A proposed Indiana Senate bill may provide a process to remove township trustees from office.
Following the controversy over former Wabash Township Trustee Jennifer Teising, state Sens. Ron Alting (R-Lafayette) and Rick Niemeyer (R-Lowell) co-authored Senate Bill 304, which aims to hold township trustees more accountable.
Alting said this bill is a direct result of recent trustee issues in Tippecanoe County, though with more than 1,000 townships in the state, he believes the bill will benefit others beyond the Greater Lafayette area.
The idea for the bill came to fruition after the Wabash Township proceedings, after Alting realized that there were no tools or laws in place already to remove a trustee from their position, he said.
There are four steps within the bill, Niemeyer said. First the township board must draft an ordinance to remove the trustee or start an investigation. After that, it is submitted to the county commissioners, who would act on the ordinance. Then it would go to the county council. After passing those three steps, he said, then it will go to court for a hearing.
“At each part of this bill, the trustee has a right to come and talk,” Niemeyer said.
Each meeting is public and posted with an agenda for everyone to be there, including the trustee, he said. The purpose of the step-by-step process, Niemeyer said, is to prevent the process from becoming a “witch hunt,” and a judge would have the final say.
The first step for moving the bill forward will be for Alting and Niemeyer to get the bill a hearing, which the senators said they will begin working toward on Monday.
Alting said the senators will lean on Tippecanoe County citizens to testify for the bill at any hearings.
“It’d be the people’s bill,” Alting said. “We’ll ask the firefighters to come and testify. I’ve had a lot of citizens call me and leave their names and phone numbers that want to come testify.”
Niemeyer said he doesn’t suspect negative reactions to the bill because it will “give the locals tools, and they get to decide whether they want to use those tools or not.”
Tippecanoe County Clerk Julie Roush swore in former Wabash Township Board President Angel Valentin as the interim trustee Thursday morning. Teising is no longer trustee after she was found guilty Wednesday of 21 felony counts of theft as part of allegations she was not living in the township.