Thursday, January 22, 2015

Coons' Political Activity May Have Violated Federal Hatch Act

As director of Homeland Security for the City of Indianapolis, Gary Coons' salary is paid, in part, by federal funds. Earlier this month, fellow blogger Paul Ogden  raised concerns in a blog post about Coons' role chairing "Vote Yes for Perry Township Schools," a political action committee set up to advocate for passage of yet another property tax increase in Perry Township that will not be subject to the state's property tax cap law. Ogden noted that Coons listed his city e-mail account and telephone number on campaign finance paperwork filed for the political action committee.

Fox 59 News is now reporting Coons' actions may have run afoul of the federal Hatch Act because of the source of funding for his job. The Hatch Act prohibits certain state and local employees whose salaries are paid in whole or in part by federal funds from engaging in political activities. Indiana University School of Law Professor David Orentlicher told Fox 59 News Coons may have crossed the legal line set out in the law.

The PAC's website included an endorsement of passage of the referendum invoking his public safety position. "Going on the website and now saying I’m supporting this, and I hold the office as chief of Homeland Security, that I think goes a step beyond and is not just a technical violation," Orentlicher said. "That goes to the spirit and the concerns of the law." "If Coons’ official government title and contact information weren’t used, Orentlicher said there’d be no problem." Coons declined to speak to Fox 59 on camera but was told he planned to change the PAC filing and website material to remove references to his city job.

As Ogden notes in his blog post, when Coons was first appointed to the job as homeland security director, he tried to hold on to his job as the elected trustee of Perry Township until news reports raised concerns about him holding both jobs, whereupon he reluctantly resigned his post as township trustee.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Many members of Ballard’s appointed staff and most of the former Perry Township Trustees are ethically challenged. Coons is both a Ballard appointee and former Trustee of Perry Township.