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Tort claim filed on behalf of former Palmyra marshal

October 03, 2012 | 08:38 AM

Former Palmyra Town Marshal Steve Hamm has filed a tort claim notice against members of the Palmyra Town Council and Palmyra town management, as well as Harrison County Sheriff Rodney (Rod) Seelye, Harrison County Prosecutor J. Otto Schalk and Harrison County Coroner Rusty Sizemore.

According to a notification sent by Mattox and Wilson LLP, the firm representing Hamm, Hamm is seeking up to $700,000 for lost wages, loss of reputation and emotional distress he suffered after he was allegedly "coerced under duress" to resign from his position as town marshal in April.

According to former Palmyra Town Manager Cheri Banet, the resignation was received on March 22, the same date the town board met with the Harrison County Sheriff's Dept. and Harrison County Prosecutor's Office in an emergency executive session, which was followed by an emergency public meeting. It was during the emergency public meeting in which Hamm's resignation was accepted.

Hamm, who was hired as Palmyra's town marshal in 2008, was the Harrison County coroner from 2005 until 2008, and, until earlier this year, was a deputy coroner for Sizemore, who succeeded him.

Specifically named in the tort claim notice besides Schalk, Seelye and Sizemore are the Town of Palmyra, town council members Alvin Brown, Virginia (Jenny) L. Kirkham and Paul A. Eveslage, Banet and Tiffany Cardwell, the town's clerk-treasurer.

In the notice, Hamm says that at about 10:30 p.m. on March 22 he received a call from Brown.

"Mr. Brown indicated that he wished to see Mr. Hamm but did not indicate that others would be attending any meeting, that any prior meeting had taken place or what the meeting concerned," the notice reads. "Mr. Hamm was not informed that earlier that evening, two meetings were held at the Harrison County Sheriff's Dept."

It's alleged that Brown, Eveslage, Kirkham, Cardwell, Banet, Seelye, Schalk and Sizemore were all present at the earlier meetings. At the later meeting, it's alleged that the same group — with the exception of Schalk — were present.

"During the meeting, Mr. Hamm was confronted with allegations that he had been accused of theft and/or drug-related activities. Mr. Hamm had no prior knowledge of any such allegations, was not given an opportunity for a hearing, was not provided anything in writing and was coerced under duress by those in attendance to resign from his position as town marshal," the notice reads.

Banet said notice of the meeting was posted at the town hall and post office, but the town failed to give proper notice to this newspaper, which had requested notice of all meetings covered by the Indiana Open Door Law.

"Even if the two meetings met the qualifications for an emergency session, which I don't believe they do, the newspaper was to be given the same notice as town council members about the meetings," Jo Ann Spieth-Saylor, editor of this newspaper, said.

After the meeting, stories about the resignation appeared in this newspaper as well as The Courier-Journal, which included comments from Schalk that Hamm believed defamed him.

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