that the options available were to resolve the accusation there or forward it to the prosecutor.
Hiatt asserted that the CDCPTR is a corporation not a Political Action Committee, to which Nichols suggested that perhaps CDCPTR should be a PAC since they had placed an advertisement endorsing political candidates. To this, Hiatt said the CDCPTR had violated no statutes and that it was not up to Nichols to determine what kind of organization the CDCPTR should be.
Hiatt further clarified that the sanctions sought by Evans were not relevant as the CDCPTR payment to The Star Press for the advertisement was clearly an expenditure, and not a contribution.
Finally, Hiatt cautioned the hearing of a complaint seeking economic sanctions is subject to code IC-4-21.5, which sets stringent guidelines similar to a trial with injunctive relief and due process. Hiatt demanded the Election Board restore the rights the group had been denied in the hearing. There was no discovery, no judge, no opportunity to face the accuser, and no due process. Hiatt then admonished the Election Board that they were acting illegally.
In spite of what I considered to be a sound defense of the charges, Nichols and Craycraft voted to pass the case to Delaware County Prosecutor Mark McKinney for investigation. Attorney Mark Delgado agreed with Hiatt’s interpretation of the statute and voted against forwarding the case to the prosecutor’s office.
Earlier that same day, Hiatt had filed a complaint against the East Central Indiana Building Trades in connection with their political ad that also appeared in the Nov. 3 edition of The Star Press. The board adjourned the meeting without hearing that complaint.