DeCola vs. Starke County Council Lawsuit Moves Forward

Starke County Council members (L to R) Brad Hazelton, Dave Pearman, Freddie Baker, Bob Sims, Tom DeCola, Howard Bailey Jr, and Kay Gudeman

The lawsuit filed by Tom DeCola against the Starke County Council continues to move through the legal system.

The Starke County Council expelled DeCola from his council seat in March amid allegations of public intoxication and disorderly conduct during an incident at the Indiana Association of Counties event in Indianapolis. 

DeCola claims that he suffered defamation of character when questioned by Commissioner Kathy Norem about his residency and eligibility to hold his council seat.  He also claims that she “slandered DeCola continuously” during meetings in November of 2018, December 2018 and Jan. 22, 2019.

The former Starke County Councilman seeks reinstatement to his seat on the county council along with reimbursement of court costs, lost wages, and punitive damages not to exceed $50,000.

But, it seems local judges can’t fit this lawsuit in their court schedules for a speedy trial at the request of DeCola.

Starke Circuit Court Judge Kim Hall and Magistrate Jeanene Calabrese submitted recusal documents in the matter.  The court proceeded to appoint Pulaski Superior Court Judge Crystal Brucker-Kocker on April 17, but she declined to be the Special Judge in documents filed in Starke Circuit Court on April 25.  The court then appointed Pulaski Circuit Court Judge Mary Welker who submitted similar documents in the Starke County Clerk’s Office that same day.

The court appointed La Porte Superior Court #2 Judge Richard Stalbrink who accepted the jurisdiction.  However, DeCola filed paperwork Monday with a motion to change judges.     

The law firm of Knight, Hoppe, Kurnik & Knight, Ltd. represents Starke County in this case.  

A trial date is pending.