News and Tribune

Clark County

December 9, 2013

Clark County Council to contest judge’s lawsuit

Circuit court judge suing council to fund two new positions in probation

JEFFERSONVILLE — The answer is still no.

In September, the Clark County Council denied a request from Circuit Court Presiding Judge Vicki Carmichael to fund the creation of two new positions in the county’s probation department. The council voted 6-0 Monday to contest a lawsuit filed by Carmichael against the council in Indiana Supreme Court requesting a mandate of funds to pay for the new positions.

“I believe that, unlike some other mandates, I believe we have a chance of contesting this one,” said County Council Attorney Scott Lewis.

Before it appoints a special judge to the case, the Indiana Supreme Court has ordered mandatory mediation between the involved parties, to be completed no later than Feb. 15, 2014.  

Carmichael initially requested that the county council approve salaries for two probation officer positions totaling $41,337 and $29,912, respectively. One of those officers would work with adults, while the other would work with juvenile offenders, Carmichael told the council. The council tabled the request in August before unanimously denying it at a September meeting.

Carmichael was not present at Monday’s meeting, and did not respond to a message left on her voice mail requesting comment.

In the Order for Mandate of Funds filed with the Indiana Supreme Court on Nov. 8, Carmichael argues that she supplied the county council with ample evidence to demonstrate that the creation of the two positions is necessary.

“The number of persons served through Clark County’s home incarceration program has increased dramatically as demonstrated by the following facts,” Carmichael wrote in the order. “Collections for the program were up by 39 percent from June 2013 to July 2013, and an additional 54 percent from July to August 2013; and the participation in the drug court has increased by 40 percent in the first eight months of 2013.”

Lewis said he believes the council has a shot at defeating Carmichael’s mandate lawsuit because of statements made by Circuit Court No. 1 Judge Dan Moore at previous county council meetings regarding Clark County Community Corrections being underutilized by the courts.

“This particular judge has provided us with information that there isn’t a need for two additional probation officers because for whatever reason, certain courts have reduced the amount of referrals to community corrections when there’s capacity there to absorb that rather than going to probation,” Lewis said. “So the point is, when you have another fellow judge of the unified probation department saying this is not necessary, we believe those are grounds, then, to show that we have a current judge who is part of this probation department who has said there is capacity in community corrections where there’s not a need to add two new probation officers.”

Carmichael denied at the September meeting that her request for two new probation officers had anything to do with a disagreement between herself, Chief Probation Officer Henry Ford and Community Corrections Executive Director Steve Mason during the summer of 2013.

Mason and Ford clashed in June when Ford — on Carmichael’s orders — told Mason he was fired after Mason questioned a change to the time sheet of one of his employees. An ad-hoc committee led by Moore and formed by the Clark County Community Corrections Advisory Board, of which Carmichael was president at the time, determined that Ford had not acted properly in informing Mason that he was fired, and also determined that the relationship between Mason’s department and others it works with needed to improve. Moore has since been named president of the advisory board.

Neither Mason nor Moore were at Monday’s meeting.

Council member Kevin Vissing abstained from the vote, and said afterwards that he did so because he is dating a member of Carmichael’s court staff.

SALARY ORDINANCE APPROVED

The council voted unanimously to approve a salary ordinance for 2014 that may look familiar to those familiar with the 2013 version of the document. The two are exactly the same.

By approving that draft, it denied a request from the Clark County Commissioners to increase county Operations Manager Jim Ross’ salary by $8,000.

The commissioners did not have a representative at the meeting.

Ross’ salary, which is $35,471, had been supplemented by payments of $3,500 to $4,000 every three months from Clark-Floyd Landfill LLC since the last quarter of 2009. The payments were put to a stop earlier this year on the order of the current commissioners, who said at the time that Ross had done nothing wrong.

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