State lawmakers propose legislation aimed at creating accountability for township trustees
By Ben Thorp
Two new bills being introduced in Indiana’s 2022 legislative session are aimed at curtailing the powers of township trustees.
Lawmakers say the bills are in response to the actions of township trustees in Wabash and Fairfield Townships in Tippecanoe County who acted with little oversight or accountability.
In Wabash Township, now-former Trustee Jennifer Teising faced questions regarding her residency. Just this week, Teising was found guilty by Judge Kristen McVey on 21 counts of theft for illegally taking her trustee salary while not a resident of the township.
House Bill 1157, introduced by Rep. Chris Cambell (D-West Lafayette), would give township boards more say in overseeing township budgets.
“I wanted the boards to not only have the ability to have more oversight, I wanted them to have more collaboration in that process,” Campbell said.
Senate Bill 304, authored by Senators Ron Alting (R-Lafayette) and Rick Niemeyer (R-Lowell), creates a process for removing trustees from their office. Alting said he researched the removal process for trustees after hearing about issues in Wabash Township.
“In doing so we learned there is little to none that one can do to eliminate that position of a trustee,” he said.
The bill would require a township board, county commissioners, a county council, and finally a judge to all sign off on trustee removal - a long process that lawmakers say would protect a trustee from unfair removal.
Alting said the job now is to convince lawmakers that two trustees in his district warrant making oversight changes for over 1,000 trustees statewide.