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Justices again deny election request

January 1, 2008
The Indiana Supreme Court has denied for the second time in two months a request to get involved in a Terre Haute mayoral election dispute.

The justices sent notice Tuesday to attorneys that they won't bypass the Court of Appeals on a dispute resulting from the November election, when Republican Duke Bennett ousted incumbent Democrat Mayor Kevin Burke by about 110 votes.

The court had previously decided not to get involved in an issue about whether Vigo Superior Judge David Bolk had jurisdiction in the case of the recount petition's validity because of a missing middle initial. Bennett later won by a few additional votes and was sworn in at the start of the year.

But Burke had also challenged Bennett's candidacy on grounds that he'd violated the Hatch Act, a federal law limiting political activity of non-profits receiving federal money. Bennett had worked during his campaign for Hamilton Center Inc., which operated as an Early Head Start program and received a federal grant.

After the recount, Judge Bolk ruled in December that state law doesn't prevent Bennett from taking office and that any violation of the federal law was unintentional. Rather than go directly to the Indiana Court of Appeals, attorneys asked the state's highest court to intervene. But a docket entry Tuesday shows the justices denied that.

Indianapolis attorney Bryan Babb, who is representing Bennett, said the case now goes before the Court of Appeals and could take as long as two years to get through both appellate courts.

"I think it's fair to say that if they felt that Judge Bolk had got it wrong and that Mayor Bennett does not belong in office, then they would have accelerated this process and heard the case as soon as possible," Babb said.

Ed DeLaney is representing Burke.
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