Starke County Council, Commissioners to Meet Tonight

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

The Starke County Council members will discuss a notice of claim submitted by former Starke County Councilman Tom DeCola regarding his reasons to be reinstated to the council.  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.  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.

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Starke County Park Board Chooses New President

The Starke County Park Board welcomed two new members Tuesday. Attorney Richard Ballard was appointed to the board by Starke Circuit Court Judge Kim Hall, following the resignation of Roger Chaffins. Starke County Highway Superintendent Rik Ritzler had been appointed by the county council back in January, replacing Debbie Mix. Ballard and Ritzler both took their seats on the park board for the first time Tuesday, during the board’s first official meeting since last September.

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Tom DeCola Submits Notice of Claim Requesting to be Re-instated to Starke County Council

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. 

Starke County Council, Commissioners to Meet Tonight

The Starke County Council members will meet tonight where they will consider a request from Sheriff Bill Dulin about the creation of new funds based on home rule local funds.  Highway Superintendent Rik Ritzler will present a request for a CEDIT appropriation and the council will also receive an update from Coroner Jack Rosa, a discussion on personnel with Clerk Bernadette Welter Manuel, and consider a transfer request from the 2018 commissioner’s budget. 

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UPDATED: Starke County Park Board Meeting Canceled

Update: Tonight’s Starke County Park Board meeting has been canceled due to weather. The next regularly-scheduled meeting is Tuesday, March 12.

The Starke County Park Board will meet tonight for the first time in more than five months. It will be the first meeting for new member Rik Ritzler, who was appointed by the county council last month. Ritzler previously worked with the park board on various projects, in his capacity as county highway superintendent.

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Starke County Council, Commissioners to Meet Tonight

The Starke County Council members will meet tonight where they will organize and review the newly approved code of conduct for all council members.  Three new council members will attend their first meeting since being elected.  Howard Bailey Jr. and Tom DeCola were elected to their seats in the November General Election while Kay Gudeman was selected in a Republican Party caucus to fill the unexpired term of Bryan Cavendar who was elected as a Starke County Commissioner in the November election.  They join Dave Pearman and Brad Hazelton who were reelected in the General Election and At-Large members Freddie Baker and Bob Sims. 

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Starke County Council, Commissioners to Meet Tonight

The Starke County Council members will meet tonight where they will review cuts needed for the 2019 budget. At their last meeting, the council members urged the department heads to cut at least six percent out of their budgets or the council members will need to do the reductions. The state cut more than $830,000 from next year’s budget and it needs to be finalized prior to Dec. 31 of this year.

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