Monday, October 24, 2011

Hamilton County Election Board Dismisses Complaint Against Carmel Council President With Shades Of Charlie White

A Hamilton County election complaint that strongly resembles a case Democrats brought against Charlie White while he was running for Secretary of State challenging his eligibility to run for the office was recently dismissed with little fanfare. Carmel City Council President Eric Seidensticker, who is running for re-election in next month's municipal election, moved out of the marital residence he owns with his wife in June and moved in with his father, who lives outside his council district, as a result of marital discord. Last week, the Hamilton Co. Election Board briefly heard testimony on an anonymous complaint that had been filed against Seidensticker questioning his eligibility to run for re-election and serve on the Carmel City Council. According to an online Carmel newspaper, Current In Carmel, the election board unanimously voted to dismiss the complaint. According to Kevin Kane, Seidensticker believes someone filed the case for personal and not political reasons:

Seidensticker went before the board Friday to respond to an anonymous statement sent to the board questioning his residency and council eligibility. A motion to send the complaint to the prosecutor’s office for further investigation failed for lack of a second, and a subsequent motion to dismiss the complaint was later approved.
Seidensticker said before the meeting that he has temporarily been staying outside his home on Ash Drive as a result of a family matter, but that his permanent residence remains unchanged.

“That’s where I’m paying my mortgage,” he said.

Under Indiana Code, a member of a common council “forfeits office if the member ceases to be a resident of the district or city.” And residence, under Indiana Code, is defined as “where a person has the person’s true, fixed, and permanent home and principal establishment; and to which the person has, whenever absent, the intention of returning.”

The board determined that there was insufficient evidence of Seidensticker’s intent to make a permanent residence outside of his district.

“The code is gray in this area; the code does provide some language for temporary residency,” board member Keith Clock said. “Unless someone can file a formal complaint that’s not anonymous with some proof that there’s intent to leave the district, I’m not seeing a violation yet.”

Some of Seidensticker’s fellow councilors came to his defense on Friday. Councilwoman Luci Snyder presented a letter from Clerk-Treasurer Diana Cordray stating that Seidensticker’s paychecks from the city are still mailed to his address on Ash Drive, and Councilman Kevin Rider said he was “offended” that such a meeting was necessary.

“Does anyone else see the flavor of this?” he said. “First of all, it’s anonymous. It’s shameful. It’s slanderous. (Seidensticker’s) character is so far above this. I’m offended for (him). I’m offended by this procedure. I’m offended that any of us have to sit here and talk about this.”

Seidensticker said he was “confident this is not a political issue but a personal one.”
It's interesting that the Democratic Co. Chairman Keith Clock views Seidensticker's case as a "gray area" where someone is claiming a "temporary residence," but he viewed Charlie White's case as a black and white case. Democrats didn't think the law was gray at all when Charlie White used his former marital residence as his voting address for a short period before moving into a new condominium he purchased to live in with his second wife following their marriage, and also while he was serving on the Fishers Town Council. A special prosecutor charged White with vote fraud, marriage license fraud and mortgage fraud, as well as a theft charge for drawing a pay check for serving on the Fishers Town Council for a several month period that he lived outside his district. White actually returned the salary he had earned during the months in question after he resigned, even though he fulfilled his duties as an elected council member while acting under color of law.

I believe the Hamilton Co. Election Board's ruling in Seidensticker's case was entirely appropriate based on the facts, but it does point up just how unfair the special prosecutor's multi-count criminal indictment against White is. Whether you like White or not, the law has been interpreted in a way that it has never been interpreted before in the history of this state, and in a way that it is being used to personally crush and destroy him. Isn't it curious how people in the Indiana legal community who profess to be advocates for social justice don't believe it should be accorded to someone like White simply because they dislike him politically?

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