Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Council member restrained by police during meeting while challenging citizen to step outside for a fight

The Thorntown Council Meeting held Monday 26 October 2009 didn't take long to turn to mayhem. About 30 members of the community, four police officers, four council members and administrative staff were in attendance.

The meeting opened with an announcement that former Town Attorney Carlyle Gerde had died and his partner Mary Russell would take over at least until the end of the year. Council member Eric Smith submitted notice that he will not be available for the next 8-9 months.

Regular business was conducted which was quite minimal and then the agenda turned to community members who had asked to speak.

Park Board President Cheryl Toney was on the agenda but was unavailable so the council chose to continue Park Board matters until the next meeting. Toney has complained previously that Town Council President Pat McPeak had been getting paid to do work at the park including cutting trees after a storm and repairs on a building using his "construction" company without Park Board approval. She says the total paid to McPeak is $140,000.

Stuart Showalter discussed the need to select a town attorney in a public forum. Interim attorney Mary Russell began complaining to Showalter that matters involving pending litigation was not going to be discussed. Showalter continued to talk about why the selection for a town attorney should be done at a public meeting. Russell continued to try to talk over him.

Although Showalter does have pending litigation with the town he felt that the proper procedures used in selecting a person to fill a town position are irrelevant to current litigation. Showalter proposed that the town should give citizens or taxpayers the opportunity to speak at a public meeting either in support of or against any prospective attorneys for the town and why that is needed. Pat McPeak then started talking about prior and ongoing litigation with Showalter. Showalter retorted by asking if it was now going to be that Russell says that he can't talk about litigation but it is fine for McPeak or the council to say what they want about it.

He also suggested that the town contact the Disciplinary Commission of the Indiana Supreme Court to investigate the background of prospective town attorney applicants. He then noted that such investigation would have revealed the discipline against former attorney Gerde and that there was additional information about Gerde in the public forum.

Pat McPeak starting challenging Showalter as to why he should be believed when he is a convicted felon. Showalter, who claims that he presented information to the council in January 2007 about Gerde's over-litigating cases and that it doesn't matter whether he has a felony conviction because the matters presented are public record. It was other court who made findings that Gerde had engaged in fraud, theft, forgery, misrepresentations to the court, robbery and many more illicit acts.

Council members also contended that the town had never sued Showalter but had won. However, Showalter had been named as a defendant in a lawsuit filed by the "Town of Thorntown" in cause number 06D02-0703-OV-0286. That suit was dismissed two days after Showalter served subpoenas duces tecum, which require the named person to produce particular documents to the court, on Pat McPeak and former Council President Gary Jones. This was nearly two years after the suit was filed in response to Showalter posting a sign challenging sitting council members running for re-election. Showalter has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the town and various officials for the two years of ongoing harassment over his political speech.

The meeting took a very interesting turn when one board member said he had had enough and challenged Showalter to step outside and fight. The tirade continued for a few minutes while Showalter instructed the member that his behaviour was inappropriate for an elected representative. One of the police officer restrained the council member.

The floor was opened to comments or questions from the community. A town resident complained that McPeak's company had done no bid municipal projects in violation of competitive bidding laws. He further claimed that there are criminal penalties for doing so. Pat McPeak responded by asking the man if he was calling McPeak a criminal. The resident responded that he guesses he is.

The next meeting is scheduled for 16 November 2009.


Indiana Custodial Rights Advocates

©2009 Stuart Showalter, LLC. Permission is granted to all non-commercial entities to reproduce this article in it's entirety with credit given.

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