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Election ongoing hot topic at Culver council mtg

December 22, 2011

Two town council members last week added their comments to existing voices concerning the controversy over accusations made leading up to last month’s hotly-contested Culver town clerk race.

During the Dec. 13 regular meeting, Council member Lynn Overmyer defended outgoing clerk Casey Howard, who was defeated by Karen Heim, describing the “mess of paperwork” and “disarray” Howard was faced with when she first took over the clerk’s position, noting Howard straightened out the situation “professionally and promptly.”
Overmyer said Howard “had time to defend herself” following the first of a handful of mailings criticizing her performance as clerk, though “the second mailing was sent before she had a chance to reply.

“The folks who sent this,” said Overmyer, referring to a pamphlet criticizing Howard’s alleged use of the social networking site Facebook while on the job, “didn’t realize she doesn’t even have to be in the office (by state statute). As long as the clerk does her duties, she does not have to be in the office or use the computer.”
Overmyer also wished retiring deputy clerk Kay Davis a happy retirement, and said Howard had been offered four jobs since the election and has already accepted one.

“I think that says something about her character,” added Overmyer.
Councilman Ed Pinder also discussed the election, specifically challenging the contents of one item distributed which discussed Howard’s longevity pay.

Pinder said clerks in other towns receive longevity pay, a bonus given those employed by the town for a given number of years (in Culver’s case, three years, said Pinder). He refuted any implication making it appear Howard had been unethical in accepting longevity pay for her position.

“This upset me about the election,” he said. “We had things coming out that were skewed to make them sound like something bad, when they weren’t.”

The clerk position is not specifically named in Culver’s ordinances (posted on www.townofculver.org), which do allow for longevity pay for employees. Documents on the Indiana State Board of Accounts website (www.in.gov/sboa) indicate longevity pay is allowed for the elected position of clerk-treasurer (as opposed to hired town employees), though ordinances should specifically designate the clerk position qualifies for such pay.

Outgoing council member Ralph Winters, apparently referring to the Heim campaign, said, “I hope the people who grabbed a hold of this and ran wild (leading up to the election) do not get the service from the clerk’s office they deserve, because that means you and I and Lynn will get the same quality of service, and we deserve better than what they’ve set themselves up for.”

Also at the meeting, Culver’s fire department is poised to add an unusual piece of equipment to its rescue toolkit in the form of a Neoteric hovercraft, which fire chief Mike Grover says will mainly be used for ice rescues, following a fatal accident on the lake a few years ago which presented major challenges for firemen attempting to reach the deceased. The department had attempted purchase of the machine last year, but since has tracked down a used model in the $30,000 range, around half the cost previously estimated. Grover said the department hopes to train six people in use of the craft, an expense which can be paid for via private funding.

Grover added the hovercraft can travel 50 to 60 miles per hour on smooth ice, and would likely be transported to the lake by trailer. Council member Ralph Winters suggested a mutual agreement with other departments in the surrounding area to make the machine available.
Grover also distributed a sheet tallying fire department activities over the past year, which included 73 calls totaling 487 man hours (with an average arrival time of seven minutes). The chief also noted firemen had amassed 1,550 hours of community service at a variety of events and endeavors.

“These guys are a bunch of great guys,” he said. “(These are) many hours they spend above and beyond their fire duties; it’s something we enjoy doing for the community.”

Grover ended by thanking outgoing clerk Howard and Winters for their service, and bidding retiring deputy clerk Kay Davis farewell.

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