Starke Circuit Court Schedules Emergency Hearing on Railroad Township Fire Protection Contract


The controversy surrounding the planned restructuring of the San Pierre Volunteer Fire Department has led to an emergency hearing in Starke Circuit Court. A complaint filed on behalf of Fire Chief Joe Kryzyzanowski and Railroad Township Board members Clarence Gehrke and Gus Eckert requests an emergency order allowing the department to continue providing fire protection under a temporary contract.

It states that Township Trustee Mandy Thomason has so far failed to present board members with a contract, as requested by Gehrke and Eckert last week. The complaint alleges that Thomason’s decision not to renew the San Pierre Volunteer Fire Department’s contract violates Indiana’s Open Door Law, since it didn’t happen during an advertised board meeting.

However, Attorney Stephen Buschmann says that since the township trustee is an executive and not a governing body, she is not bound by Open Door Law, according to Township Trustee Clerk Sarah Gillard. Buschmann represents Thomason, and acts as general counsel for the Indiana Township Association.

That raises the question of whether Thomason has the authority to make decisions about fire protection without approval of the township board. Buschmann says she does. However, Attorney Cassandra Hine, who filed the complaint, says she doesn’t.

The emergency hearing is scheduled for tomorrow morning at 11:30 in Starke Circuit Court. The Railroad Township Board plans to meet in special session tomorrow evening at 6:00 at the San Pierre Fire Station to potentially consider a contract.