Attorney General Enforces Dual Office Law
January 23, 2019
A Gary city councilwoman was ordered to reimburse the Gary Sanitary District more than $132,000 in wages for the time she illegally held two municipal positions simultaneously, and the Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill began efforts to secure the reimbursement.
Gary councilwoman Mary Brown was an employee of Gary Sanitary District from 1995 to January 1, 2016, when, as a matter of law, she was deemed to have resigned her position. However, Brown continued receiving compensation for her government position until June 26, 2018, when she provided her resignation to the District. She was also elected to the Gary Common Council in 1999 and re-elected five times.
While Brown was serving her fourth elected term on the council, the Indiana General Assembly passed a law holding that “an individual is considered to have resigned as a government employee when the individual assumes an elected office of the unit that employs the individual.” Hill’s office said that law, passed in 2013, required Brown to resign from the Sanitary District when she was re-elected to the common council in November 2015.
Then on October 14, 2016, the State Board of Accounts ("SBOA") issued an audit report that found Brown was deemed to have resigned her employment with the Gary Sanitary District effective January 1, 2016. Brown responded with a suit against Hill and the State Examiner in their official capacities in Lake Superior Court, seeking a declaratory judgment that she was not in violation of the law by holding both positions contemporaneously. However, the judge granted summary judgment in the state’s favor.
The November 2018 SBOA special report found that Brown misappropriated $132,742.35 in wages, which she has been ordered to repay.
The NWI Times reported that Brown argued the two jobs didn't pose a conflict because Gary and the Sanitary District are separate units of government.
Joshua A. Claybourn is a member in the public finance and utilities industry groups focusing primarily on municipal finance, utility regulation, intellectual property, and commercial transactions. He practices out of the firm’s office in Evansville, Indiana.