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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.

  • December 20
    Live band at dance barn
    6 p.m. Mike's Dance Barn, 2277 State Road 46 West
  • December 20
    Euchre
    6 p.m. Sycamore Valley Center, 746 Memorial Drive (fairgrounds)
  • December 20
    Dave Miller at Abe Martin Lodge
    5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Abe Martin Lodge, Brown County State Park
  • December 20
    'Gone Girl' at the Playhouse
    1 p.m., 4 p.m., 7 p.m. BC Playhouse, 70 S. Van Buren St.
  • December 20
    Railroad museum features model Christmas trains
    1 to 7 p.m. BC RR Museum, 18 W. Three Story Hill Road, Fruitdale
  • December 21
    'Gone Girl' at the Playhouse
    1 p.m., 4 p.m., 7 p.m. BC Playhouse, 70 S. Van Buren St.
  • December 21
    Railroad museum features model Christmas trains´╗┐
    1 to 7 p.m. BC RR Museum, 18 W. Three Story Hill Road, Fruitdale
  • December 23
    Euchre
    6 p.m. Sycamore Valley Center, 746 Memorial Drive (fairgrounds)
  • December 23
    Open 12-step meetings in New Bellsville area
    6 to 7 p.m. Harmony Baptist Church, 3999 Mt. Liberty Road, New Bellesville
  • December 24
    Nashville government offices CLOSED
  • December 24
    Christmas Eve Communion service at Becks Grove church
    7 p.m. Becks Grove Christian Church, 8009 Becks Grove Road
  • December 24
    Candlelight service at Helmsburg church Christmas Eve
    7 p.m. Brown County Community Church, 2370 Main St., Helmsburg
  • December 24
    Candlelight service set for Christmas Eve
    6:30 p.m. Country Gospel Music Church, 5181 State Road 46 East
  • December 24
    Cordry church hosts candlelight service Christmas Eve
    7 p.m. Church of the Lakes, 8844 Nineveh Road
  • December 25
    Government Offices CLOSED
  • December 26
    Bingo
    6 p.m. Fruitdale Fire Station, 5200 State Road 135 North, Bean Blossom
  • December 26
    Brown County Government Offices CLOSED
  • December 26
    'Interstellar' at the Playhouse
    4 p.m., 7 p.m. BC Playhouse, 70 S. Van Buren St.
  • December 27
    Euchre
    6 p.m. Sycamore Valley Center, 746 Memorial Drive (fairgrounds)
  • December 27
    Dave Miller at Abe Martin Lodge
    5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Abe Martin Lodge, Brown County State Park
  • December 27
    'Interstellar' at the Playhouse
    4 p.m., 7 p.m. BC Playhouse, 70 S. Van Buren St.
  • December 27
    Live band at dance barn
    7:30 p.m. Mike's Dance Barn, 2277 State Road 46 West
  • December 28
    'Interstellar' at the Playhouse
    4 p.m., 7 p.m. BC Playhouse, 70 S. Van Buren St.
  • December 29
    Jackson Township Board
    7 p.m. Jackson Township Board, Trustee's Office, 5765 Carmel Ridge Road
  • December 30
    Euchre
    6 p.m. Sycamore Valley Center, 746 Memorial Drive (fairgrounds)
  • December 31
    Live band at the Playhouse
    8 p.m. BC Playhouse, 70 S. Van Buren St.
  • January 2
    Bingo
    6 p.m. Fruitdale Fire Station, 5200 State Road 135 North, Bean Blossom
  • January 8
    Go Club meeting Thursdays
    3:30 to 5 p.m. Brown County Public Library, 205 N. Locust Lane
  • January 10
    Free community breakfast at Sprunica church
    8 to 10 a.m. Sprunica Baptist Church, 3902 Sprunica Road
  • January 14
    Jeff Foster at Hobnob restaurant
    6 to 8 p.m. Hobnob, 17 W. Main St.
  • December 7
    Jeff Foster at Hobnob restaurant
    6 to 8 p.m. Hobnob, 17 W. Main St.