Monday, April 16, 2007

Police And Firefighters Seeking More Than 1/3 Of Council Seats

The Star's Brendan O'Shaughnessy points up another very serious problem with our City-County Council--too many firefighters and police officers politicking on the job. He counts 11 such candidates, including four incumbents, who are seeking council seats this year. Taking advantage of the leadership vacuum on the GOP side, the FOP managed to field 6 police officers to run for council.

O'Shaughnessy notes it's rare for police and firefighters to seek public office in other states. That's because there are laws prohibiting the practice in most states for good reason. The conflict of interest is unmistakable. There are also other council members, such as Dane Mahern and Mary Moriarty Adams, who are government employees. If the Indiana General Assembly is looking for a way to clean up local government in Indiana, it could take a big step in the right direction by prohibiting all state and local government employees from running for public office.


Anonymous said...

"If the Indiana General Assembly is looking for a way to clean up local government in Indiana, it could take a big step in the right direction by prohibiting all state and local government employees from running for public office."

I would agree with this _only_ if it extends to ALL public employees. This would include school teachers, college profs, and college administrators. In addition, it should be further extended to anyone who works for a company that gets any sort of public tax money or a tax break. It is high time to get real people in these jobs and not hacks. If college profs and college admins like Bauer can run for office, so should every other person who works in the public sector.

Anonymous said...

I understand the problem, but constitutionally, I don't see how you can prohibit someone from running for office. It's a thorney issue.

At the very least, these folks should abstain from voting on items that affect their budgetary areas. All the above voted on the police merger, for instance, and the fire merger in one township. They have definitive conflicts.

Now, their INSIGHT into those issues is very important to me. I want to hear that. But in each case, I believe, a professional union rep is designated to be their point person, which is also appropriate.

What's astounding here, is that no one sees a conflict on these votes. No one. I'm flabbergasted.

The Emperor indeed wears no clothes.

Gary R. Welsh said...

anon 7:23, Have you not heard of the Hatch Act? It's a federal law that contains a similar prohibition on federal employees. It's been on the books for more than a century.

Anonymous said...


The Hatch Act also applies to state and local government employees who perform work that is funded either wholly or in part by federal grants.

The Hatch Act can only be enforced when the Office of Special Counsel is aware of the problem, and I'm betting that no one has filed complaints about some of these individuals in the past. I know that at least two of the police officers running for council have worked on federally-funded traffic enforcement projects.

The recently-elected Hendricks County Sheriff had to resign his position as Chief of Police for Brownsburg after an individual filed a Hatch Act complaint during the campaign.

Wilson46201 said...

I tend to agree with not having public employees as legislators at whatever level however

Legislatures traditionally consisted of rich farmers, lawyers or industrialists - they represented those 'special interests' often against the needs of the general public.

I do find troublesome employees voting on their own salaries and/or operating budgets.

Anonymous said...

I thought the Hatch Act was federal only. State constitutional gaurantees might be difficult to explain to the firefighter who wants to run for office.

I doubt it can be stopped, and I have mixed feelings about it.

But for damned sure, they shouldn't vote on matters that directly affect their salaries, working conditions and wage-related fringe benefits.

And this line of thinking doesn't even come close to the real potential problem: how does the police or fire chief discipline, demote, or, pray tell, fire a subordinate who sits on the council? Sticky wicket, huh?

Hence, the charges of cronyism erupt, as in the Monroe Gray affair. And whether they're true or not, people distrust what they cannot see transparently.

It doesn't help when the Grays of the world abuse their power repeatedly.

Anonymous said...

Hatch Act for State and Local Employees:

The Hatch Act applies to executive branch state and local employees who are principally employed in connection with programs financed in whole or in part by loans or grants made by the United States or a federal agency. Employees who work for educational or research institutions which are supported in whole or in part by a State or political subdivision of the State are not covered by the provisions of the Hatch Act.

Anonymous said...

I'm a little troubled by your comments on this thread, Gary.

"Very serious problem" with our City County Council? "vacuum of leadership, the FOP managed to field 6 GOP candidates"..

Why is it a 'very serious problem'? Or is it a POTENTIAL problem? There has been 5 out of 29 incumbant councillors employed in the public safety area, almost 20% of the current council, yet no one has thought this a "very serious problem", was this because the Democrat to Republican ration was 3 to 2 ..until now.

As for the FOP. Let me assure you that the FOP has had NOTHING to do with the various police officer's terms of communicating, raising or contributing campaign dollars, etc. This will possibly be done after the primary election, but rest assured that the only person who fielded these candidates was themselves.

Gary R. Welsh said...

anon 10:52, this is not the first time I've raised this concern about police and firefighters serving on the council. It is hard to believe that many police officers would file on the GOP ticket if they weren't being actively recruited to run. The discussion at IndyUndercover has made the effort pretty clear.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps we should not allow lawyers to occupy any elected legislative offices since legislators pass laws.

I love your blog Gary, but it's time to stop being upset about those stupid parking tickets and get on with the more important issues facing our city than a conspiracy by men in uniform taking over the CCC.

Anyway, 1/3 (if they all win) is not a majority by any means.

Anonymous said...

Gary - I assure you and others the FOP, or any other organization did not seek me out to run for office. Although I understand your concerns, its troubling when you would push for me to have less rights than you. In fact is that not what your blog is often about, seeking equality on many levels?

Benjamin Hunter

Anonymous said...

Officers are running because of a direct cause and effect relationship with Bart Peterson and Michael O'connor. They are not going to run on the side of those two people. Officers are frustrated by the lack of voice they have with whats happening in public safety and are being left out of important decisions. They feel this is the only way to level the playing field and are acting on it. The FOP by no means had to go recruit anyone. If the mdeia and the Mayor would listen and tell whats actually happening many of these candidates would not be running.

Anonymous said...

Michael O'Conner, that name sounds familiar. Why does his name keep popping up? Ahhhh, know I remember, he's the mayor's Rasputin.
Didn't mean to get off the subject Gary, sorry.

Anonymous said...

As mentioned often above, anyone can run. The Hatch Act references sort of skirt the real issue: these are city offices, and Hatch is distinctly a federal law, unless a preponderance of the department's budget is federal in nature. It is not.

Not that the concept couldn't be carried through by ordinance or statute.

10:52, I'm concerned that the incumbent city employee Councillors are there, whatever their party. Because they should recuse on any votes directly involving their departments. With the focus we have on public safety, that's a large portion of the council's agenda. If they recused themselves as they should, they'd be AWOL on half the council's pertinent issues.

These folks don't even blanche when they vote on public safety issues.

Does anyone have an ethics barometer here?

Sore subject I realize, given Mr. Gray's comical definition of ethics. But a fair question, nonetheless.

Citizens can vote as they wish on these candidates. As for my vote, if I have the opportunity to vote for a city employee for council, if all other qualifications are in order, (s)he gets my vote ONLY if (s)he agrees to recuse on pertinent matters.

Which would be a new concept with the council.

Anonymous said...

Sloppy (if any) research, Gary. I'm disappointed with you and your conclusions here, and I echo Ben Hunter's comments in their entirety.

Respectfully (which is more than you showed myself and the other public safety candidates who've taken it upon themselves to give of their time and energy to attempt to correct a serioulsy flawed council)

Michael Hegg

Anonymous said...

It is a major embarrassment to the Republican Party in this county that so many of its candidates could turn out to be police officers. I am a life-long Republican, but I won't vote for a single police officer or firefighter candidate for city council. It is a big conflict of interest. I cannot believe it is legal in this state to allow these public servants to campaign on our dime. I agree with AI, this had to be a coordinated efforted to get all these police officers to run on the same ticket.

Gary R. Welsh said...

From the IndyUndercover site:

"LEOs, it's pretty obvious none of us want the current Mayor to serve four more years, so Indyu is asking, "Who do you want to be Mayor?" Or for that matter to be elected to the Council. If there's enough support out there for a particular individual, maybe we can finally make some real change happen in this town. Remember, a lot of these council districts were decided by a handful of votes. We need to make sure this election, we're the handful! (1-7-07)

"LEOs, Indyu doesn't have to tell you that things have gotten out of control in this county. Just look around. A lot of you have talked about getting involved, politically, and making change. Here is your chance. Candidate filing begins Jan 23 and runs to about Feb 23. There's no fee or signatures required. All you need to have is a chairman and a treasurer named on the form. You can do all this at the Little Dictator's office in the City-County Building.

If you are serious about running, Indyu may be able to volunteer some direction and some occassional intel about the people you're running against.

By the way, if you are thinking about running, it would probably help you if you lived in one of the following Districts: 2, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 21 and the at-large.

Remember, the number one issue is crime. This County had the worst homicide rate in nearly a decade and their response was to give themselves a 75% percent raise." (1-13-07)

Anonymous said...

Again, to any city employee who wants to run:

Will you recuse from any matters that involve the budget in your area? Or similar issues?

That's Issue One. Issue Two is your qualifications, views on other issues, etc.

IndyU has always been a bomb-throwing site, Gary. Nothing new there. I read it about once a week, and learn something every time.

My many LEO friends laugh at it. They think it's ridiculous. When I point out that the public perception is, the site represents all LEOs, my friends get angry. They insist it's a very small number of LEOs posting repeatedly. Kinda like a Wilson LEO.

Perish the thought.

Anonymous said...

7:07- You wrote:
"The Hatch Act references sort of skirt the real issue: these are city offices, and Hatch is distinctly a federal law, unless a preponderance of the department's budget is federal in nature. It is not."

You're simply incorrect. As the OSC explains, a state/local employee is covered if he or she is principally employed in connections with programs financed in whole or part by federal grants or loans.

Again this is why Brownsburg Police Chief Dave Galloway had to resign when he ran for Hendricks County Sheriff, as seen in the below-linked cache of an Indystar article (also quoted below).

"Brownsburg Chief David Galloway was forced to resign after his victory in the Republican primary for sheriff. He quit in May after he learned he was in violation of the Hatch Act -- a federal law passed in 1939 to limit politicking by federal employees. Galloway technically qualified because his department received federal grants."

Anonymous said...

Will Mr. Hunter or Mr. Hegg share with us whether their candidacies are supported by the FOP?