At the request of Marshall County Commissioner Kevin Overmyer, the Commissioners conducted a special meeting Wednesday afternoon in their chambers in the County Building. After calling the meeting to order, President Stan Klotz gave Overmyer the floor.
Overmyer said he wanted to bring some items to attention before Attorney Jim Clevenger left for vacation. He read some of the duties of the commissioners that were prepared by Clevenger.
“The Board of Commissioners is the county executive and shall transact the business of the county according to Indiana Code. The commissioners are to recommend whatever action or program they consider necessary for the improvement of the county and the welfare of its residents. The commissioners are to submit to the legislative body an annual budget. The commissioners are to establish procedures that are to be followed by all county departments, offices, and agencies. The commissioners are to supervise the care and departments, offices, and agencies. The commissioners are to supervise the collection of revenue and control all disbursements and expenditures. The commissioners are to review, analyze, and forecast trends for county services and finances and programs of all county government entities. The commissioners are to negotiate the contracts for the county. The commissioners are to make recommendations concerning the nature and locations of county improvements and provide for the execution of those improvements. The commissioners are to supervise county administrative offices except for the office of the elected officials.”
Overmyer said things are going on that he believes “crosses the line.” He said he understands that it is the council’s purview to hire an attorney for council-related items but if they act on items not under the council’s purview, he recommended that those claims not be paid and stated, “As far as I’m concerned, they are overstepping their boundaries.”
Overmyer clarified that there is a contracted County Attorney and said, “If elected officials and department heads go to the county attorney for advice, those claims will be paid but, if they go elsewhere those claims will not be paid because Jim is our County Attorney.” Overmyer then made a motion to require elected officials and department heads to use the county attorney if they want their claims paid.
Commissioner Klotz asked for clarification saying, “You said the council is allowed to hire their own attorney. Are you talking outside of that county’s authority?”
Overmyer said they (County Council) have a right to hire an attorney for work under their jurisdiction of county government. If it is fiscally related that’s fine but if they are planning on setting a whole different policy such as a Conflict of Interest or anything else, then he doesn’t want those claims paid. Overmyer also pointed out that the commissioners have not been given a contract for the council’s attorney or the financial advisor and they are the ones who sign the contracts for the county. With that clarification, the motion was approved by a unanimous vote.
Overmyer then brought up the Highway Department and said the Commissioners hire the superintendent who is Jason Peters and the Highway Department is under the jurisdiction of the Commissioners and they also approve the claims submitted by the highway department. He wanted to clarify the duties of the commissioners working with the highway department so the County Council understands that they can’t fund any road projects that are not approved by the commissioners.
County Attorney Jim Clevenger also commented during the special meeting. His advice was to work with and cooperate with the council, saying, “It’s been that way since I’ve been the County Attorney for decades. I encourage you to do that, however, it looks to me like they (the council) are doing things that are usurping your power and I’m very concerned about that. He gave an example saying that it appears they are trying to, on their own, transfer the Rainy-Day Fund to a highway item and do it so they can avoid the commissioners approving the claims. He said that wasn’t acceptable, unlawful, and might be illegal.
The County Attorney said their actions can put the County Auditor in a spot if she is writing checks that aren’t approved by the commissioners. He said it also puts the Highway Superintendent in a spot because he would be using those funds for projects or work that hasn’t been authorized by the commissioners. Clevenger said, “I think the council needs to know they cannot transact business. That is your job. That’s the executive’s job. The council needs to know that they need to stick with what their functions are and not step on the functions and duties of the powers that this body is supposed to do.”
Commissioner Klotz also commented, “I don’t work for any elected officials despite of what I have been accused of.” He continued, “I work for the public and the public has told us some things at the election. Has there been some aggressive moves made here in the past, sure. But, I have talked to the Auditor too and I am not going to go against what the State Board of Accounts or the law tells us what we can do. I don’t always know what that is. Sometimes I’ve got to go find out. The bottom line is, it’s time to sit down and work on behalf of the public together. We haven’t done that. We have refused to do that. It’s time to put the egos aside and sit down and talk on how we move this county forward.”
Klotz said the public wants more road repair and not higher taxes. He said the county needs responsible growth and low taxes. He told the other commissioners he won’t be pushed into something that he doesn’t agree with.