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No action in Stone election case

October 29, 2010

PLYMOUTH — No further action will be taken on complaints that had been filed against Judith Stone, candidate for County Council District 4.
Stone’s opponent in the political race, Ryan Ripley, had made formal complaints to the Marshall County Election Board Oct. 22 and hand delivered a complaint Sept. 27 authorized by the Marshall County Democrat Party to the Marshall County Prosecutor’s Office.
In his complaint to the Election Board, Ripley indicated that Stone did not properly list in-kind donations in her financial report.
On Tuesday morning at the Election Board meeting, the matter was dropped by unanimous vote. Marshall County Republican Chair David Holmes attended the meeting as did Stone.
In speaking to the board, Holmes said, “I feel that it is appropriate for me to respond to the complaint. Judy (Stone) doesn’t have the information to respond to the complaint made by her opponent. The CFA-5’s for in-kind donations to the candidates are not filled out by the party until the end of the election period. We fill them out after we have made our buys with the radio station, newspaper, and created our brochures. We generally give them out after election day.”
According to Holmes, the state statute only says the CFA-5’s are to be provided in a “timely manner,” with no specific time limit.
Holmes also explained that none of the county candidates, those with opponents or those who are running unopposed, had been given a CFA-5.     
Board member Roger Wise verified Stone had filed her in-kind donation from the party with a CFA-5 from her first campaign the following January.
Election Board member Steve Harper said, “Personally I don’t think it’s necessary to proceed with the complaint. I don’t feel there is any merit to the complaint and we should move on.”
His motion was unanimously approved by all members of the Marshall County Election Board.
Democrat Michelle Livinghouse voiced her opinion on the matter in a press release Wednesday. Livinghouse said, “A decision by the election board Oct. 22 had set a special meeting to hear the candidate’s response in this matter or to allow Stone to amend her report. This meeting was to be held Friday, Oct. 29.“
However, Harper said the Oct. 29 meeting was set to give the proper time for Stone and the Marshall County Republican Party to respond.
Thursday Harper said, “Since the matter was voted on at the Tuesday meeting, we didn’t need to hold another meeting.”
In the complaint filed with the Marshall County Prosecutor’s Office Sept. 27 , the Democrats cited what they believed were votes cast by Stone during County Council meetings that involved payments to a company that her husband has a 50 percent interest in. Public records show that Stone filed conflict of interest forms with both the Marshall County Clerk’s Office and the State of Indiana listing Custom Tower Systems, Inc. and CTS Realty by name on the forms.
Additionally, records show that Stone abstained from voting on matters concerning the businesses during the meetings.
Holmes also serves as the Marshall County prosecutor.
When the compliant was filed, Holmes indicated that he did indeed have a conflict of interest and forwarded the complaint to a special prosecutor , R. Steven Hearn, in Kosciusko County. Included in a letter from Hearn sent to Holmes Oct. 25, was the following: “This is to advise you that I have reviewed the complaint with reference to Council Member Judith Stone and I have determined that no action should be taken.”

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