News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Local & Bistate

February 26, 2008

Hamilton Center sets new rules for candidates

Political hopefuls must resign before they can run

TERRE HAUTE — The results are in — if Hamilton Center Inc. employees want to run for a partisan political office, they must first resign their Hamilton Center position.

Members of the Hamilton Center board of directors met Tuesday and unanimously approved political intervention and Hatch Act policies, pending the insertion of an extra sentence excluding employees appointed to partisan offices such as precinct committee members, party delegates or school board members.

Approval of the policies were as recommended by the Services/Planning/Evaluation Committee & Professional Affairs Committee.

After the outcome of November’s Terre Haute mayoral election was challenged because Mayor Duke Bennett worked as director of operations for the center, the board decided to establish a Hatch Act policy.

The Hatch Act precludes not-for-profit employees whose agencies receive federal funding from running for public office. The Hamilton Center receives federal funding for its Early Head Start program.

Both policies have been in the works since early January, said Galen Goode, Hamilton Center CEO.

“That was the most conservative route, obviously, to take since we didn’t really have to preclude everybody,” he said. “We could have asked that they go to the special counsel, … but the board decided it was a lot simpler process to take the position of precluding it.”

Goode said he’s not worried about losing employees because of the strict policies. The center’s attorney told him the policy is no different from other not-for-profit organizations.

Hamilton Center’s political intervention policy prohibits Center funds, employees or other resources to be used in any political campaign on behalf of or in opposition to any candidate for public office.

“Political intervention includes any and all activities that favor or oppose one or more candidates for public office,” the policy states.

Activities including, but not limited to, endorsing candidates for public office, paying or committing Center funds to campaigns, contributing to Political Action Committees or political parties, issuing public statements of position by or on behalf of the Center to any candidate and allowing a candidate to use the Center’s assets or facilities are prohibited by officers, directors, employees and others affiliated with the Center.

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