During their Friday afternoon meeting, members of the Morgan County Elections Committee voted to send a letter to the Indiana Attorney General to review allegations made by the losing candidate in the race for Gregg Township administrators. in last month’s primary race.
Republican incumbent Gregg Township Trustee Matt Bishop won the election over challenger Brian Thompson by 33 votes.
A few days before the primary election, Thompson filed a complaint with the election committee against the Gregg Township Fire Department by placing Bishop’s name on the department’s sign and asking residents to vote for him.
At a meeting held just before the primary electionThompson told council members that fire department regulations prohibit the department from endorsing a candidate.
He also argued that the sign was illegal because it did not bear the name of the person, group or organization that paid for it.
Thompson felt he should have been allowed to place his sign on fire department property, as it was a public space.
Council members agreed that the sign should bear the name of the person who paid for it and that Thompson should be allowed to place his sign on the property.
Thompson left that meeting and went to the Gregg Fire Department to put up his sign.
An altercation reportedly took place between Thompson and some members of the fire department and the sheriff’s department was called to the station.
In the end, Thompson was allowed to place his signs on the property, and the department allegedly put the name of the person who paid for the sign on it.
Thompson filed a complaint with the Elections Commission alleging Bishop’s sign remained on department property, which Thompson said injured him in the election.
Thompson said if 17 people had changed their minds about who to vote for, he would have won the election.
He also alleges that a campaign flyer sent by Bishop contained false information regarding the trustee’s salary.
Thompson said the fire department continues to have information on its website indicating it supports Bishop.
He alleges that department officers continued to offer advice to department members on how they could support Bishop.
Thompson argued that the lease the department had allowing someone to rent the sign for $10 was bogus. Thompson said the department refused to give him a copy of the purported lease.
Thompson asked the board to investigate and determine if fines or criminal charges are warranted.
Morgan County Clerk Stephanie Elliott told Thompson that in her years as a clerk and presiding over numerous elections, this was the first time she had had a complaint like this.
She said the council could only issue fines for failure to comply with election laws and regulations. Elliott said most of the problems they face are candidates not filing their campaign finance returns on time.
She said that normally county attorney Steve Sonnega would deal with the types of allegations Thompson made. But she said that since Thompson was the victim of a crime that Sonnega had prosecuted, he should have a special prosecutor investigate and, if necessary, prosecute the case.
After discussing the matter, the board voted to send a letter to the Attorney General’s office asking to review Thompson’s allegations and, if necessary, take appropriate action.
Green board member resigns
Elliott said the department received a complaint from a Green Township resident about council member Greg Marlett. The plaintiff alleged that Marlett had left the township and was no longer eligible to serve on the advisory board. The person asked the board to remove him from his position.
Elliott said she checked the law regarding council members moving out of the township. She said that by law, once a person leaves the township where they serve, they are automatically expelled from the council.
She said Marlett sent the board and the party chairman a letter informing them that as of May 23, he would no longer be a member of the board.
She said Republican Party Chairman Daniel Elliott would have to hold a caucus to fill the position.
Financial reports reviewed
The original purpose of Friday’s board meeting was to review the campaign finance returns of seven candidates who had not filed their returns by the due date.
Elliott had said that if an elected office did not pay more than a certain amount and the candidate had not raised or spent funds, he was exempt from filing the returns.
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Board chair Becky Waymire said there was some confusion among some applicants when filing the financial reports. She said that while the seven candidates did not raise or spend any funds, they did file a financial report that would allow other candidates or members of the public to review them.
The board voted not to fine any of the seven for filing late reports.