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Cedar Lake allowed to dissolve Parks Department, board

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A Lake Superior judge erred when she used Dillon’s Rule to determine the scope of the town of Cedar Lake’s legal authority to dissolve its park board and Parks Department, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled Thursday. The proper legal inquiry is based on the state’s Home Rule Act.

In Town of Cedar Lake v. Gina Alessia, Candi Reiling, Andrew Balkema, Individually and as Members of the Town of Cedar Lake Park Board, 45A03-1207-PL-316, terminated park board members Gina Alessia, Candi Reiling and Andrew Balkema filed a complaint against the town after their positions on the board were terminated and the Parks Department was dissolved by ordinance. They sought reinstatement, back pay and an injunction against Cedar Lake to prohibit it from taking any action that would hinder or prevent the board members from acting in their official capacity.

The terminated board members alleged the ordinance dissolving the board and the department was improper and not authorized by statute.

Lake Superior Judge Diane Kavadias-Schneider granted partial summary judgment in favor of the board members, finding the ordinance was improper and beyond the scope of the Town Council’s authority under Indiana Code. She ordered the terminated board members reinstated. She also held that law firm Austgen Kuiper & Associates P.C. may continue to represent the town in this action, but cannot represent the board members because of conflict of interest.

In making her ruling, Kavadias-Schneider relied on Dillon’s Rule to determine the town’s authority, but the Power of Cities Act, and later the Home Rule Act, changed the legal landscape of the relationship between the state and its political subdivisions, Judge Edward Najam wrote. Pursuant to the Home Rule Act, there is not statutory prohibition against the town’s exercise to dissolve the park board or the Parks Department, and Cedar Lake’s exercise of that authority by enacting the ordinance was lawful, the judges held.

They reversed summary judgment for the board members on their claims for illegal termination, declaratory judgment on the validity of the ordinance and injunctive relief. The COA ordered the trial court to enter summary judgment for the town on these issues.

But, the judges did affirm the order that Austgen Kuiper & Associates may not continue to represent the park board and its members in any matter based on the current conflict of interest.
 

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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