Court rules for GOP chair, against Bloomington mayor on disputed plan commission seat

Andrew Guenther is the rightful appointee to Bloomington’s plan commission, according to a lower court ruling issued on Thursday morning.

The image links to the an OCRed version of the complete ruling from judge Erik Allen.

The ruling was made by Greene County special judge Erik Allen, who was appointed to hear the case after Monroe County circuit court judges recused themselves.

Judge Allen was elected as a Republican. The case is inherently partisan in character.

In the lawsuit, Monroe County Republican chair William Ellis sought to assert a right under state law provided to a party chair, to appoint Guenther to a spot on the Bloomington plan commission.

Bloomington mayor John Hamilton’s position was that he retained the right to make the appointment, even after leaving the seat vacant for more than 90 days.

In any event, it was  undisputed that non-affiliation with the Democratic Party was essential—in order to conform with the partisan balancing requirement for the five mayoral-appointed seats on the nine-member plan commission.

Hamilton’s eventual pick to fill the vacancy—which was created when he chose not to re-appoint Nick Kappas at the start of 2020—was real estate broker Chris Cockerham.

Cockerham has been serving in the seat contested by Guenther since May 2020.

One of the points of judge Allen’s ruling was that Cockerham’s appointment was not valid, because Cockerham was at the time of his appointment a Democrat as defined by state law. The most recent primary in which he had participated was a primary of the Democratic Party. Continue reading “Court rules for GOP chair, against Bloomington mayor on disputed plan commission seat”

Bloomington city council to recognize GOP party chair’s choice for transit board seat, an appointment the council is supposed to make

In a press release issued in mid-November, GOP Monroe County chair William Ellis announced he had appointed Doug  Horn, a Bloomington businessman and former Monroe County plan commissioner, to the five-member, partisan-balanced Bloomington Transit board.

It’s an appointment that is normally supposed to be made by the city council. The mayor makes appointments to two of the seats and the city council makes the other three.

That’s under normal circumstances, when the appointing authority fills a vacancy in a timely way.

On Tuesday night, at a meeting of the city council’s four-member transportation committee, council attorney Stephen Lucas weighed in on the announcement Ellis had made three weeks earlier.

“I don’t see a reason why William Ellis would not have the authority to make that appointment, Lucas told committee members.” Lucas continued, “The state law [Ellis] cites allows for the appointment by the county chair, when the appointing authority does not fill a vacancy. I think that’s the case here.”

For a partisan-balanced board, a party’s county chair can make an appointment for a seat of a member with an expiring term, if that member is affiliated with the same party. Ellis’s appointment replaced Alex Cartwright, who is a Republican.

The state law cited by Ellis to make Horn’s appointment allows for a board member to serve for 90 days past the expiration of a term. But Cartwright’s four-year term expired on July 31. Ellis’s appointment of Horn came after that 90-day window closed.

Lucas also said at Tuesday’s committee meeting that the other vacant seat on the BT board that the committee was looking to fill was not actually vacant.

Nancy Obermeyer’s four-year term does not actually expire until 2021, based on a recent detailed review of records done by city clerk Nicole Bolden, according to Lucas. Obermeyer is a Democrat.

Continue reading “Bloomington city council to recognize GOP party chair’s choice for transit board seat, an appointment the council is supposed to make”