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Friday, May 6, 2016

Redistricting lawsuit sent to insurance company

Saturday, October 20, 2012

BAINBRIDGE -- A week after being sued, the representatives from North Putnam are no closer to rectifying the issue, or determining a new course of action.

The North Putnam School Board was sued last Thursday for failing to redistrict in an effort to balance the population of the voter districts in the corporation.

This is a violation of state law, and the American Civil Liberties Union, on behalf of Brooke Cox, a resident in Floyd Township, filed suit.

On Thursday North Putnam attorney Gene Hostetter said he has examined the lawsuit and it has been turned over to the school's insurance provider to see if it is going to contest it.

North Putnam has 21 days from the date it received the suit to respond, which will expire on Nov. 2. They are also allowed to request an additional 30 days.

"All of us are rereading and trying to formulate what our response should be," North Putnam superintendent Dan Noel said. "We will be meeting with the insurance company next week."

North Putnam has also contacted the Indiana School Board Association, Noel said.

The ISBA contacted North Putnam last year, warning that it must redistrict or change the election process prior to this year's election on Nov. 6.

As the candidates are already finalized, the deadline this year is out.

ACLU Indiana legal director Ken Falk said, to his knowledge, this is the only redistricting case currently pending in the state.

DePauw professor Kelsey Kauffman helped Cox get wind of the redistricting issue and connected her with the ACLU.

"At some point when government officials are ignoring the law you need to move from informing them that they are doing so to compelling them to stop," Kauffman said via email. "My students and I worked very hard for 18 months to get local governments throughout Indiana to follow through with their legal obligations to redistrict."

Kauffman said her students have testified multiple times before state legislative panels about the issue, in addition to writing letters to a number of state boards, commissions and school boards, including North Putnam.

She was in contact with the previous North Putnam superintendent in 2011, and school board members this year prior to the deadline and the board decision to not act.

"For local governments that have refused to redistrict despite our efforts to inform and persuade them, the time has finally come to enforce the law," Kauffman said. "The issue is not who wins a particular school board seat, but rather who are the people -- and how many of them -- are represented by that person."

Falk said this is not a damages case; there is no possibility of a settlement, monetary or otherwise, that doesn't involve the school board adjusting the way it becomes elected.

The North Putnam board is currently composed of one member from each of the corporation's six townships and one at-large member.

Only residents of a given township are eligible to vote for a candidate to represent that township.

North Putnam is the only local board that elects its members this way.

The board could quickly modify this to residential districts, which would open up each seat to voters from the entire corporation. There would still be a member from each township, but they would be voted on everywhere.

Were North Putnam to attempt to maintain its current plan, electoral districts, the board would have to balance each district to equalize population.

As board member Charlie Boller said at a special meeting May, "There is one (option) that fixes it forever and there is one that has to be done every 10 years."

The board has taken no public action to address redistricting since June, and Noel said he does not believe they have discussed anything privately.

Their attorney, Hostetter, was asked to investigate the populations in June and it was determined that the process would take too long to complete prior to this election.

Hostetter, asked what he has done to address redistricting, said, "all I can say is, I've done what the board has asked me to do."

Since June, at least publicly, the board has not asked him to do anything about the issue.

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Sounds like someone dropped the ball. Just change your organizational structure (or whatever it is called) and allow each voter to vote on all members. Probably the way it should be. Good Luck!

-- Posted by cvilleguy on Sat, Oct 20, 2012, at 8:49 AM

You're right, the ball was dropped. Is it any big surprise with this cast of characters? They probably thought they could continue to get by with it. Plus, no one wanted to lose their precious little seat where they can try to impose their agendas on everyone else, including other board members. As for the lawsuit. Look at it this way. The woman suing lives in Floyd Township. Her kids go to Greencastle. She doesn't have a dog in this race. She works with the professor whose students did this study. I think the professor was doing her best to try and find somebody to sue just to validate her research. Conveniently, she just so happens to work with someone from Floyd Township. Fix it, one of two ways. Have a nominee from each Township voted on by all of the townships in the school Corporation, or anybody can run from the townships within the corporation and every voter within the corporation votes, no matter how many candidates might be from the same Township.

-- Posted by nobody important on Mon, Oct 22, 2012, at 3:57 PM

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