Past felony prevents Muncie councilman from holding office, COA rules 

A Muncie city councilman could not persuade the Indiana Court of Appeals to determine on Friday that he is still eligible for the position after another candidate revealed that the councilman has a felony record.

After John Hampton was selected by the Delaware County Democratic Caucus to replace an at-large councilman on the Muncie City Council in 2019, losing candidate Audie Barber discovered that Hampton has a felony record.

Barber, who placed third in the councilman race, learned that Hampton had been convicted of two prior felony convictions for dealing marijuana and possession of a controlled substance, which were later reduced to misdemeanors. Barber subsequently filed a verified complaint and information for ouster of an unlawful office holder and for a permanent injunction, alleging that Indiana Code Section 3-8-1-5(d) and (e) made Hampton ineligible for the councilman position.

Barber also asserted that he was authorized to file the complaint against Hampton because he had an interest in the office, alleging that he had been an unsuccessful candidate for the same council seat and that he would again attempt to hold that office if a vacancy were to occur as a result of his complaint against Hampton.

The Delaware Circuit Court granted Barber’s motion, finding that Barber had standing to file the complaint against Hampton and that Hampton “is not eligible to hold any seat” on the city council pursuant to the statute.

In affirming the decision, the appellate court first noted that the undisputed evidence demonstrates that Barber had a personal interest in the office beyond that of the general public.

“We are not persuaded by Hampton’s bald assertion that Barber lacked a personal interest in the office simply because he placed third in the caucus election,” Judge Edward Najam wrote for appellate court. “Rather, we hold that the evidence supports the trial court’s finding that Barber had a special interest in the office, and that finding supports the court’s conclusion that Barber had standing to file the complaint against Hampton.”

Additionally, because Hampton did not challenge the constitutionality of Indiana Code Section 3-8-1- 5(e)(3) under Article 1, Section 23 of the Indiana Constitution before the trial court, the appellate panel concluded that the issue was therefore waived for review.

The case is John Hampton v. Audie Barber, 20A-MI-00143. 

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