Here's the issue. Under council rules, whenever a pending resolution or ordinance ends with an indecisive vote, which means it failed to receive a constitutional 15-vote majority for its passage or defeat, the matter is automatically placed on the council's special order for "unfinished business" at the next council meeting. Because Gray abstained from voting on two previous votes on Proposal 182 and Democrats control the council by a slim 15-14 margin, the vote ended indecisively on both prior votes where members voted along party lines. Proposal 182 should have once again appeared on the "unfinished business" calendar for last night's meeting. The Democratic-majority, which prepares the agenda, moved it from the "unfinished business" to the "pending legislation" calendar without a vote to waive the rule requiring it to appear on the "unfinished business" calendar. Council Minority Leader Phil Borst objected to the move and asked that Proposal 182 be returned to its proper place on the calendar.
At this point in the proceeding, Council attorney Aaron Haith stepped in and made a mockery of the process. Haith cited as authority for ignoring the council rule a provision of Robert's Rules of Order, which deems dilatory a vote on a question which has been previously considered and for which there is no chance of a different outcome. Councilor Borst, who is not an attorney, reminded Haith that Robert's Rules of Order only come into play when a matter was not covered by a specific council rule and could not trump the council's own adopted rules. After conflicting motions were offered by Democrats and Republicans, Gray agreed to proceed with a vote on a Republican motion to overrule the chair on the issue of whether Proposal 182 should be restored to its proper place on the calendar. Haith then interjected it would require a statutory majority, or 15 votes, to prevail. Again, Borst pointed to the council rules, which clearly provide a majority vote of those voting on the question to appeal the ruling of the chair. Haith mistakenly relied on a statute, which requires a majority of those elected to the council to approve an ordinance or resolution. Borst reminded Haith it wasn't either. Haith continued to make a fool of himself by insisting the procedural vote was a resolution.
And so there was a vote to appeal the ruling of the chair on whether the council's order of business should include a resolution calling for an investigation of Gray, which Haith ruled improperly would require 15 votes. Adding to the controversy was Gray's decision to cast a vote on the motion, which deadlocked 13-13. If Gray has abstained because of his obvious conflict of interest and the rules had been followed, it would have meant Proposal 182 would have returned to the calendar as required by council rules. That Haith was dispensing legal advice to the counsel only added to the frivolity of it all. Haith also serves as Gray's personal lawyer and provided advice to Gray on completing his statement of economic interest which most legal observers believe was contrary to the law.
The fact that Haith can even practice law in this state is troubling to some. The Supreme Court ordered Haith suspended from practicing law in Indiana for a year in 2001 after his third conviction for operating a vehicle while intoxicated but stayed his suspension for a 2-year probationary period. Chief Justice Shepard and Justice Dickson dissented from the decision, arguing it wasn't a harsh enough penalty. Shepard wrote:
His own therapist, the Commission’s medical expert, and our hearing officer have all concluded that he is alcohol dependent. He insists he is not. He also maintains that the evidence does not reflect adversely on his fitness to serve clients. The Court says it disagrees on both points, but it sends this message so softly it seems unlikely the respondent will hear it.Time may be running out on this Democratic majority. During a WTHR interview this evening, Councilor Dane Mahern (D) sought to distance himself from Gray. Many believe that several of the councilors, including Joanne Sanders, have lost a lot of credibility themselves by acting as an enabler in allowing the corrupt Gray and his challenged legal counsel to remain in control of the council during all of these erupting controversies. The irony is that Sanders could lose her at-large seat because of Gray's woes, while Gray could be re-elected because he is running in such an overwhelmingly Democratic district.