The Noblesville Fire Merit Commission is in violation of state law because it lacks Democrat representation.
Carmel’s Fire Merit board also is in violation of Indiana Code which states:
"6. (a) A merit commission consisting of five (5) commissioners shall be established for each department of a unit having a merit system. The commissioners are:
(1) two (2) persons, who must be of different political parties, appointed by the unit’s executive.
(2) One (1) person appointed by the unit’s legislative body; and (3) two (2) persons, who must be of different political parties, elected by the active members of the department. Notwithstanding IC 36-1-8-10, political affiliation shall be determined through the voters’ registration records of the three (3) most recent primary elections."
Joe Weingarten, chairman of the Hamilton County Democrat Party, sent letters to both Noblesville Mayor John Ditslear and Carmel Mayor, asking action be taken.
“I request that action be taken immediately by the City of Noblesville to correct this violation. Should you need assistance in finding qualified persons of from the Democratic Party we can provide names and contact information,” Weingarten said.
The Noblesville Fire Merit Commission is made up for five members, Bill Boice, Steve McKee, Todd Thurston, Roger Webb and Dale Martz, all whom are registered Republican voters.
By Indiana Code, merit commissions, or boards, establish or administer policies based on merit for the appointment, promotion, demotion, and dismissal of members of the department.
“No government should be above the law. No government should assume that its representation is 100 percent of one party when law says it must have representation from both sides. State law is very specific about the makeup of this commission,” Weingarten said.
Noblesville Deputy Mayor Steve Cooke the appointments were made in accordance with a local ordinance.
“The City of Noblesville’s appointments to the Fire Department Merit Commission Board were made in accordance with local ordinance no. 36-04-06, which was approved by the Noblesville Common Council in May 2006. This ordinance was intended to amend the provisions of the Indiana Code on police and fire merit systems … that allowed for a government unit to amend any provision of the merit system,” Cooke said. “Upon further review, the City Attorney’s initial interpretation of this chapter from the Indiana Code was incorrect, and the city is now taking steps to amend the local ordinance, review our board appointments and make any changes necessary to ensure we are fully compliant with state code.”
“Let take this one step further assume the commission takes adverse action against someone. How would the courts view this if the decision was challenged due to the illegal make up the commission? Shouldn't people who are not Republican have representation if the state by law feels it was important to be included?”
Weingarten said the county Democratic Party is checking all boards required to have members of both political parties.
“We are doing a review of all Boards and Commission in the county that by state stature require both parties be represented. We have been looking at these boards and then checking the voting record to determine the party registration of the members,” Weingarten said. “I asked the City of Noblesville for a list of members and the list was provided by the Fire Chief. The names were then checked and it was found all are registered Republicans which is a violation of law.”