Friday, July 20, 2012

Election Board Hires Two Law Firms To Defend Mulholland Lawsuit, Angering Beth White

I'm not sure what kind of corrupt madness is going on, but Marion County Clerk Beth White was fuming when the chairman of the Marion County Election Board, Mark Sullivan, and his Republican counterpart on the board, Patrick Dietrick, moved to remove the board's attorney, Andrew Mellon, and substitute him for two politically-connected law firms as the board's counsel defending a lawsuit brought by a losing Democratic state representative candidate, Zach Mulholland, at the board's meeting this week. You may recall the extraordinary action taken by the Marion County Election Board on the day of this year's May primary to prevent the nonslated candidate's campaign from handing out campaign fliers outside voting precincts. On the morning of this May's primary, Marion County Democratic Chairman Ed Treacy lodged a complaint that Mulholland's campaign was violating an obscure anti-slating law with the campaign fliers he was distributing on election day, a law that an Indianapolis federal court had declared unconstitutional in 2003. The board met in an emergency meeting and voted to enforce the unconstitutional law against Mulholland, at which point authorized personnel were dispatched to seize Mulholland's campaign literature in a scene straight out of Nazi Germany.

The ACLU of Indiana brought a lawsuit against the Marion County Election Board in the Marion County Circuit Court after Mulholland narrowly lost his primary race to the Democratic slated candidate in the race, Dan Forestal, who will face off in the November general election against former Indianapolis city-county councilor Scott Keller, a Republican. Without explanation, Sullivan made a motion at this week's board hearing to remove Mellon as the board's attorney in the lawsuit and substitute him with two law firms, Bose McKinney and David Brook's law firm, due to an unidentified conflict of interest Mellon supposedly had. White reacted angrily to the motion, explaining that Mellon had no conflict of interest and that her office had no money in the budget to pay the high legal bills the two law firms planned to charge her office for representing the board in the lawsuit. She added that the proposed engagement agreements by the firms placed no limits on how much they could charge her office. Sullivan insisted the move was necessary without further explanation and required immediate action since a summary judgment motion was pending in the matter. Dietrick seconded Sullivan's motion, and the board voted 2-1 to hire the two law firms. White could barely contain her anger and left the meeting abruptly upon its adjournment. I think it is an outrage that the Republican member of the board joined the Democratic chairman in the original move back in May to enforce the unconstitutional law and to waste taxpayer dollars fighting to defend the unconstitutional law. The political corruption in this county knows no bounds, and it's a bipartisan endeavor.


Paul K. Ogden said...

There is a federal court judgment against enforcing the law because it's unconstitutional. Yet the Board votes to enforce it anyway and Democratic thugs are dispersed to Mullholland's precincts to seize his literature. The attorneys (i.e. officers of the court) who were involved in this thuggish behavior and blatant disregard of a court order, should be investigated by the Disciplinary Commission. According to the Star, one of those individuals seizing Mulholland's materials was attorney Kip Tew. Tew knows what a federal injunction against the enforcement of a law means, yet he deliberately disregarded in helping to carry out the Board's order. There need to be real consequnces for that.

It's a shame that now private, politically-connected law firms are going to make money off the obviously illegal action taken by the Board to ignore the federal court order about enforcement of the law. Let's remember, it's not just the taxpayers paying these law firms, but they also have to pay Zach Mulholland's legal bills thanks.

My guess is Mellon told them the truth - the Board should admit it screwed up and pay the price. It will be cheaper now than later.

Had Enough Indy? said...

Its past time that the parties pay for the cost they deliberately run up in the City-County budget. These lawyers should be paid by the two County Parties as well as the entire Voter Registration office budget.

Gary R. Welsh said...

I agree, Pat, that the two parties should have sought to intervene and pay their own attorneys if they were concerned the board's attorney wasn't going to adequately represent their interests. These law firms weren't hired to represent the people's interests; they were hired to represent the political parties' interests.

Lawyer said...

OMG - this is really going to cost us. Taxpayers are going to have to pay the exorbitant legal fees of two law firms in a case that could easily be handled by a single law firm AND, we will have to pay the legal fees of the ACLU because what the same two attorneys on the election board did regarding Mulholland is unsupported in the law.