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WEB EXTRA: Fiery start for new commissioners board
Updated on: 01.08.13

EDITOR'S NOTE: The following story was prepared for the Jan. 9 Brown County Democrat, but would not fit in the available space with an unusually large number of obituaries in that paper. It is being published here first, and will appear in the Jan. 16 paper.

The first commissioners meeting of 2013 included unexpected fireworks.

The agenda listed typical first-of-the-year business, such as reorganization of the board and appointments, as well as the first road report since the December winter storms.

Not on the Jan. 2 meeting schedule were debates about the county attorney job and a $53 claim for a plaque, and a standoff between a commissioner and a senior center board president.

County attorney

As the commissioners discussed appointments for 2013, Brown County resident Susanne Gaudin inquired about the county attorney job currently held by Kurt Young. When she learned the now all-Republican board of commissioners would be keeping Young, a former Democratic Party chair, to handle two pending lawsuits, she made her disgust clear.

"So, to say the reason we are keeping this attorney is to make sure that we move forward with those cases is not a valid argument," Gaudin said.

Young has been entrenched in the countywide fire district case, as well as a civil case set for trial later this month involving two residents suing the Brown County Health Department over a condemnation.

Commissioner John Kennard, who is employed by the health department, told Gaudin that Young would be kept on for at least 45 days because replacing him sooner would be counterproductive.

"Based on where we are with closure on those two, it would be prohibitive to stop and start with a new attorney to get that issue resolved," Kennard said.

Gaudin said attorney friends had told her another lawyer could be brought up to speed on the pending cases in a matter of days. She added that Kennard and the board of health have both expressed displeasure in Young’s services.

"I will tell you I was adamant for about a year, but I will tell you in the last year, Mr. Young and I have mended our ways, and I think he’s done a fine job for us," Kennard said.

Commissioner Joe Wray said the commissioners had not decided what direction to go, but they are considering their options. Multiple parties have expressed interest and inquiries have been made into at least one out-of-county law firm.

Gaudin took exception to the commissioners seeking a quote from Barnes & Thornburg out of Indianapolis for county attorney services, one of the most expensive firms in the state.

Wray said the matter is pending, but selecting a new county attorney would be discussed and decided upon at a public meeting.

"We can’t do it any other way," Wray said.

Young was present for this discussion, but did not speak.

"As a Republican, she (Gaudin) apparently feels the commissioners should appoint a Republican to the job," he wrote in an email after the meeting.

"I have approached the work as being on behalf of the county, not on behalf of one party or another. But in the end, the decision is the commissioners’ to make. … The bottom line is that they need to be able to work well with whomever they may choose."

Besides having opposite political affiliations, Gaudin is a plaintiff in the countywide fire district lawsuit in which Young represents the defendants, the Brown County commissioners.

Braxton vs. Kennard

When Chuck Braxton, president of the Sycamore Valley Senior Center board of directors, asked about various positions being reappointed, he received an answer from Kennard that indicated their contentious relationship would continue to be displayed at public meetings.

"I can see your attitude hasn’t changed," Kennard said, after Braxton showed reluctance to use the word Kennard offered to describe reappointment of posts such as Emergency Management Agency director and Brown County highway superintendent.

To Kennard’s answer that no public notice had been given about the positions being open for reappointment, Braxton said, "I’m not surprised."

Kennard fired back: "Mr. Braxton, I’m going to start this year off in a very defensive manner. … If you would like for me to ever take anything you say and really take it to heart, then you will address me and this board in a professional manner. Until that time, I will tell you right now, when your lips move, my ears close. I just want you to know that. I want to go on record right now. Is that clear? Yes or no?"

"I don’t answer to you, John," Braxton said.

"That’s fine. You just know my statement. That’s the way it is," Kennard said.

Kennard’s comment prompted Brown County resident Al Cox to respond.

"John, I take exception to what you just said to this man. I’ve reminded you before, and I will remind you again, you work for us. We don’t work for you. He didn’t say anything out of the way. I don’t think anybody here took exception to what this man said."

Kennard began to reply, but Cox interrupted, "You take offense to anything he says, and that’s not right."

"Amen," said Braxton.

"That right there, Al," Kennard said. "You want to act like a child, you’re treated as a child."


$53 claim

Kennard questioned a move made by Deputy Auditor Donna Lutes about a $53 claim submitted by Mike Bube, a woodworker who helped produce two plaques for outgoing commissioners Mary Fouch and Darrell Kent.

"My understanding (is) the auditor doesn’t decide what claims are going to be paid or not. The auditor pays the claims that are presented to them and signed by the commissioners," Kennard said. "You have no right to deny this claim," he said to Lutes.

"I think I do," Lutes said.

"Well, you’re not," Kennard said.

"Well, I will, and I am not going to pay it until I get word from the State Board of Accounts," Lutes said.

"I don’t care what the State Board of Accounts says. You will pay this," Kennard said before getting cut off.

"You are not the boss of the county auditor," Lutes said.

Kennard had instructed County Administrator Mike Thompson to order the plaques, which have already been presented to Fouch and Kent.

Bube did his part of the work for free, but Engraving and Stamp Center of Bloomington charged $53.67 to engrave 128 letters into the plaques.

Lutes objected to using taxpayer funds to buy plaques.

"I have nothing against Mary and Darrell, but the way the state told me, if you want to give somebody a plaque, the taxpayers of Brown County should not be paying for that plaque."

Kennard said that during his tenure, other plaques had been paid for with county funds.

Brown County Council President Dave Critser said the State Board of Accounts rarely writes up commissioners for inappropriate spending. Instead, the agency nearly always writes up the auditor.

"So, the auditor does have the right to say, ‘You know, this we don’t think is legitimate. We check it with the State Board of Accounts,’" Critser said.

Wray offered to contact that agency to receive an opinion before proceeding. He made the call the day after the meeting, but as of Friday, had not heard back from the state agency. He promised a report at the Jan. 16 commissioners meeting.

In other business

During recent meetings:

- Wray nominated Kennard to remain as president of the board. Wray will serve as vice president. New Commissioner Dave Anderson’s area of responsibility will be working with the sheriff’s department, an agency he once led as sheriff. Kennard will handle the highway department, and Wray, a former two-term county treasurer, will be responsible for financial matters. Despite objections from the audience, who wanted a later meeting time to allow for commutes, the board will continue to meet on the first and third Wednesdays of each month at 6 p.m. in the Billy Salmon Room in the County Office Building.

- In the first 90 minutes of the Dec. 26 snow, the Brown County Highway Department had five trucks break down. Superintendent Claude "Smokey" Presseau said the department’s fleet of 16 trucks has healed, but the fleet is aging, with one truck having nearly 270,000 miles. Anderson vowed to secure funds for two new trucks, which would cost around $220,000 fully equipped.

- The commissioners agreed to remove a tree from in front of the Sycamore Valley Senior Center building and a tree from the "four corners" in Nashville, and fix the parking lot at Sycamore Valley Senior Center. Braxton said the tree symbolized the seniors’ defiance to "government corruption," a comment about an ongoing feud about the building. At the Dec. 19 meeting, the commissioners decided to place management of the building under Brown County Parks & Recreation. The decision ended ongoing negotiations over a lease for the building between the senior board and the commissioners.

- At the Dec. 19 meeting, Fouch received roses from Van Buren Township Trustee Vicki Payne for her instrumental work in acquiring a grant for the new Van Buren fire station.

- The commissioners agreed to give each of the county’s fire departments $5,495 from timber sales. The Indiana Division of Forestry provided the county with $65,946 from the sale of timber from state-owned land in Brown County. The county received half of that money. The other half can be divided among the fire departments for equipment.

- The highway department could get a salt storage building in 2013. A company provided a quote of about $16,000 for a portion of the structure. The county would need to supply the side walls to place the structure on. Presseau will seek bids for that work. In the meantime, the highway department is storing salt at the former sock factory in Helmsburg.

- The commissioners unanimously approved adding "more teeth" to a section of the animal control ordinance regarding fines for pet owners who do not provide proof of their dog or cat being spayed or neutered 15 days after the animal is returned to its owner by Animal Control officers.

- Brown County government recently launched a new website at

- The commissioners agreed to remove two bushes of unknown type outside one of the courthouse entrances because they smelled terrible when wet. Thompson said they would be replaced in the spring with something that smells more pleasant.

- At the Nov. 20 meeting, the commissioners blessed the decision to employ Miller Architects as the architect for the new Van Buren fire station for $22,000. The commissioners also approved the fire department’s choice to have Paula Hartwell of ARa represent the department, thus replacing Kenna Consulting.

- On Nov. 7, the commissioners approved up to $10,000 to buy 47 chairs for county government. Thompson found chairs costing $199 each.

-- Kevin Lilly, Brown County Democrat

See Full List »

Felix Santiago, 66, Martinsville

Jonathan Lee Crowley, 46, Nashville
  Son of Richard L. and Wilma Kehrt Crowley of Brown County

Richard L. Crabtree, 82, Brown County native
  Graduate of Nashville High School

  • January 25
    'Big Eyes' at the Playhouse
    4 p.m., 7 p.m. BC Playhouse, 70 S. Van Buren St.
  • January 26
    BC Commissioners
    6 p.m. County Office Building, 201 N. Locust Lane
  • January 27
    Widowed group euchre party
    1 p.m. Sycamore Valley Community Center, 746 Memorial Drive
  • January 27
    6 p.m. Sycamore Valley Center, 746 Memorial Drive (fairgrounds)
  • January 27
    Open 12-step meetings in New Bellsville area
    6 to 7 p.m. Harmony Baptist Church, 3999 Mt. Liberty Road, New Bellesville
  • January 27
    BC Election Board
    2 p.m. County Office Building, 201 N. Locust Lane
  • January 27
    BC Area Plan Commission
    6 p.m. County Office Building, 201 N. Locust Lane
  • January 28
    Jeff Foster at Hobnob restaurant
    6 to 8 p.m. Hobnob, 17 W. Main St.
  • January 28
    BC Sheriff's Merit Board
    4 p.m. Law Enforcement Center, 55 State Road 46 East
  • January 28
    BC Board of Zoning Appeals
    6 p.m. County Office Building, 201 N. Locust Lane
  • January 29
    Go Club at the library Thursdays
    3:30 to 5 p.m. Brown County Public Library, 205 N. Locust Lane
  • January 30
    6 p.m. Fruitdale Fire Station, 5200 State Road 135 North, Bean Blossom
  • January 31
    6 p.m. Sycamore Valley Center, 746 Memorial Drive (fairgrounds)
  • January 31
    Dave Miller at Abe Martin Lodge
    5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Abe Martin Lodge, Brown County State Park
  • February 2
    Gnaw Bone Sewage District
    5:30 p.m. Library, 205 N. Locust Lane
  • February 3
    6 p.m. Sycamore Valley Center, 746 Memorial Drive (fairgrounds)
  • February 3
    Bean Blossom Regional Sewer Board
    7:30 p.m. County Office Building, 201 N. Locust Lane
  • February 4
    Lake Lemon Conservancy District annual meeting
    6 p.m. Benton Township Senior Center, 7616 E. State Road 45, Unionville
  • February 4
    Jeff Foster at Hobnob restaurant
    6 to 8 p.m. Hobnob, 17 W. Main St.
  • February 6
    5 p.m. Fruitdale Fire Station, 5200 State Road 135 North, Bean Blossom
  • February 9
    Washington Township Trustees
    7 p.m. Parkview Church of the Nazarene, 1750 State Road 46 East
  • February 12
    BC Convention & Visitors Commission
    8:30 a.m. County Office Building, 201 N. Locust Lane
  • February 13
    5 p.m. Fruitdale Fire Station, 5200 State Road 135 North.
  • February 14
    Free community breakfast at Sprunica church
    8 to 10 a.m. Sprunica Baptist Church, 3902 Sprunica Road
  • February 17
    Hamblen Trustee Board annual review
    6:30 p.m. 2314 Hickory Ridge Lane off Hornettown Road