During the Carmel City Council meeting on Oct. 7, Councilor Sue Finkam and I made similar, but differing requests of our colleague Carol Schleif.
Finkam asked Schleif to recuse herself from voting on a number of issues that will arise on the Council’s agenda in the future.
I, on the other hand, took this a step further and asked Schleif to resign from the Carmel City Council.
The requests by Finkam and me were unusual. In fact they were unprecedented, so far as I know, in the history of our Council. But they were not nearly as unusual as the action that Schleif took which precipitated our requests.
Schleif, who represents the Southwest District, is an officer of NOAX, the group that was formed some years ago to fight the annexation of Southwest Clay Township into Carmel. NOAX has filed suit against the city, meaning all of us who are taxpayers. She has filed the suit on behalf of NOAX and herself. That means that if the taxpayers of Carmel lose the lawsuit filed by this small group, she stands to personally receive a cash payment.
Her lawsuit claims that Carmel has not lived up to its obligations to the annexed area, even though to date the taxpayers of Carmel have spent $39 million of the required $40 million agreed upon. The City has added roundabouts, fixed drainage, added trails and pathways, widened county roads into urban streets and extended police protection.
However, Schleif has not liked the way the professional staff of Carmel and other members of city council have chosen to implement and deliver those services. Thus, she has sued.
As I pointed out in my comments at the council meeting, Schleif cannot serve the interests of the citizens who live in her district (some of whom were in the annexation and some of whom were already in the city in the first place), or the citizens of Carmel as a whole, while she serves as a plaintiff in a lawsuit against those same people.
To think otherwise is simply not fair to anyone.
I have read Schleif’s lawsuit, which is now lodged in the courts of Boone County. While I am not an attorney, it appears to me that her complaint has little merit. As I also pointed out in my comments at the council meeting, I know from experience that our city attorney, Douglas Haney, is not one to be shy about protecting the interests of Carmel taxpayers when a lawsuit appears to have little merit. That means this lawsuit could be in court for a long time, maybe even two years.
Because I foresee this matter taking a while to resolve, and because Schleif has indicated she feels she has no reason to recuse herself from voting – including on the upcoming budget – the Council will have to continually ask her to refrain from voting on matters which could affect the amount of your tax dollars she might receive.
Because she has put herself in this position, when she did not have to due to the fact that her suit has a small number of other plaintiffs, she has placed both the Council and her constituents in an awkward position.
Because of the fact that this situation could take two or more years to resolve, I asked her to resign her position as a Carmel City Council member rather than to simply abstain from voting on the budget.
I have suggested that her ability to represent the people living in her District has been so compromised that she should step aside and let the precinct committee chairs, as provided by Indiana statute, appoint a new council member to represent the taxpayers of the Southwest District.
In a time and place when the actions of many public officials and public bodies are eliciting from constituents the comment, “Duh, what were you thinking?,” it is incumbent upon Schleif to rethink her position, which she has stated as, “My legal counsel has said I have no conflict of interest. I won’t recuse myself from voting.”
For the good of all Carmel taxpayers she needs to resign.
Carmel City Council, at-large