County Highway Superintendent Michael Magner will resign his position as Washington Township trustee Saturday, Dec. 27 — the day he is scheduled to be sworn into the office.
Brown County Republican Party Chairwoman Jenni Voris said that she consulted with the Brown County Board of Elections about the proper procedure for Magner resigning. She said it concluded that Magner can submit his resignation the same day he is sworn in, but not before. He will likely serve a single day in office, Jan. 1, she said.
Magner is resigning because the Indiana Constitution’s prohibits holding two lucrative offices at the same time. According to the Indiana Office of the Attorney General, both county highway superintendent and township trustee are lucrative offices.
County Attorney Chris Jeter said in an email to the Brown County Commissioners that the guidance from the attorney general is outdated in his opinion. The attorney general’s position relates to case law from 1988 defining county highway superintendent as a lucrative office. Jeter said that courts are now much less restrictive in their interpretation of the law.
Jeter said that several recent appeals court decisions have stated that a lucrative office must be a sovereign position with duties that are continuing and statutory. Jeter said that highway superintendent is neither sovereign nor continuing as Magner serves at the will of the commissioners.
However, Jeter advised against Magner holding both positions. While a case could be made in court, it would not be worth the time and expense for either the commissioners or Magner, Jeter said. The risk of litigation without obvious benefit is unwarranted, he said.
At the Dec. 1 commissioners meeting, commissioners President John Kennard said that if Magner chose to retain a lawyer, he could pursue the matter. Magner said he did not consider it worth the time and expense.
When an officeholder from either the Republican or Democratic parties resigns a position, the official’s political party must select a replacement. The county Republican Party will caucus to select a replacement for Magner in January. Voris said she expects to have a replacement selected before the end of the January.
The attorney general’s guidance states that, “A lucrative officeholder who accepts a second lucrative office thereby surrenders or vacates the first office.”
Magner won the trusteeship in the Nov. 4 election and was appointed highway superintendent by the county commissioners the following day. His first day as superintendent was Nov. 12.