Special prosecutor finds insufficient evidence in Hamilton County nepotism, harassment allegations

A special prosecutor is citing insufficient evidence to charge employees in the Hamilton County Treasurer’s Office after a former coworker alleged they’d engaged in nepotism, then harassed and fired her to cover it up.

Brent Eaton, a special prosecutor from Hancock County, started investigating former Deputy Treasurer Susan Byer’s claims five months after she filed a November 2018 suit alleging the office allowed county employees to waive penalties on late property tax payments for themselves and family members.

Byer claimed in her lawsuit against Hamilton County and Hamilton County Treasurer Jennifer Templeton that she was disciplined and her 13 years with the county were wrongfully cut short after she confronted her supervisor, Chief Deputy Kim Good, about the issue.

In the lawsuit, Byer said she believes Templeton and Good did so in an attempt “to conceal potentially criminal activities of employees … .” Her suit, which is still active in Hamilton County court, seeks $700,000 from each defendant.

Eaton issued a report last Wednesday after reviewing the Indiana State Police’s December 2018 investigation.

He said there was insufficient evidence to find that Good’s parents had been allowed to make late payments without having to pay a late fee. The county’s records are “incomplete,” the statement reads, and it is possible that a late payment could be collected as if it were on time.

But, even if there had been proof, Eaton’s statement makes it clear that there is “no provision in Indiana criminal law that makes this specific conduct a crime.”

“Therefore, no criminal action can be taken to rectify the matter or hold anyone criminally accountable under the law,” Eaton said in a written statement. “I reviewed every resource I could to determine if this action was criminal, and given the evidence, the answer is no.”

State law requires there be penalties for property taxes that are filed after their due date, but a treasurer can waive, negotiate or settle penalties if the county council has approved a formal policy for doing so.

Eaton, in his report, said the Hamilton County Council has not approved such a policy.

Also in the report is Eaton’s conclusion that “there is no evidence that any employee of the Hamilton County Treasurer’s Office was intimidated, harassed, or otherwise the victim of a criminal act.”

The investigation was limited to the treasurer’s office’s payment processes, payment records, any criminal activity related to the employment of an individual in the treasurer’s office and whether or not those interviewed were truthful with investigators.

Eaton’s statement said the investigation didn’t consider any aspect of the office or its personnel beyond those named so as not to exceed Eaton’s jurisdiction as a special prosecutor.

The case in is Susan Diane Byer v. Hamilton County Treasurer, Hamilton County, 29D01-1811-CT-010935.

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