Bench trial set in challenge of auditor's election

A bench trial to contest the election of a new Vigo County auditor is now set for  Dec. 1 in Vigo Superior Court 2.

In a video hearing today, Judge Lakshmi “Lucky” Reddy set an in-person bench trial to hear the challenge of current auditor, Jim Bramble, against Rebecca Coleman, who won the Nov. 3 election for the office.

Bramble is challenging the election of Coleman because she has felony convictions of robbery and theft from 1996 in Vigo Superior Court 1.

Bramble’s attorney, William Smock, said those felony convictions disqualify her from holding office according to state law.

In a general response, Coleman said admitted to having a felony record.

“I did have two felonies 23 years ago — and as far as I have known for 23 years, they were set aside,” she said.

Reddy encouraged Coleman to hire an attorney before the trial. Coleman said she is in the process of trying to hire an attorney.

The certified election results in the county auditor's race has Republican challenger Coleman with 22,181 votes and incumbent Democrat  Bramble with 19,684. 

Bramble said he learned of Coleman's criminal conviction as the votes were still being counted. He said he has asked Vigo County Democratic Party Chairman Joe Etling to file the challenge with the county clerk's office.

Soon after the challenge was announced, Coleman said she is intends to take office Jan. 1.

“I appreciate all of the voters that voted for me in this election and their support at this time. I fully intend to continue doing my job that I have been elected to do,” she said in a statement after the challenge was announced. “... I am confident that when all of the facts are revealed that I will take office.”

In 1996, Coleman's name was Rebecca Reedy and she resided in Rosedale. According to a case summary from Vigo Superior Court 1, The original charge was robbery resulting in bodily injury and filed on July 22, 1996.

To resolve the criminal case, Reedy in May 1997 pleaded guilty to theft, a Class D felony, and to an amended second count, conspiracy to commit robbery, a Class B felony. She was sentenced to concurrent two-year sentences. One year was suspended to 60 days already served in Vigo County Jail, and one year was ordered served on home detention.

Angie Nussmeyer, co-director of the Indiana Election Division, said a candidate who files to run for office acknowledges that the individual meets the qualifications to assume office when signing the declaration of candidacy and filing it. The declaration of candidacy filed in the primary includes a paragraph with the sentence, “I am not ineligible to be a candidate due to a criminal conviction that would prohibit me from serving in this office.”

According to state law, if a candidate is removed as ineligible, the office would then be filled by the candidate who received the second highest vote count. In this cast, that is Bramble.

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Lisa Trigg has been a reporter at the Tribune-Star since 2009. With more than 30 years of newspaper experience, she now covers general news with a focus on crime and courts.

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