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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. From his recent appearance on WRTV to this story here, Frank is everywhere. Couldn't happen to a nicer guy, although he should stop using Eric Schnauffer for his 7th Circuit briefs. They're not THAT hard.

  2. They learn our language prior to coming here. My grandparents who came over on the boat, had to learn English and become familiarize with Americas customs and culture. They are in our land now, speak ENGLISH!!

  3. @ Rebecca D Fell, I am very sorry for your loss. I think it gives the family solace and a bit of closure to go to a road side memorial. Those that oppose them probably did not experience the loss of a child or a loved one.

  4. If it were your child that died maybe you'd be more understanding. Most of us don't have graves to visit. My son was killed on a state road and I will be putting up a memorial where he died. It gives us a sense of peace to be at the location he took his last breath. Some people should be more understanding of that.

  5. Can we please take notice of the connection between the declining state of families across the United States and the RISE OF CPS INVOLVEMENT??? They call themselves "advocates" for "children's rights", however, statistics show those children whom are taken from, even NEGLIGENT homes are LESS likely to become successful, independent adults!!! Not to mention the undeniable lack of respect and lack of responsibility of the children being raised today vs the way we were raised 20 years ago, when families still existed. I was born in 1981 and I didn't even ever hear the term "CPS", in fact, I didn't even know they existed until about ten years ago... Now our children have disagreements between friends and they actually THREATEN EACH OTHER WITH, "I'll call CPS" or "I'll have [my parent] (usually singular) call CPS"!!!! And the truth is, no parent is perfect and we all have flaws and make mistakes, but it is RIGHTFULLY OURS - BY THE CONSTITUTION OF THIS GREAT NATION - to be imperfect. Let's take a good look at what kind of parenting those that are stealing our children are doing, what kind of adults are they producing? WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENS TO THE CHILDREN THAT HAVE BEEN RIPPED FROM THEIR FAMILY AND THAT CHILD'S SUCCESS - or otherwise - AS AN ADULT.....

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