Last week the Marshall County Commissioners had several appointments to make but before the appointment, Commissioner Stan Klotz commented.   He said conflict of interest has been brought up several times during discussions on the solar farm issue.  The commissioners said he participated in the annual commissioner’s conference in Indianapolis, attended a Planning and Zoning seminar, and has completed some of his own research.  Klotz said three ladies from the State of Indiana spoke on several subjects in planning and zoning including conflict of interest. 

Klotz said, “Basically what it boils down to in my research, what I found out was conflict of interest can be a couple different things.  Conflict of interest can be, and there is where I think we’ve been misguided in this county.  Conflict of interest can be either criminal or unethical.  If you break it down even further, it can be direct or indirect conflict. Direct and indirect conflict is what struck me.  When they explained it there at that meeting and if you go to 36-7-4 it talks about different conflicts.  It talks about one for planning and one for BZA.  They are both about the same. When you get to direct or indirect conflict, a direct conflict is when basically you have a direct benefit, gain, impact on that project.  But if you live in a neighborhood, especially if you have ground attaching to these things, you have a conflict.  You have an indirect conflict.  They talked about this and gave a whole list of scenarios of an indirect conflict.”

Commissioner Klotz continued by saying he isn’t a lawyer, but he’s heard everyone say they aren’t connected but that’s not what he wanted to debate.  His concern is a lawsuit.

Klotz said, “I’m not sure anything this Plan Commission has done in this last year would hold up in a court of law because it’s tainted.  I’m not saying just you Kevin (Overmyer), I’m saying there’s other people too by the indirect law what I was told it would impact.”           

Klotz said in Whitley County if there is any suspicion of a conflict, even a hint it goes to an attorney, and that lawyer is supposed to remove that person and not allow them to vote or be a part of the action going on. 

The commissioner closed his comments by saying, “I’m afraid were exposed to liability issues.  There is so much turmoil in this county over solar I expect there to be a challenge one way or the other.  There’s going to be a court challenge and we are going to find out.  I’ll be shocked if there’s not.  I have no knowledge of that, but I’ll be shocked if there’s not, so I just think we need to be careful.”

County Attorney Jim Clevenger asked Klotz if he had discussed the issue with Derek Jones, the Plan Commission’s attorney. Klotz said after the meeting he did talk to him and told him what he said in the meeting was wrong. Klotz suggested an additional review on the issue of conflict of interest. 

Klotz then read the list of appointments.

Bourbon Plan Commission – Patty Kitch and still an open position

Culver Plan Commission – Don Fox and another open position

County Plan Commission – Kevin Overmyer, Matt Miller, Michelle Merias,

Alcoholic Beverage Commission – Joel Fisher

County Health Director – Dr. Byron Holm

County Board of Health – Dr. Jim White & Dr. John Larson

Lake of the Woods Sewer District – Mary Wood

East Shore Conservancy District – Peter Clevland & Whitney Johnson

M.C. Drainage Board – Dave Stultz

MACOG – Mike Burroughs

MACOG Regional EDC – Trend Weldy, Joe Martin Jr.

M. C. Community Corrections – Jeremy Riffle, Sam Schlosser, Tim Harman, Lindey Leary, James Brown, Dave Hinderliter, Francis Ellert

County Safety Committee – Kevin Overmyer

Unsafe Building – Stan Klotz, Kathy Swank

Central Dispatch Committee – Stan Klotz

Courthouse Security – no appointment at this time

Before approving the appointments, Commissioner Klotz asked Commissioner Overmyer if he still wanted to stay on the Plan Commission and he said yes for now.  Klotz commented, “I think it’s an exposure but that’s fine.” 

The list of commissioner appointments was motioned to be approved by Commissioner Mike Burroughs and seconded by Commissioner Overmyer who said he would consider his appointment to the Plan Commission and look into Klotz’s concern on the conflict of interest.  Klotz said he could resign next month and one of the other commissioners could take the seat if he found the same information on a conflict of interest. 

County Attorney Jim Clevenger commented that Commissioner Overmyer does have a conflict of interest in the large-scale battery storage project and would be recusing himself from those discussions and votes during Plan Commission meetings.  The motion was carried with a 3-0 vote.