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COA: Commissioners couldn't dissolve district

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The Brown County Commissioners had no authority to enact an ordinance to attempt to dissolve a recently created fire district, the Indiana Court of Appeals concluded today.

In Susanne C. Gaudin, et al. v. J.W. Austin, president, et al., No. 07A04-0909-CV-534, Susanne Gaudin and other plaintiffs sought declaratory and injunctive relief upon learning the Brown County Commissioners enacted an ordinance in January 2009 purporting to dissolve a fire district. That district was created by a September 2007 ordinance. The plaintiffs alleged the dissolution ordinance was void because no petition to dissolve the district or repeal the ordinance establishing it had been filed.

The trial court granted summary judgment for the commissioners, ruling there's no reason to conclude that a governing body with the authority to establish the fire protection district doesn't have similar authority to dissolve it.

The Court of Appeals reversed because the statute doesn't allow the commissioners to unilaterally decide to dissolve a fire district. Indiana Code Section 36-8-11 explicitly provides two sections for establishment of a district either by an ordinance or by a freeholder petition, but it only addresses dissolution of a district in one section. That section explains proceedings to dissolve a district may be instituted by filing a petition with the legislative body that formed the district. The petition must be signed by a certain number of freeholders and there needs to be a public hearing on the matter.

The commissioners argued they could dissolve the district pursuant to the "Home Rule" statute, but in Indiana, if there is a constitutional or statutory provision requiring a specific manner for exercising a power, the unit wanting to exercise that power must follow that specific provision.

The appellate judges concluded that it is apparent from the various requirements of freeholder involvement in the provision for dissolution of the district, and for objecting to the dissolution, that the legislature didn't intend for this procedure to be avoided by a unilateral act of the commissioners, wrote Judge Melissa May.

The appellate court directed for summary judgment to be entered in favor of the plaintiffs.

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  1. I just wanted to point out that Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, Senator Feinstein, former Senate majority leader Bill Frist, and former attorney general John Ashcroft are responsible for this rubbish. We need to keep a eye on these corrupt, arrogant, and incompetent fools.

  2. Well I guess our politicians have decided to give these idiot federal prosecutors unlimited power. Now if I guy bounces a fifty-dollar check, the U.S. attorney can intentionally wait for twenty-five years or so and have the check swabbed for DNA and file charges. These power hungry federal prosecutors now have unlimited power to mess with people. we can thank Wisconsin's Jim Sensenbrenner and Diane Feinstein, John Achcroft and Bill Frist for this one. Way to go, idiots.

  3. I wonder if the USSR had electronic voting machines that changed the ballot after it was cast? Oh well, at least we have a free media serving as vicious watchdog and exposing all of the rot in the system! (Insert rimshot)

  4. Jose, you are assuming those in power do not wish to be totalitarian. My experience has convinced me otherwise. Constitutionalists are nearly as rare as hens teeth among the powerbrokers "managing" us for The Glorious State. Oh, and your point is dead on, el correcta mundo. Keep the Founders’ (1791 & 1851) vision alive, my friend, even if most all others, and especially the ruling junta, chase only power and money (i.e. mammon)

  5. Hypocrisy in high places, absolute immunity handed out like Halloween treats (it is the stuff of which tyranny is made) and the belief that government agents are above the constitutions and cannot be held responsible for mere citizen is killing, perhaps has killed, The Republic. And yet those same power drunk statists just reel on down the hallway toward bureaucratic fascism.

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