Developing: Council Changes in Charlestown

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**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


Sources:

Ledbetter Resignation Letter

Ledbetter Vaughn CEB3

Vaughn Docs

Vaughn resignation letter

Vaughn Cox CEB3

Vaughn Cox CEB4

Cox docs

https://www.courier-journal.com/story/news/local/indiana/2016/07/13/ledbetter-resigns-charlestown-council/86943654/
https://www.co.clark.in.us/index.php/precinct-and-voting-location-information

 

Author: Treva Hodges

Resident of Charlestown, Indiana. Advocate.

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