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County council meeting erupts into arguments
Updated on: 01.27.14

The Jan. 21 Brown County Council meeting started with arguments and allegations of lies. At one point, police showed up.

It ended with some county officials apologizing to each other.

Councilman Jerry Pittman launched a discussion about a topic not on the meeting agenda. He claimed that in December, the county commissioners invalidated the council’s one appointment to the Brown County Area Plan Commission -- Peggy Thompson -- by improperly scheduling her for a new, four-year term. He said that move will render Thompson invalid to serve on the APC and the Brown County Board of Zoning Appeals for three years starting in 2015.

Thompson is a BZA member by appointment from the APC. If Pittman is correct, Thompson continuing to serve on the APC and BZA after 2014 could jeopardize decisions those boards make.

County council President David Critser said the staggering of terms, which the commissioners did to bring Brown County into compliance with state law, was correct, according to County Attorney Barnes and Thornburg.

That triggered a statement by Pittman about his lack of confidence in the firm's legal advice. The county paid the Indianapolis firm $100,000 over 10 months in 2013, including rates as high as $550 per hour.

“Which opinion would you care to take? The one they have on Monday or the one they have on Thursday?” Pittman said, referring to advice given to the county redevelopment commission. Pittman is also a member of that board.

Pittman and redevelopment commission members Evan Werling and Larry Ness distributed a report containing emails from County Attorney Chris Jeter that show changes to advice he gave the county about which governmental boards make APC and BZA appointments.

Brown County Commissioners President John Kennard tried to explain that the changes in legal opinion resulted from the law firm receiving information from Brown County piecemeal. It was not until Jeter met with APC and BZA attorney David Schilling that the matter became clear.

Kennard said there is no conspiracy or cover-up as Pittman, Werling and Ness suggested.

Kennard also said that the commissioners resetting the board members' terms was the correct action.

When Kennard denied an allegation from Pittman about not returning phone calls, text messages and emails from Werling, Werling showed Kennard his cell phone containing no responses for nearly two months. Kennard and Werling yelled at each other, with Kennard saying he called Werling twice and did not hear back from him.

Werling then bet Kennard $500 that he did not know the state law under which Brown County operates.

“I don’t know the specific law,” said Kennard, who said he relies on attorneys to provide that information.

Werling took offense to Kennard stating that he made errors while researching the APC and BZA laws. “No, this was not my mistake. This is a Barnes and Thornburg mistake, and you know it,” Werling said.

Pittman then upset Kennard by insinuating that the county commissioners illegally made decisions about the APC and BZA situation during a Dec. 3 closed-door meeting with their attorney in Indianapolis.

Critser said the matter had been resolved and it was time for the county to move on, but Ness disagreed.

“We ought to be unique where we ought to be, and that’s in the beauty of this county and its people. And we’re stupid if we think we want to be unique with respect to a law that can’t be understood by those who are intended to oversee it,” Ness said.

After several minutes of Ness talking about how embarrassed he was of the county council, Critser pounded the gavel repeatedly before saying, “I’ve heard enough.”

Critser later apologized to Ness, who did the same.

Before the meeting, Pittman reportedly told Critser he wanted off the redevelopment commission. The council replaced him with Councilman Steve Gore.

Werling and Ness were appointed to the county redevelopment commission by the county commissioners. They are considered “at-will” appointments, which means the commissioners can replace them at any time.

Obituaries
See Full List »

Carol Ann Spencer-Thomas, 73, Brown County
  Wife of Charles R. Thomas of Brown County

Robert 'Bob' F. Melton, 80, Brown County
  Husband of Annabelle Melton of Brown County

The Rev. John S. Honeay, 89, Greenwood
  Member of Unity Baptist Church and father of Barbara Ranard (Harvey) of Brown County

  • February 1
    'Wild' at the Playhouse
    4 p.m., 7 p.m. BC Playhouse, 70 S. Van Buren St.
  • February 2
    Gnaw Bone Sewage District
    5:30 p.m. Library, 205 N. Locust Lane
  • February 3
    Euchre
    6 p.m. Sycamore Valley Center, 746 Memorial Drive (fairgrounds)
  • February 3
    Open 12-step meetings in New Bellsville area
    6 to 7 p.m. Harmony Baptist Church, 3999 Mt. Liberty Road, New Bellesville
  • February 3
    Bean Blossom Regional Sewer Board
    7:30 p.m. County Office Building, 201 N. Locust Lane
  • February 3
    Women's Bible study offered
    1 to 3 p.m. Cornerstone Inn, 54 E. Franklin St.
  • February 4
    Lake Lemon Conservancy District annual meeting
    6 p.m. Benton Township Senior Center, 7616 E. State Road 45, Unionville
  • February 4
    Jeff Foster at Hobnob restaurant
    6 to 8 p.m. Hobnob, 17 W. Main St.
  • February 4
    Van Buren Township Advisory Board
    7 p.m. Van Buren trustee's office, 4748 Christianburg Road
  • February 4
    BC Emergency Management Advisory Council
    8 a.m. Ambulance Base, 53 State Road 46 East
  • February 5
    Go Club meeting Thursdays
    3:30 to 5 p.m. Brown County Public Library, 205 N. Locust Lane
  • February 5
    Jackson Township Board
    6 p.m. Jackson Fire Station, 4831 Helmsburg Road
  • February 6
    Bingo
    5 p.m. Fruitdale Fire Station, 5200 State Road 135 North, Bean Blossom
  • February 7
    Euchre
    6 p.m. Sycamore Valley Center, 746 Memorial Drive (fairgrounds)
  • February 7
    Dave Miller at Abe Martin Lodge
    5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Abe Martin Lodge, Brown County State Park
  • February 7
    Karaoke at sports bar
    8 p.m. Salt Creek Golf Retreat, 2359 State Road 46 East
  • February 7
    Cabin Fever Concert features local music
    7 to midnight The Seasons Lodge, 560 State Road 46 East
  • February 9
    Washington Township Trustees
    7 p.m. Parkview Church of the Nazarene, 1750 State Road 46 East
  • February 9
    Reservation deadline for Valentine's tea at local shop
    Sweetea's Tea Shop, 225 S. Van Buren St., Suite C, Coachlight Square
  • February 10
    Euchre
    6 p.m. Sycamore Valley Center, 746 Memorial Drive (fairgrounds)
  • February 10
    Van Buren Fire Department
    6 p.m. Van Buren Fire Station, 4040 State Road 135 South
  • February 10
    Peaceful Valley Heritage Preservation Society meeting set
    6:30 p.m. Library, 205 N. Locust Lane
  • February 10
    BC Genealogical Society meeting slated
    2 p.m. Brown County History Center, 90 E. Gould
  • February 11
    East Hill Cemetery meeting slated
    7 p.m. Morgantown Community Center, 269 W. Washington St.
  • February 12
    BC Convention & Visitors Commission
    8:30 a.m. County Office Building, 201 N. Locust Lane
  • February 13
    Bingo
    5 p.m. Fruitdale Fire Station, 5200 State Road 135 North.
  • February 13
    Daddy-daughter Valentine's dance Friday the 13th
    6:30 p.m. Sweetea's Tea Shop, 225 S. Van Buren St., Suite C, Coachlight Square
  • February 14
    Free community breakfast at Sprunica church
    8 to 10 a.m. Sprunica Baptist Church, 3902 Sprunica Road
  • February 17
    Hamblen Trustee Board annual review
    6:30 p.m. 2314 Hickory Ridge Lane off Hornettown Road
  • February 19
    Woodlands project dinner, meeting slated
    6 p.m. Parkview Church of the Nazarene, 1750 State Road 46 East
  • February 20
    Bingo
    6 p.m. Fruitdale Fire Station, 5200 State Road 135 North, Bean Blossom
  • March 7
    Meet 'Wilderness Plots' author at the library
    7 p.m. Library, 205 N. Locust Lane
  • March 8
    'Wilderness Plots'-themed concert planned
    4 p.m. BCHS, 235 School House Lane
  • March 8
    Brown County bridal tour slated
    10 a.m. to 6 p.m. various locations
  • March 10
    Soil & water conservation district to celebrate 62 years
    6 p.m. Brown County History Center, 90 E. Gould
  • March 21
    Venders needed for Jackson TFD yard sale
    8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Jackson Township Fire Department, 4831 Helmsburg Road
  • April 26
    County history center dedication slated
    2 p.m. Brown County History Center, 90 E. Gould