News From Terre Haute, Indiana

June 26, 2013

EDITORIAL: Dysfunction Junction

A bastion of bad government

The Tribune-Star

---- — Folks, even in a fit of bizarre imagination, it’s unlikely you could make this stuff up.

We refer to the astounding goings-on in the town of Seelyville, where local elected officials are so incapable of working together that a panel consisting of almost the entire slate of Vigo County’s superior court judges has been enlisted to referee.

This is how local government should not work.

The crazy dispute was aired last week at a hearing before no fewer than five judges. (Law requires such a panel to hear legal disputes between elected officials.) Reporter Arthur Foulkes recounted claims and counterclaims in his report of the hearing in Saturday’s newspaper.

In summary, new Clerk-Treasurer Connie Hinsenkamp sued town board members Jerry Jones, Jerry Reynolds and John Wade more than a year ago, alleging the three overstepped their authority as a board by voting to rehire a town employee Hinsenkamp had fired. (As it turns out, that fired town employee was the previous clerk-treasurer who had lost her elected position during a party convention to pick candidates, but who was allowed to remain on the payroll in a utility office manager position because the town board had expanded her duties to include that role. Yes, it’s complicated. Take a deep breath.)

The ins and outs of the dispute are indeed complex and confusing. We don’t envy the distinguished panel of judges’ job of unraveling the mess. The judicial panel at the hearing consisted of judges David Bolk, Phil Adler, John Roach, Chris Newton and Michael Lewis. Judge Michael Rader missed the hearing because of a previous commitment. He was the lucky one.

For the sake of good government, Seelyville’s elected officials should at least be attempting to get along. They don’t have to like each other. They do have to work together.

An inordinate amount of taxpayers’ time and money is being spent to resolve a ridiculous dispute. Does anyone in Seelyville think their public business is being handled efficiently and effectively in the midst of all this?

While we’re content to let the panel sort out the legal matters, we do have a suggestion for the people of Seelyville. If these elected officials continue to choose confrontation over cooperation, we urge people to exercise good judgment and oust the entire crew in the next election. Unfortunately, that won’t occur until 2015. A long memory and short temper are in order.