Although the case for downsizing or eliminating township government remains a hard sell to the Indiana Legislature, the case for local government reform remains ever more compelling.
Yes, the Indiana Chamber of Commerce came out this past week in support of either the elimination of township government or of at least the elimination of advisory boards in each of Indiana’s townships. But that is no surprise. The organization that lobbies for issues favorable to businesses has long supported the downsizing of local government, particularly of township government, as a way of reducing local government costs.
Of more interest, we found news reports this past week of two more issues involving specific townships elsewhere, as reported in other news media. They stand as further evidence that townships have too much time and tax money on their hands.
Also, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, whose legislative agenda includes local government reform, will come to the January session armed with what we would call compelling information in support of ending township government in Indiana.
Of course, locally we had the case of former Knight Township Trustee Linda Durham, who allegedly misappropriated $70,000 in township funds. She awaits trial, and if the charges prove true, it will be one more indication that township government is woefully lacking in oversight.
Also, Eric Bradner of the Courier & Press Capital Bureau reported about a year ago that township governments statewide were sitting on $215 million in surpluses, much of it intended for emergency poor relief.
More recently, according to the Associated Press, via the Indianapolis Star newspaper, the Wayne Township trustee in Marion County earlier this month was found planning to give $200,000 in poor relief funds to the Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library to allow for longer hours at four library branches.
The trustee, David Baird, said his plan fit in with the township’s mission for poor relief in that the poor use the libraries’ computers and other resources to look for jobs.
This is not the intended purpose of poor relief. It should be utilized to address urgent needs, such as preventing electricity from being turned off, or for filling urgently needed prescriptions. But township trustees seem to take tremendous latitude in deciding how to spend tax-financed poor relief.
The Indianapolis Star reports on a State Board of Accounts audit of Jefferson Township in Sullivan County, which resulted in the trustee and his wife, working as the office clerk, having to give back $42,366 to the township for payments they should not have received.