phil nichols

Delaware County Needs New Leadership

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The more I study the office of County Clerk, the more I realize the importance of the department and how it affects our daily lives both directly and indirectly.

You see, the office is more than performing marriages or routine distribution of fishing licenses. The County Clerk must prepare budget estimations for the operations of the office, courts and elections. In addition, the County Clerk must budget for out of county court expenses due to change of venue. It is imperative to have a clerk which both understands budgets and is fiscally responsible.

The Clerk must possess excellent administrative ability as the Clerk is responsible for receipts of and payment of all support monies for dependants. The Clerk files and maintains birth records, administers oaths to appointed officials, and maintains public records and laws. The administrative duties are too long to list without boring the reader to tears.

Although, I take  little exception to the current Clerk’s ability to administer the basic office duties, an extremely important aspect of this office is woefully lacking. Election duties…

The Clerk plays an important role in our election process.

The Clerk serves as ex officio and secretary of the County Election Board. The Clerk appoints other members to the County Election Board and receives filings of candidates seeking a public office. The Clerk is responsible for issuing certificates to the local candidates.

Current County Clerk, Steven Craycraft, has indicated his office has saved $8,000 when the office stopped outsourcing and returned the function back to in-house operations. (I believe he was referring to scanning of documents.)

However, as a Member of the Election Board which voted to send a misdemeanor violation to the prosecutors’ office more than likely offset any real savings. We all know the outcome of that case and how the Election Board blatantly used their power for selective political prosecution.

Lest anyone should believe this is just an isolated case, please allow me to spend time on describing how our Election Board and County Clerk have disregarded the very laws which were designed to instill confidence and protect our voting system.

In 2007, Mr. Craycraft and Mrs. Wenger agreed and initialed AVBs they both considered should be voided. Yet at the election board meeting, Mr. Craycraft did not show. An account of this incident was recorded on Larry Riley’s blog.

Wenger and Craycraft both initialed several absentee ballots that they agreed should be voided. Some of those ballots were ones mentioned above that the board eventually approved counting.
Craycraft’s convenient absence meant he couldn’t confirm Wenger’s explanation for voiding the ballots, which led the board to count them. blog 11-17-07

Another incident involving Commissioner John H. Brooke. Election Board meeting video.

The Election Board Has Lost Its Way by John H. Brooke“ The Delaware County Election Board under the leadership of Phil Nichols and Steve Craycraft has lost sight of its mission and purpose. The mission of any election board is to help conduct elections so that voters are confident the entire process is fair and honest. Delaware County’s Election Board has decided that its real purpose is to serve as a weapon to beat down political opponents under the guise of “protecting the election process.” Muncie Star Press Letter to Editor 2-8-09

Continuing on in the same spirit, we arrive at the most obvious and blatant disrespect and disregard for the legal and proper use of the Election Board. Do we need a refresher on how a citizen was prosecuted based upon his political views? I think we do.

Election board has no credibility
” It’s obvious, especially after Thursday’s vote to dismiss the complaint, that the election board, which has a sacred public duty to ensure elections are free from fraud, is not capable of performing this function as it is now constituted.” Muncie Star Press Editorial 2-6-09

Election Board Needs Stopped!
Muncie Politics At Its Finest

Next stop, 2010 Primary.

Can any citizen forget the influx of candidates on the Republican ticket affectionately dubbed “Ghost Candidates”? My favorite was Luke Jones, candidate for Center Township Trustee. Mr. Jones filed the same day he registered to vote. Mr. Jones never made public appearances, including the election board meeting to determine if his application was valid. The election board cited another similar case in Marion County as their basis to let the application stand.

The only similarity between the two cases entailed, both candidates lived in Indiana. The Marion County case dealt with the Voter’s Registration office being remiss causing a late filing of the application. Of course, we never knew too much about this particular case and neither did the Delaware County election board members. Yet the election board with limited knowledge of the Marion case cited that as a basis for the decision to circumvent or interpret State Election Laws according to their political agenda.

There is more to the 2010 primary filings.

None of the candidates which filed had ever voted in a primary, never made any public appearances, never contacted the Republican headquarters and all the applications appeared to be the same handwriting.

Yet despite the obvious, the Delaware County Clerk failed to follow through on the questionable candidates.

We hope these are genuine candidates who really want to hold office. If it turns out, however, that they are ringers with Democratic backing, then shame on officials for making a sham out of the bedrock of American democracy — elections.

What happens in the voting booth can set the stage for years on taxes, ordinances, reassessments and a host of other issues.

Should any of these candidates prove to be ringers, that should be taken as an indication the party backing them considers voters stupid, unable to tell the difference between real and fake candidates.
Star Press 2-28-10

As a parting reminder of how the election board governs, please remember the aggressive prosecution of a missing disclaimer initiated by the Delaware County Election Board.

And the absence of such prosecution when committed by the prosecutor.

Freedom of Speech or How One Man Won The Right to Exercise the 1st Amendment

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Something extraordinary happened today for Delaware County. Justice was served on a golden platter.

As some of you know, Chris Hiatt of Citizens of Delaware County for Property Tax Repeal was indicted in April of ’09 on changes of election violation. (This blog has a few posts covering this topic in more detail.) Today, Special Judge Jay Toney dismissed the charges. Let’s do a quick background on how this all came about.

In November ’08 CDCPTR took out an ad in the local newspaper, The Star Press. The ad endorsed candidates from both parties which were believed to be citizen and taxpayer friendly based upon their platform and campaigns.

Within weeks of this ad, another group, ECIBT (East Central Indiana Building Trades) took offense and filed a complaint with the election board. Their chief complaint was the ad had no disclaimer. One would consider this a possible violation, of sorts, except for one little pesky detail. ECIBT did the same. They endorsed all Democrats, had no disclaimer and in fact they had no address.

After weeks of delay, the election board finally decided to serve papers notifying Mr. Hiatt he was summoned to appear before the election board. What happened at the hearing was just a lot of legalities and twisting and turning of Indiana State law until it became apparent to most, there was some hanky panky going on with the current election board.

In turn, a complaint was filed against ECIBT for the exact same violation. Lo and behold, the Delaware County Clerk recused himself, since he was trying to avoid the conflict of interest “thingy”. Of course, he sat on the board during Hiatt’s hearing. I am having a hard time understanding the definition of “conflict of interest” as it was presented by Mr. Craycraft.

The Delaware County prosecutor, Mr. Mark McKinney convened a grand jury and sure enough, but no surprise, Hiatt was indicted.

Some of you may be wondering what happened to the complaint against ECBIT for the exact same violation. One word. NOTHING.

Today however marks a milestone in Delaware County. Justice was served and served properly. Of course, we had to leave the county and get a special judge. Nonetheless, it is a good day.

Just for fun, I pulled together some quotes from the local newspapers on this dark time in our county’s history.

Judge Throws Hiatt’s Case Out
“In granting the motion to dismiss, the judge said the law as described to grand jurors by McKinney was the “exact opposite” of what actually exists.” Star Press 4-21-10

Attorney: McKinney Misled Grand Jury
“Two days before his client is set to stand trial, the attorney for a local government critic on Tuesday fired back at Mark McKinney, accusing the beleaguered Delaware County prosecutor of “deliberately and intentionally misleading (a grand jury) about the law.” Star Press 4-21-10

Criminal Acts and Selective Prosecution
“Politically based selective prosecution is wrong.” Larry Riley Star Press 4-21-10

Election board has no credibility
” It’s obvious, especially after Thursday’s vote to dismiss the complaint, that the election board, which has a sacred public duty to ensure elections are free from fraud, is not capable of performing this function as it is now constituted.” Muncie Star Press Editorial 2-6-09

The Election Board Has Lost Its Way by John H. Brooke“The Delaware County Election Board under the leadership of Phil Nichols and Steve Craycraft has lost sight of its mission and purpose. The mission of any election board is to help conduct elections so that voters are confident the entire process is fair and honest. Delaware County’s Election Board has decided that its real purpose is to serve as a weapon to beat down political opponents under the guise of “protecting the election process.” Muncie Star Press Letter to Editor 2-8-09

Another Menace Nabbed
“What was his great crime against humanity? He placed a newspaper ad endorsing candidates for the 2008 election. The ad listed the CDCPTR as the source of the endorsements and featured the group’s logo, but did not — get this recklessly dangerous practice — “have a formal disclaimer.” The man had the gall to exercise his First Amendment Rights — throw the bum in jail. While the clown princes of the political world and the punditocracy mull whether nude dancing should be “protected free speech,” this is the kind of crap that goes on almost without protest.” The News-Sentinel of Fort Wayne, Indiana 4-21-09

Watch video excerpts of the election board hearings.

The Plot Thickens..

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Delaware County Election Board; Jim Mansfield; ECIBT Vs, CDCPTR; CDCPTR Vs. ECIBT; Citizens of Delaware County Vs. The Old Way Of Conducting Government Business.

Whew!  It sure gets complicated.  All this over just a simple ad.  One  complaint against a citizen group  and we may see a series of very real election violations surface.

I mean, we have group which filed a complaint with the election board over a lack of disclaimer in an ad.  Then we find out the same group who filed the complaint didn’t have a disclaimer in their ad, has no address, no phone number, no website and their ad was paid for by an entity other than the group printed on the ad.  To boot, the group is not even registered as anything in the State of Indiana.

If any of you reading this blog have been following the election board’s recent decision and are shaking your head in amazement,  this column will make your head explode (as my dear friend always says). Little confused on the legal name of ECIBT, so please forgive me if I left a letter or two out.

Larry Riley’s Column, Sunday April 26, 2009

Election Board Needs Stopped! Updated!

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I certainly hate to be so negative about Delaware County, believe it to be a wonderful place with wonderful people.  Yet, until we get rid of the corruption this county will never be able to move forward.  We need and we want to move forward.  There is never a better time than now, folks!

The Election Board is out of control:

Video of election board hearing.


On Friday, April 17, the political persecution of citizens willing to stand up and speak out against their government moved from the kangaroo court of the Delaware County Election Board to the embattled offices of the Delaware County prosecutor. Most recently, officers of the Citizens of Delaware County for Property Tax Repeal Inc. (CDCPTR) were summoned to testify before a grand jury, which resulted in an indictment against President Chris Hiatt.
Remember that for the first two months of this year over the course of four hearings, the Delaware County Election Board publicly berated the CDCPTR for placing an advertisement in The Star Press endorsing candidates running for various offices in the 2008 general elections. The complaint against the CDCPTR was levied by Joe Evans, president of the United East Central Building and Construction Trades Council and Carpenters Local 1016. In response, the CDCPTR filed its own reciprocal complaint, alleging that the Trades Council had published an advertisement of their own that mirrored the issues involved in the allegations brought by Evans.
Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, certain members of the election board — Phil Nichols, Steve Craycraft and Mike White — were predisposed in their narrow-minded objectives, virtually ignoring the complaint against the labor council while deciding to pursue criminal charges against the CDCPTR. Craycraft, in particular, demonstrated his agenda by sitting as a presiding officer and casting the deciding vote against the CDCPTR and then turning around and recusing himself from the complaint against the trades council because of his direct association with the solidarity cause. Imagine that.
Subsequently, Prosecutor Mark McKinney apparently took up the charge of trying to quash the citizens that would speak out against public officials and denying them their right to free speech and expression. We find that extremely disturbing on several fronts.
The use of political offices and appointments to conduct tribunals against the citizenry is not only a waste of time, public resources and an abuse of power, it’s simply absurd. And while certain political offices appear beyond the reach of the average citizen, make no bones about it, those officials can be tried in the court of public opinion, and the jury can cast their final and un-appealable verdict via the polls.
We find it more than hypocritical that McKinney, who touts that his many issues are a result of a political vendetta, is now allowing his office to be used as an inquisition orchestrated by Phil Nichols and his henchmen. Serious issues of alleged voter fraud have languished mysteriously in the shadows for well over a year, yet McKinney feels compelled to expeditiously seek a misdemeanor indictment against the voters and taxpayers that butter his bread and are merely exercising their rights.

Muncie Politics At Its Finest…The Saga Continues! Corruption!

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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.