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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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  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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