2018-R-1 In Simple Terms

The City of Charlestown’s Public Notice about Resolution 2018-R-1 creating the Indiana-American Economic Development Area published in Wednesday’s newspapers invites citizens to a public hearing on Thursday, March 8 at 9:00 AM at City Hall. During this public meeting people can express any concerns, ask questions, or state remonstrances to the resolution.

A copy of the documents related to the Resolution is available at the end of this article but I’ve also included some observations for people to consider as they weigh the merits of the Resolution and think of questions they want answered at the meeting.

Screen Shot 2018-02-23 at 9.32.32 AM

  1. This Resolution presumes that the sale of the water utility to Indiana American Water will be approved by the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC). Currently there has not been a decision reached in the case and the sale is NOT final.
  2. The proposed order of the Office of Utility Consumer Counselor (OUCC) noted significant problems with the proposed sale that will be considered by the IURC in making their decision to approve or deny the sale (full document available at end of article).
    • Indiana American neglected due process by failing to provide proper notification of the sale to existing water customers (OUCC order p 4).
    • Indiana American did not provide a plan to fix the distressed water system (OUCC order p 10). 
    • “Indiana American Water has not shown that the proposed sale is in the public interest” (OUCC order p 19). 
  3. If the sale is approved despite these objections by the OUCC, Indiana American Water, as a private company, will pay property taxes on the water utility. They will be allowed to recoup their costs for repairs, taxes, and the purchase price ($13.5 million) by raising rates for all of their customers, statewide, including Charlestown. 
  4. The Resolution creates a “spider” Tax Increment Financing (TIF) district out of the actual water utility (well, lines, equipment, etc).
  5. The City will use the anticipated revenue from property taxes in this TIF to buy bonds and will divert all future incremental revenue into an isolated fund in order to repay those bonds, and fund other projects.
  6. The money generated from these funds will NOT be used to repair Charlestown’s water utility. 
  7. The money generated from these funds will be used to make “improvements” to the City’s sewer system (which is not being purchased by IAW). 


Resolution 2018-R-1 Indiana American Economic District

OUCC Proposed Order

Response received from Mayor Bob Hall when I asked him to explain the purpose of this resolution: “What this legislation does is establish what is called a spider TIF that includes all the waterlines and facilities that is being purchased by Indiana American. As Indiana American takes possession of the distribution system, they as a private company, will be paying property taxes. With the TIF established it will allow the City to capture more of this tax. This will then be used to make needed improvements in the sewer system without raising rates.” (Bob Hall, messenger communication, 02/23/2018)

PUBLIC MEETING NOTICE – Resolution 2018-R-1 A New Economic Development Area

A public meeting will take place on March 8th, at 9:00 AM at City Hall to discuss and hear remonstrances and feedback on Resolution 2018-R-1 “Resolution of the Charlestown Redevelopment Commission Declaring an Area in the City of Charlestown as an Economic Development Area, An Allocation Area, and Approving an Economic Development Plan for said Economic Development Area”

The Indiana-American Economic Development Area consists of “All real and personal property of the water utility within the City of Charlestown, including but not limited to wells, lines, pumps, and all facilities used for the treatment and distribution of water.” 

The full text of the resolution as well as all supporting documents and maps are posted at the end of this article.


Full documents in link below:

Resolution 2018.R.1 Indiana American Economic Develpment

Charlestown Council Meeting 02/20/2018

Following is a summary of the meeting of the Charlestown Common Council from Tuesday, 02/20/2018:

  1. Call to Order – Pledge of Allegiance led by Ben Ledbetter
  2. Invocation – led by Neyland McClellan of the North Charlestown Church of God
  3. Determination of a Quorum and Roll Call
    • Ted Little – present
    • Brian Hester – present
    • Mike Vaughn – present
    • Tina Barnes – present
    • J.T. Cox – present
  4. Approval of Agenda
    • Motion made by Brian Hester
    • Second by Mike Vaughn
    • No Discussion
    • Approved unanimously
  5. Approval of Minutes from 02/05/2018 meeting, Claims, and Payroll Allowance Docket from 02/04/2018 to 02/17/2018 were combined into one motion.
    • Motion made by Ted Little
    • Second by Brian Hester
    • No discussion on any of the topics
    • All topics approved unanimously
  6. Public Comment – Treva Hodges
    • Raised concerns over ambiguity and inaccuracies in the filing of paperwork with the Clark County Voter Registration Office in regard to the resignation of Council member at-large, Eric Vaughn and the subsequent appointment of J.T. Cox. Requested additional time for discussion. Mayor Hall agreed to respond but not to allow dialogue.
    • Mayor Hall responded and noted that the filling of vacancies is not a City function and falls to the Chairman of the Republican Party. Mayor Hall said that Eric Vaughn tendered his resignation to him and recommended J.T. Cox as a replacement. Mayor Hall called Mr. Cox to ask if he was interested and received an affirmative so sent his name to the county chairman. Mayor Hall said that a caucus to approve J.T. Cox consisting of precinct committeemen Geneva Adams, Donna Coomer, Mayor Hall, and “others by phone” did take place. He did not have an answer for the inaccurate paperwork and assumed that the Chairman filled out what was given to him.
  7. Ordinances and Resolutions
    • Ordinance 2018-OR-3 – (second and final reading) Additional Appropriation Ordinance of $219,000 from a renewing fund carried over from previous year
      • Motion made by Ted Little
      • Second by Mike Vaughn
      • No Discussion
      • Little, Hester, Vaughn, and Cox voted in favor – Barnes voted against
      • motion passes 4-1
    • Ordinance 2018-OR-4 – (second and final reading) Additional Appropriation Ordinance of $144,000 from TIF fund to cover Pleasant Ridge legal fees.
      • Motion made by J.T. Cox
      • Second by Brian Hester
      • No discussion
      • Little, Hester, Vaughn, and Cox voted in favor – Barnes voted against
      • motion passes 4-1
    • Ordinance 2018-OR-7 (first reading) Clearing Checks over 2 years old
      • Motion made by Brian Hester
      • Second by Mike Vaughn
      • No discussion
      • Unanimous approval
      • Motion made by Ted Little to suspend rules and call for second reading
      • Seconded by J.T. Cox
      • No discussion
      • Unanimous approval
      • (second reading) motion made by Ted Little
      • Seconded by Mike Vaughn
      • No discussion
      • unanimous approval
    • Ordinance 2018-OR-8 – An Ordinance Creating an Economic Development, Project Planning and Design, Infrastructure, Capital Improvement Fund (EPIC)
      • Motion made by Mike Vaughn
      • Second by J.T. Cox
      • Discussion – Tina Barnes asked the following questions and received answers from Bob Hall:
        1. Where is the money for this fund coming from?
          • A: It’s not before you but it will be brought out of the Capital Trust Fund and that will be reflected at the next meeting.
        2. Why is there not a cap on how much money will be transferred and how often?
          • A: I don’t think you’ll find that on any fund. You put money into them as it becomes available.
        3. Why is there no cap on spending?
          • A: It’s the same thing as other ordinances. There are no caps. If money is available you spend them in areas described in the ordinance.
        4. We already have TIF, EDIT, LOIT, Rainy Day, and other accounts that can be used for these purposes. Why do we need this one?
          • A: TIF cannot be used, nor LOIT. The Rainy fund can be used but we are reluctant to use it.
        5. What about the Cumulative Capital Improvement Fund?
          • A: It has limits for what it can do.
        6. You also mention that it is set up for payment of salaries and payroll. Are we creating more jobs?
          • A: No. If there’s money in there it could happen but we are not planning it now.
        7. Item “J” says it will cover equipment and supplies and that contractors may use it. Are we going to pay contractors and also allow them to use our equipment?
          • A: There might be a circumstance, yes where they will need to, like roads.
        8. Who is given the authority to spend money from this fund?
          • A: It’s being given to…All other funds have the same thing. Spending must be approved by a board. You won’t find that detail in any ordinance and it’s unreasonable to put it here.
        9. Can you be specific about the “various revenue sources” that will provide money for this fund?
          • A: No. As money comes available. That’s the same procedure as anything. I don’t know of any fund that is limited where it can get money from.
      • Little, Hester, Vaughn, and Cox voted in favor – Barnes voted against.
  8. Mayor noted that the items on the agenda were complete and mentioned two additional items.
    • They have had more move-ins into Springville Manor
    • Eric Vaughn has been working on projects related to Parks.
    • Motion to adjourn made by J.T. Cox
    • Second by Ted Little
    • Unanimous Approval

Audio of the meeting can be found here (duration 20:10): 




Developing: Council Changes in Charlestown


**Edit at end of article

As soon as I learned about the resignation of Councilman at Large, Eric Vaughn, I published a notice to help spread the word: Breaking News! Resignation


Once I got confirmation about the replacement process I updated the blog to help keep folks informed: Update! Council Appointment

Since those posts, new information has been obtained and I find the need to readdress this developing topic. Though I originally confirmed that J.T. Cox was “caucused” as Eric Vaughn’s replacement, I can no longer stand by that statement as it is unclear whether a caucus actually occurred. 

At this point, with the replacement of 40% of our elected council members, it is worth outlining the transitions:

Ben Ledbetter Resigns

  • On June 22, 2016, Council Member for District 1, Ben Ledbetter, tendered his letter of resignation (available below).
  • Mr. Ledbetter resigned because, after taking the oath of office for the common council, he retired from his full-time position as Principal of New Washington Middle/High School at the end of the 2015/2016 school year, and learned that he would not be able to draw his Teacher Retirement Fund (TRF) if he did not take a 30-day separation from the Public Employee Retirement Fund (PERF) granted to council members.
  • Mayor Hall could have reappointed Mr. Ledbetter to his Council position after a 30 day break. 
  • After a 30 day break, Mr. Ledbetter instead took a full-time position, created in 2016, as Director of City Services. (Current salary info here: 2017-OR-13)

Michael Vaughn Appointed

  • On June 30, 2016, Chairman of the Republican Party, Jamey Noel, filed a “Certificate of Appointment Pro Tempore to fill a Local Elected Office by a County Chairman of a Major Political Party” (CEB-3) form (available below) that named Michael Vaughn as Ben Ledbetter’s replacement.
  • The CEB-3 form is used when “fewer than two (2)” precinct committeemen are ineligible to fill the vacancy, or a required quorum is not present to vote.
  • Charlestown’s District 1 falls in Precinct 1, for which Michael Vaughn is the precinct committeeman. Thus, “fewer than two” people were qualified and a caucus could not take place. In this case, the Chairman may make an appointment. (See Indiana Code IC 3-13-11-11(a)(2)

Vaughn Letter close upEric Vaughn Resigns

  • Council Member At-Large, Eric Vaughn, tendered his resignation effective on January 24, 2018 (available below).
  • Mr. Vaughn resigned because he experienced “changes in employment.”
  • Mr. Vaughn accepted the position of “Director of Economic Development,” which had been vacant but budgeted for a number of years. (Current salary info here: 2017-OR-13)

J.T. Cox Appointed

  • On February 2, 2018, Chairman of the Republican Party, Jamey Noel, filed  a “Certificate of Appointment Pro Tempore to fill a Local Elected Office by a County Chairman of a Major Political Party” (CEB-3) form (available below) that named J.T. Cox as Eric Vaughn’s replacement. This form was originally dated February 1, 2018 and was filed on February 2 based on the claim that a caucus could not take place. CEB 3 close up
  •  On February 2, 2018, Chairman of the Republican Party, Jamey Noel ALSO filed a “Certificate of Appointment Pro Tempore to Fill a Local Elected Office by a Precinct Committeeman Caucus” (CEB-4) form (available below), that states that a “caucus of eligible precinct committeemen was held on 2/2/2018,” and that they named J.T. Cox as Eric Vaughn’s replacement. CEB 4 close up
  • Unlike District replacements, the At-Large position on the council enables any precinct committeeman to participate in a caucus. Eligible precinct committeemen are: Michael Vaughn (precinct 1), George Roberts (precinct 2), Janetta Jackson (precinct 3), Bob Hall (precinct 4), Geneva Adams (precinct 5), or Donna Coomer (precinct 6). Any two (2) of these precinct chairs are eligible to participate in a caucus for the At-Large position, making the need for a Chairman’s appointment unnecessary. (See Indiana Code: IC-3-13-11-5)

Was J.T. Cox “caucused” as Eric Vaughn’s replacement or was he appointed?

I have requested that Jamey Noel offer clarification of the process used to make this appointment. As of the publication of this post I have not received an answer. As I get information I will share it.

It is worth noting that a caucus, when available, is the preferred way to make a replacement. In a caucus, a group of precinct chairs from the party originally elected to the position considers people eligible and willing to serve in the role. Although Indiana law does not require that the vacancy be published as public notice, and most political parties elect a member of their own party to the replacement, nothing prohibits the process from being open to any eligible office holder. (See Indiana Code IC-3-13-11)

When we speak of a lack of transparency, this is the type of action that makes us worry. And let me say, my publication of this information is not a complaint about “not getting my way.” In fact, since I voted for both Mr. Ledbetter as my district rep and Mr. Eric Vaughn as an At-Large rep in the 2015 election, you can say that I originally DID get my way…and now feel twice betrayed.


** Edit **

During the city council meeting on Tuesday 02/20 I raised concerns about the process taken to appoint J.T. Cox. Mayor Hall spoke and noted that the filling of vacancies is not a function of City government but falls to the Republican Party Chairman. He went on to say that a caucus was held and consisted of himself, Donna Coomer, Geneva Adams, and others via telephone. As for the inaccurate paperwork, Mayor Hall said he had no answers for that since it is not his responsibility to file the paperwork.

An audio recording of the meeting can be found here: City Council Meeting 02/02/2018

A News and Tribune article covered the official response from the Republican Chairman: Council Change Still in Question


Ledbetter Resignation Letter

Ledbetter Vaughn CEB3

Vaughn Docs

Vaughn resignation letter

Vaughn Cox CEB3

Vaughn Cox CEB4

Cox docs



Allies Wanted – Partnering with Pleasant Ridge

com·mu·ni·ty – (noun)

“People in any configuration bonded together over time through common interest and concern, through responsibility and accountability to one another, and through commitment, friendship, and love.”[1]

Not long after I moved to Charlestown I learned what a loving community we have. A trip to the pharmacy catches us up on the events of the week, dinner at Charlestown Pizza fills our bellies with good food (and beer) and our hearts with the warmth of friendship, and every trip to the Jay-C store feels like a family reunion.

My attraction to Charlestown is only marred by one thing: Pleasant Ridge

But not for the reasons many folks might think. If you’ve read my blog for any length of time you’ve noted where my sympathies lie in that regard.

Tonight as I was scrolling through my various social media feeds, procrastinating on revisions to a paper I’m prepping for journal publication, I saw an opportunity to be an ally.

What is an ally, you ask?

Allies are people who choose to affiliate with others who are the target of oppressive forces and who use their resources to help bring positive change. [2]

If you, at any point, regardless of your political affiliation, have thought,

“Gee, I wish there was something that someone could do to cleanup/help/improve/restore/revitalize Pleasant Ridge…”

You’re in luck!

The Pleasant Ridge Neighborhood Association has begun a sponsorship program that will help in their continued efforts to improve the quality of life in the neighborhood. You can find complete details on the group’s Facebook page here: PRNA Sponsorship

Or by calling (812) 406-7637.

Screen Shot 2018-02-11 at 9.20.43 PMThe crux is that various sponsorship levels allow individuals and businesses in the community to partner as allies with PRNA to help them purchase, renovate, and offer another family an affordable and safe place to live.

Pleasant Ridge Neighborhood Association is a certified non-profit 501c3 organization so you can be sure that any donations are well managed and are tax deductible.

Maybe you don’t live in Pleasant Ridge. You might wonder why this affects you. You’re not alone. One of the greatest barriers to positive community change is that people removed from the immediate situation have trouble seeing problems in other areas as belonging to them. But everything in Charlestown is of interest to all of us.

Neighborhood health translates to community health…and just remember: The image of our town starts with us!

Please consider working with the people of Pleasant Ridge. Not to root them out, but to help our entire community thrive!


[1] Suzanne Phar, “Reflections on Liberation,” in Readings for Diversity and Social Justice, third edition, edited by Maurianne Adams, Warren J. Blumenfeld, Carmelita (Rosie) Castaneda, Heather W. Hackman, Madeline L. Peters, and Ximena Zuniga (New York: Routledge, 2013).
[2] Rita Hardiman, Baily W. Jackson, and Pat Griffin, “Conceptual Foundations,” in Readings for Diversity and Social Justice, third edition, edited by Maurianne Adams, Warren J. Blumenfeld, Carmelita (Rosie) Castaneda, Heather W. Hackman, Madeline L. Peters, and Ximena Zuniga (New York: Routledge, 2013).

A Matter of Trust

In what has become an all-to-common scene, reporters from local news media outlets set up cameras and solicited interviews at the most recent Charlestown City Council meeting. Prior to the meeting, a group of citizens held a short protest across the street from City Hall before moving inside and transitioning from vocal to silent protest.

Council meeting protest

What were they protesting? Pick any issue you’ve read about Charlestown in the news lately and you’ll be right. But the biggest complaint, the one that persists, is that the City performs its actions under a cloak of secrecy.

But the Mayor just doesn’t get it. When asked about the night’s protest, Mayor Hall told a reporter from WHAS,

“The group that’s here has protested everything we’ve done and the lack of transparency is always used if they don’t get their way.” – Mayor Bob Hall

But the Mayor is wrong.

He’s wrong because the group that protested isn’t the same as it was in 2014 when people living in Pleasant Ridge first began to question the Mayor’s plan for Charlestown in public formats. The group has grown. And so have the issues. Problems in Charlestown can no longer be considered relevant to a select few people in one neighborhood. This affects us all. If you have been reluctant to participate in such protests, it’s imperative that you begin to pay attention.

To dismiss complaints about a lack of transparency in government as nothing more than whining reduces us citizens to the status of spoiled toddlers. It is disrespectful and no way to respond to constituents.

Twice since 2015, the Mayor has seduced Council members away from their elected positions and replaced them with his own appointments. Are we ok with this? 40% of our council has abandoned the responsibilities they accepted upon election…not for major life changes…not for illness…not because they moved out of the area…but because the CITY created new positions for them.

In light of this and other such abuses, I present some information for your consideration.

First, I give you the City’s official Comprehensive Plan:

Plan 2016 to 2017

Plan 2018 to 2020

Where are we on these action items? How many are in the works? How many are complete? How many are delayed? Do YOU know? How many, like the plans for our water system, have changed? Because if you’re not sure, how is that transparent?

Second, I give you the Mayor’s official Facebook page on which he promised in early 2017 to keep us better informed on City plans (an action on which I originally applauded him). This site has not been updated since August 2017.

Projects for 2017 facebook

Blight to Bright Cover


Finally, I give you the City’s original 2014 “Blight to Bright” campaign to address needs in Pleasant Ridge. If you need a refresher you can view the entire pamphlet here: Charlestown Blight to Bright

But please look at this item and remember that all homeowners, including those who have accepted the City’s offer to move to Springville Manor, were paid only $10,000 for their homes, regardless of the condition and “fair market value.”

not for 6000

Are we being lied to? Yes.

Is the process hidden? Yes.

Do we deserve better? Yes.

A complaint about lack of communication between elected officials and the people they represent should never be met with dismissal. If you live in Charlestown and you do not think that any of these issues affect you personally, please contact me via this blog form and I will explain why I think you should care.

Are we always going to agree on policy? Absolutely not! But open communication and clear processes are essential for the health of our community.

After all, “Government is a trust, and the officers of the government are trustees; and both the trust and the trustees are created for the benefit of the people.” – Henry Clay




Charlestown City Council Meeting 02/05/2018

*Edited to reflect abstention of J.T. Cox on two ordinances (see below)

Following is a summary of the City Council meeting from tonight (02/05/2018)

  • Call to Order/Pledge of Allegiance (led by J.T. Cox)
  • Invocation – Neyland McClellan of North Charlestown Church of God
  • Determination of a Quorum and Roll Call
    • Ted Little – present
    • Brian Hester – present
    • Mike Vaughn – present
    • Tina Barnes – present
    • T. Cox – presenT
  • Approval of Agenda – (Not done)
  • Approval of Minutes from 01/22/2018
    • First by Brian Hester
    • Second by Mike Vaughn
    • No Discussion
    • Unanimous approval
  • Claims from
    • First by Ted Little
    • Second by Mike Vaughn
    • No Discussion
    • Unanimous approval
  • Payroll Allowance Docket 01/23/2018 to 02/03/2018
    • First by Ted Little
    • Second by Mike Vaughn
    • No Discussion
    • Unanimous approval
  • Public Comment – none
  • Ordinance and Resolutions:
    • Ordinance 2018-OR-3 Additional Appropriation Ordinance – $219,000 carry-over from previous year.
      1. Motion made by Brian Hester
      2. Second by Ted Little
      3. No discussion
      4. Little, Hester, Cox, and Vaughn approved – Barnes voted no
    • Ordinance 2018-OR-4 Additional Appropriation Ordinance – $144,000 from TIF to cover legal fees
      1. Motion made by Mike Vaughn
      2. Second by Brian Hester
      3. During discussion Tina Barnes asked for invoices and Donna Coomer collected them for her.
      4. Little, Hester, Cox, and Vaughn approved – Barnes voted no
    • Ordinance 2018-OR-5 (Second Reading) Ordinance Amending and Clarifying the Unsafe Structures Ordinance of the City of Charlestown (Ordinance 2007-OR-01)
      1. Motion made by Ted Little
      2. Second by Brian Hester
      3. No Discussion
      4. Little, Hester, and Vaughn approved – Barnes voted no – *edit: Council Member J.T. Cox abstained (the abstention was not vocalized but will be reflected on the signed Ordinance)
    • Ordinance 2018-OR-6 (Second Reading) Ordinance Amending and Clarifying the Property Maintenance Code for The City of Charlestown, Indiana (Ordinance 2008-OR-1)
      1. Motion made by Mike Vaughn
      2. Second by Ted Little
      3. No Discussion
      4. Little, Hester, and Vaughn approved – Barnes voted no – *edit: Council Member J.T. Cox abstained (the abstention was not vocalized but will be reflected on the signed Ordinance)
  • Mayor Hall called for an additional item on the agenda to approve a new City Council President since Eric Vaughn resigned. Agenda change was approved. Ted Little was nominated for the position.
    • Motion made by Brian Hester
    • Second by Mike Vaughn
    • No Discussion
    • Approved unanimously
  •  Adjournment
    • Prior to adjournment, Ted Little noted that the City passed the five year audit with outstanding results and 100% accuracy. He congratulated Donna Coomer on the accomplishment.
    • Motion to adjourn made by Ted Little
    • Second by J.T. Cox
    • Approved unanimously

Complete audio of the meeting here:


UPDATE: Council Member Appointment

*EDIT* – see response notes below

On Monday, February 5, I reached out to the Clark County Voter Registration Office and spoke to Susan Popp who confirmed the following:

A “Certificate of Selection” for the resignation of Council Member At-Large Eric Vaughn and subsequent appointment of J.T. Cox to the vacant position was filed in her office on Friday, February 2, according to Indiana Code IC 3-13-11. The appointment was the result of a caucus held that same day.


*Worth noting – Since hearing rumor of this change on Friday night I reached out to all of the following people to get confirmation:

  • Mayor Bob Hall – no response
  • Council Member (former) Eric Vaughn – no response
  • Council Member Mike Vaughn – no response
  • Council Member Ted Little – no response
  • Council Member Brian Hester – returned call, had not been notified of change
  • Council Member Tina Barnes – returned message, had not been notified of  change
  • Clark County Republican Chairperson Jamey Noel – no response Jamey Noel responded to my email after this post was made public and confirmed that J.T. Cox was selected by caucus and that he had received Eric Vaughn’s resignation. 
  • Charlestown Clerk Treasurer Donna Coomer – returned message and confirmed change
  • Voter Registration Office (Susan Popp) – returned call and confirmed all details of appointment and filing of paperwork.

Altering the Rule Book

At the January 22, 2018 City Council Meeting Mayor Bob Hall introduced Ordinance 2018-OR-6, an ordinance amending and clarifying the Property Maintenance Code for the City of Charlestown. During discussion of the ordinance, City attorney Michael Gillenwater claimed that the proposed amendments to the original 2008 Property Maintenance Code (PMC) were minor, needed to deal with outdated information, and that no major provisions of the code were modified.

Mr. Gillenwater was wrong.

Proposed Ordinance 2018-OR-6 significantly alters the enforcement of the City’s 2008 Property Maintenance Code in direct response to the City’s unfavorable outcome in the ruling on the Pleasant Ridge case. The revisions place an unfair burden on all property owners in town, and create a pathway for unethical selective enforcement.

On December 4, 2017, Scott County Judge Jason Mount issued a preliminary injunction against the City by finding, among other things, that Plaintiffs from Pleasant Ridge are likely to win in their claim that the City has violated its own rules for property maintenance. Central to the Judge’s decision is the City’s use of immediate accumulating fines against owners without following the procedures outlined in the PMC that allow a grace period in which property owners can bring their homes into compliance.

The City was wrong. Now, rather than admit they were wrong, the City is trying to re-write the rules in their favor.

Judge Mount noted that the 2008 PMC, “requires the City to provide a written order specifying the alleged problems and provide a reasonable opportunity to make repairs before fines may be imposed” (Ruling item #96, p 21). This claim refers to sections 106 and 107 of the 2008 Property Maintenance Code. The Judge went on to state that,

“In no case does the PMC allow the City to impose immediate, daily accumulating fines for violations of the PMC.”

Yet, this is what has been done to numerous residents and property owners in Pleasant Ridge.

images-2Ordinance 2018-OR-6 changes the language of and adds sections to the 2008 version of the PMC to place the City into compliance retroactively.

For example:

“Fines for violations of this Code are effective immediately upon discovery by the Code Official…(106.5 Ordinance 2018-OR-6, emphasis added)

“The correction order shall give the person responsible a reasonable time to make required repairs and improvements before actions beyond the imposition of fines are taken against the property” (107.2.4 Ordinance 2018-OR-6, emphasis added).

Judge Mount’s preliminary injunction also found that an improper relationship exists between the City and developer John Neace of Pleasant Ridge Redevelopment, LLC (PRR, LLC) due to the City’s willingness to waive fines for Neace but not for other property owners. The Judge pointed out that if the City is going to waive fines for one owner (Neace), then it must also waive fines for others who bring their properties into compliance. The proposed Ordinance adds a provision that gives the City the right to discriminate by waiving fines at its own discretion (111.2 Ordinance 2018-OR-6, emphasis added).

Finally, the proposed revision reduces the amount of time for residents to appeal citations from 20 days to only 10 (111.1 Ordinance 2018-OR-6, emphasis added).

This Ordinance passed its first reading and will be presented for second reading on Monday, February 5, 2018 at 6:30 during the next Council meeting.

I have provided a link to the 2008 Property Maintenance Code and a copy of the proposed Ordinance 2018-OR-6. Read them. You will note changes in the following sections of the revised version: 102.4, 102.7, 106 entirety, 107 entirety, 109.6, 110.3, 111.1, 111.2, 111.5, 111.8, 111.9, Definition added for “Weeds,” and at the end in “Ordinance Subject to Other Laws.” (All other sections remain unchanged.)

Read them.

Pay close attention to all sections in chapters three through seven and ask yourself if YOUR house is in compliance. Do you have a crack in your driveway? Is your exterior paint chipping? Do you have screens on all of your windows? Do you have a hand rail on all of your stairs?

Attorney Gillenwater used the analogy of speeding tickets to justify the use of immediate fines against property owners. This is a flawed analogy. This type of punitive bullying is not the way to govern. Just as a car must have time to decelerate upon entering a reduced speed zone, citizens should have time to bring their properties into compliance once they learn of their infractions.

I urge you to come to the next Council meeting. It’s too late to apply for public comment, but nobody is stopping you from bringing a sign that simply says, “NO!” to hold during the meeting. Contact your Council Members. Tell them these revisions are unethical. Come early. This concerns you, I promise.

Findings of Fact in Pleasant Ridge Injunction Case: PLED-Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law

Order granting preliminary injunction: PLED-Order Granting Preliminary Injunction

Breaking: Charlestown Council Member Resigns

Yesterday evening as people in town began to prepare for Monday’s regularly scheduled meeting of the Charlestown City Council, rumors began flying that some council members had either resigned or been removed from their positions. In an effort to clarify and get official word, I reached out by phone and messenger to Mayor Bob Hall, Eric Vaughn (council member at-large), Mike Vaughn (council member from District One), Ted Little (council member from District Three) and Tina Barnes (council member from District Two). Ms. Barnes responded, but had no knowledge of any change.

This morning, having not heard from the other messages I sent, I reached out to our town’s Clerk Treasurer, Donna Coomer, who confirmed that

Council Member Eric Vaughn has resigned from the Common Council and will accept a role as full time project manager for the City. 

Eric Vaughn has been replaced by J.T. Cox. 

All other council members remain in their positions.

Resignations happen and there are procedures in place to fill vacant council positions. Mr. Vaughn’s resignation in itself is not inherently problematic. What is troublesome is the lack of notice about the change provided by the City.

When I heard the initial word I immediately checked the City’s webpage and social media pages. No notice was posted of any change. No message went out. No news release was available.

Citizens have a right to know when there has been a change in the elected officials they have chosen to represent them. Here’s hoping the City will work on providing more transparency in the future.