ILNews

Court: Official can take office once bonded

Jennifer Nelson
January 1, 2008
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Elected public officials who haven't secured bond by the date they are to take office can begin their elected position once they have obtained the bond, ruled the Indiana Court of Appeals.

At issue in Tom Shetler Sr. and Suzan Nicholson v. Linda K. Durham, No. 82A01-0706-CV-273, is whether Durham can hold office as elected trustee of Knight Township even though she failed to secure bond by her official start date.

Durham was elected trustee in November 2006 and met with the incumbent trustee and his chief deputy, Donald Boerner. Boerner agreed to also be Durham's chief deputy and began the process of obtaining the bond required by Indiana Code Section 5-4-1-9 for officials.

When Durham took office on Jan. 1, 2007, and was given the oath of office, she still did not have bond because there was an issue in obtaining it while Durham was in the midst of Chapter 13 bankruptcy proceedings. In late January 2007, Durham was forced to relinquish the keys to the trustee's office until she was able to get the bond.

The Knight Township Board passed a resolution in February 2007 that Durham could not serve as trustee and is barred from taking office because she failed to get the bond before her term began, pursuant to I.C. 5-4-1-9. Durham finally received bond Feb. 16, 2007, which bonded her from Feb. 1, 2007, to Feb. 1, 2008.

When the board failed to recognize her as trustee once she was bonded, Durham filed for declaratory judgment, which the trial court found in her favor.

The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court decision, finding I.C. 5-4-1-9 does not bar an elected official from taking office once they have received bond, even if they did not have it by the date their term was to start.

The section includes the sentence, "If the officer fails to give the bond before that time, the officer may not take office." The board argued this prevents any elected official from taking office if they fail to obtain the bond before their start date.

Prior to 1980, when the current wording of the statute took effect, the statute said if an official did not acquire the bond within 10 days after taking office, the office "shall be vacant." However, the Indiana Supreme Court held that if there was a delay in obtaining the bond and the elected person was not at fault for the delay, the person will not be deemed to have abandoned the office.

"We believe that the supreme court's holding, which applied to a form of the statute that was more mandatory in nature than the current form of the statute, which is devoid of the reference to vacancy or forfeiture, is still applicable," wrote Senor Judge George B. Hoffman Jr. As such, Durham is not required to give up her office.
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  2. Yes diversity is so very important. With justice Rucker off ... the court is too white. Still too male. No Hispanic justice. No LGBT justice. And there are other checkboxes missing as well. This will not do. I say hold the seat until a physically handicapped Black Lesbian of Hispanic heritage and eastern religious creed with bipolar issues can be located. Perhaps an international search, with a preference for third world candidates, is indicated. A non English speaker would surely increase our diversity quotient!!!

  3. First, I want to thank Justice Rucker for his many years of public service, not just at the appellate court level for over 25 years, but also when he served the people of Lake County as a Deputy Prosecutor, City Attorney for Gary, IN, and in private practice in a smaller, highly diverse community with a history of serious economic challenges, ethnic tensions, and recently publicized but apparently long-standing environmental health risks to some of its poorest residents. Congratulations for having the dedication & courage to practice law in areas many in our state might have considered too dangerous or too poor at different points in time. It was also courageous to step into a prominent and highly visible position of public service & respect in the early 1990's, remaining in a position that left you open to state-wide public scrutiny (without any glitches) for over 25 years. Yes, Hoosiers of all backgrounds can take pride in your many years of public service. But people of color who watched your ascent to the highest levels of state government no doubt felt even more as you transcended some real & perhaps some perceived social, economic, academic and professional barriers. You were living proof that, with hard work, dedication & a spirit of public service, a person who shared their same skin tone or came from the same county they grew up in could achieve great success. At the same time, perhaps unknowingly, you helped fellow members of the judiciary, court staff, litigants and the public better understand that differences that are only skin-deep neither define nor limit a person's character, abilities or prospects in life. You also helped others appreciate that people of different races & backgrounds can live and work together peacefully & productively for the greater good of all. Those are truths that didn't have to be written down in court opinions. Anyone paying attention could see that truth lived out every day you devoted to public service. I believe you have been a "trailblazer" in Indiana's legal community and its judiciary. I also embrace your belief that society's needs can be better served when people in positions of governmental power reflect the many complexions of the population that they serve. Whether through greater understanding across the existing racial spectrum or through the removal of some real and some perceived color-based, hope-crushing barriers to life opportunities & success, movement toward a more reflective representation of the population being governed will lead to greater and uninterrupted respect for laws designed to protect all peoples' rights to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. Thanks again for a job well-done & for the inevitable positive impact your service has had - and will continue to have - on countless Hoosiers of all backgrounds & colors.

  4. Diversity is important, but with some limitations. For instance, diversity of experience is a great thing that can be very helpful in certain jobs or roles. Diversity of skin color is never important, ever, under any circumstance. To think that skin color changes one single thing about a person is patently racist and offensive. Likewise, diversity of values is useless. Some values are better than others. In the case of a supreme court justice, I actually think diversity is unimportant. The justices are not to impose their own beliefs on rulings, but need to apply the law to the facts in an objective manner.

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