The Starke County Council members recently received a Notice of Claim from Tom DeCola who was expelled from his seat on the Starke County Council on Feb. 18.
DeCola claims that he was not given the full 30 days to respond to allegations of disorderly conduct and public intoxication during a “social event hosted by the Indiana Association of Counties” in Indianapolis. He stated that the deadline was technically Feb. 21 and he was asked to provide an explanation during the council’s meeting on Feb. 18. During that meeting DeCola had this comment, “After reviewing the paperwork that was handed to me, I read it and decided that it was my in persona civil cause of action and that it wasn’t an authoritative official cause of action. So, I decided it’s not even worthy to respond to it.”
DeCola also claims the Starke County Council wrongfully expelled him for allegations that were outside his term. He took office on Jan. 1, 2019 and the allegations occurred on Dec. 12, 2018. He said he wasn’t acting under any type of official duty and has not been criminally charged. He also claims the witnesses who gave statements were unreliable.
DeCola’s oath of office was filed on Dec. 7. Witnesses at the conference in Indianapolis stated he introduced himself as a Starke County Councilman.
Starke County Attorney Marty Lucas said the claim is currently under review.
In a press release, Starke County Council President Dave Pearman said the fiscal body may, by state statute, “(1) expel any member for violation of an official duty; (2) declare the seat of any member vacant if the member is unable or fails to perform the duties of the member’s office; and (3) adopt its own rules to govern proceedings under this section, but a two-thirds ( 2/3 ) vote is required to expel a member or vacate a member’s seat.”
Pearman stated that DeCola’s Notice of Claim will be discussed during the council’s next meeting on Monday, March 18 at 5:30 p.m. CT in the meeting room in the Starke County Annex Building No. 1 at 53 E. Mound Street in Knox.