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McClanahan senses foul play in voting district dispute

Palmyra Town Board President Roy (Speedy) McClanahan suggested foul play Thursday night at the board’s regular monthly meeting. Likening the discovery of a document redrawing the town’s voting districts to the Martha Stewart insider trading scandal, McClanahan suggested the document may have been planted.
McClanahan said he visited the office of Harrison County Circuit Clerk Carole Gaither at least twice the past four years to confirm the boundaries of his district before the document was discovered. The 1975 document is significant, sources said, because it redraws those boundaries to include an undeclared political opponent in McClanahan’s district.
Town attorney Gordon Ingle disagreed, saying that in his legal opinion, the document was void because it was never filed with the circuit clerk.
The document lacked a ‘filed stamp,’ and ‘Where (Gaither) found it was not the repository for these types of documents,’ he said.
Secondly, Ingle said, the district ordinance was passed during an election year. Altering districts during an election year is explicitly forbidden by Indiana state law. For the same reason, he said, the town cannot take any official action on the districts this year.
Ingle said the board should research minutes following the April 1975 ordinance to search for a clear answer as to whether the ordinance had been officially voided and to gain insight on what the proper boundaries should be at present.
Gaither, he said, ‘told me in no uncertain terms that she would not run the election if there was some dispute of districts.’ In such a case, the town would be required to conduct its own election if there is opposition.
‘If there is a big battle, ultimately, this is going to end up in court,’ Ingle said.
‘If there is going to be a challenge to the current town board, it ought to be on their record,’ he said during an interview the following day. ‘Quite frankly, I think they’ve done an excellent job.’
Any challenge stemming from the debated ordinance would have to come at election time. The discovery of the document does not call into question the legitimacy of current or former town board members because the opportunity to challenge those elections has passed, Ingle said.
Harrison County District 1 Councilman Alvin Brown of Palmyra attempted to interject some comments during the discussion but was told that he would be given a chance to speak after the attorney had finished. After Ingle’s comments, Brown indicated he had further information regarding the districts.
McClanahan told Brown that he could speak during the public comments portion of the meeting ‘ the last item on the agenda.
Brown stood and said in a raised voice, ‘I’m going to tell you like J. Edgar Hoover told the outlaws.’
McClanahan ordered the town marshal to escort Brown from the meeting, but before he had finished his instruction, Brown was already on his way to the door. Part of the audience continued the discussion outside.
Brown later said that he intended to tell the town board that they should have redistricted two years ago when the issue was first raised. Due to annexation, he said, Palmyra’s districts were in need of restructuring anyway.
Before closing the meeting, McClanahan returned to the issue.
‘What I can say to anybody who wants this job ‘ I want them to run for it,’ he said, adding a reminder for the record and three remaining audience members that the deadline to file to run in the fall election is June 30 at noon.
‘Don’t let that time pass on you,’ McClanahan said.
The districting controversy comes on the heels of a disagreement over the way town funds are allocated. That disagreement spilled over into Thursday’s meeting.
McClanahan asked for a motion to approve funds on a garage to be constructed by John Jarboe of Palmyra.
‘I have no idea what you are talking about,’ Trustee George Morgan said. He told McClanahan that this was the first he had heard of the proposed garage.
‘What are you talking about?’ Clerk Virginia Dale asked McClanahan.
McClanahan said he wanted to make a motion that Jarboe build a $13,200 garage to house the town police car and mosquito fogging truck. Trustee Carol Rowe said she heard about the garage on Wednesday. She seconded the motion, which passed 2-1 with Morgan opposed.
Also on the agenda was the purchase of a ‘four-wheel-drive Mule’ for mosquito fogging. The agile vehicle would be useful for traveling down alleys and behind homes, McClanahan said. He asked the board to approve the purchase, saying he would then shop around for the best price.
‘I just want a straight answer,’ Morgan said. He slid the microphone for the clerk’s tape recorder over to McClanahan. ‘Has this already been bought or agreed to?’
‘No, no, no,’ McClanahan said, leaning over the microphone.
The motion was passed and accepted 2-0 with Morgan abstaining.
Developer Michael Gregory thanked the board for paving Voyles Street. The project cost about $9,750 and was approved only after months of complaints and repeated claims by the board that Gregory had agreed to pave the street.
To collect those funds, McClanahan said it was the board’s intention to place a lien on Gregory’s property.
Previous councilmen had promised to pave the whole thing, Gregory said. He also said he wouldn’t have finished paving the street until his development was finished because concrete trucks will be driving on the asphalt.
‘You finish those homes and you won’t get any water from this town,’ McClanahan said.
Gregory said he was promised by the previous town board to get 17 sewer taps, water hook-ups and the other items he needs to finish his development along Voyles Street. As for paying for the asphalt, ‘That’s not gonna happen,’ he said.
McClanahan reiterated the threat of withholding water service.
Gregory appealed to trustees Morgan and Rowe. At Gregory’s request, Morgan made a motion to allow the developer to finish construction, be provided with the necessary services and not be threatened with a lien. Rowe seconded. The item passed 3-0.
‘See, I got beat on that one,’ McClanahan said, rebuffing earlier claims that board members always followed his recommendation.
The next board meeting is scheduled for June 18 at 6:30 p.m. during which Gordon Ingle plans to resume discussion of voting districts.