Panel to rule in June on election chief challenge

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The Indiana Recount Commission agreed Wednesday to rule by late June on whether indicted secretary of state Charlie White was eligible for office when he was elected six months ago.

Commission Chairman Thomas E. Wheeler II set a June 30 deadline for the three-member panel to rule on Democrats' contention that White, a Republican, was not legally registered to vote when he declared his candidacy to become the state's top elections official.

The commission, which will hold a daylong hearing June 21 on the Democrats' challenge, had initially dismissed the party's challenge in December. But a Marion County judge last week ordered the panel to settle the dispute.

Democrats want to depose White to gather information for their case, but White's attorneys have argued that White could incriminate himself in the criminal case he faces by defending himself in the civil case before the panel.

Wheeler, a Republican, gave attorneys for White and state Democrats until May 13 to try to settle their differences about evidence in the election challenge.

"I truly hope that you will do that because it will make it go a lot faster and I don't think the public is interested in seeing a lot of squabbling over this," he said.

Wheeler said he wants to resolve the challenge "as expeditiously as possible."

Democrats filed their challenge after the November election but before a Hamilton County grand jury indicted White in March on seven counts that include voter fraud and perjury for using his ex-wife's address on a voter registration form.

White has blamed the error on his busy schedule and new marriage and calls it an honest mistake. If convicted of a felony, he would have to resign.

Democrats contend that under state law Democrat Vop Osili, who lost to White by about 345,000 votes in the Nov. 2 election, should take office if White is declared to have been ineligible when he ran for the statewide office.

Wheeler was appointed the panel's chairman last week by Indiana's Republican Party chairman after White recused himself from hearing his own case on the panel.

The commission had dismissed Democrats' challenge to White's eligibility in December. But Marion Circuit Court Judge Louis Rosenberg last week rejected White's bid to stall the Democratic challenge of his eligibility until the criminal case against him is resolved.

Rosenberg said "the public interest is in resolving this matter" and there's no guarantee White's criminal trial on voter fraud and other charges will be held Aug. 8 as scheduled.

Wheeler said Rosenberg has ordered the commission to decide the matter no later than July 6. He urged attorneys for White and the Democrats Wednesday to steer clear of partisan attacks.

"I would admonish both parties — this is not a partisan process here and we won't tolerate partisan attacks by either party," Wheeler said.

The commission voted unanimously Wednesday to direct the secretary of state's office to turn over to Indiana's attorney general's office within 24 hours a report on White that was prepared late last year by the staff of his predecessor, Todd Rokita.

Wheeler said he and the panel's two other members — Democrat Bernard Pylitt and Republican Gordon Durnil — will take turns reading the report and decide what parts might need to be withheld.

Karen Celestino-Horseman, an attorney for Indiana Democrats, said after Wednesday's meeting that Democrats had wanted a shorter timeframe for resolving the case.

"There's no reason that it should be dragging on the way it has been," she said.

James Bopp, who's representing White in the civil challenge, said he will file an appeal with the Indiana Court of Appeals asking it to postpone the election challenge until after White's criminal case is resolved. He said doing so would prevent White from giving testimony to the commission that could later be used against White at trial.

"That's a dilemma we believe he should not be constitutionally subjected to," Bopp said.

The Indiana secretary of state's office, through its bipartisan election division, oversees voter registration and election matters across the state. Those functions, however, are primarily handled by county election boards and clerks' offices.


  • Idiot
    Charlie - you're an idiot. I'm a staunch conservative & hope that the Governor gets to appoint your replacement. No the Democrats should not be able to put their candidate in the seat, they lost significantly (not that that matters). Charlie, resign, join the quesitonable Brizzi's of the party and go away.

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  1. to mention the rest of Molly's experience- she served as Communications Director for the Indianapolis Department of Public Works and also did communications for the state. She's incredibly qualified for this role and has a real love for Indianapolis and Indiana. Best of luck to her!

  2. Shall we not demand the same scrutiny for law schools, med schools, heaven forbid, business schools, etc.? How many law school grads are servers? How many business start ups fail and how many business grads get low paying jobs because there are so few high paying positions available? Why does our legislature continue to demean public schools and give taxpayer dollars to charters and private schools, ($171 million last year), rather than investing in our community schools? We are on a course of disaster regarding our public school attitudes unless we change our thinking in a short time.

  3. I agree with the other reader's comment about the chunky tomato soup. I found myself wanting a breadstick to dip into it. It tasted more like a marinara sauce; I couldn't eat it as a soup. In general, I liked the place... but doubt that I'll frequent it once the novelty wears off.

  4. The Indiana toll road used to have some of the cleanest bathrooms you could find on the road. After the lease they went downhill quickly. While not the grossest you'll see, they hover a bit below average. Am not sure if this is indicative of the entire deal or merely a portion of it. But the goals of anyone taking over the lease will always be at odds. The fewer repairs they make, the more money they earn since they have a virtual monopoly on travel from Cleveland to Chicago. So they only comply to satisfy the rules. It's hard to hand public works over to private enterprise. The incentives are misaligned. In true competition, you'd have multiple roads, each build by different companies motivated to make theirs more attractive. Working to attract customers is very different than working to maximize profit on people who have no choice but to choose your road. Of course, we all know two roads would be even more ridiculous.

  5. The State is in a perfect position. The consortium overpaid for leasing the toll road. Good for the State. The money they paid is being used across the State to upgrade roads and bridges and employ people at at time most of the country is scrambling to fund basic repairs. Good for the State. Indiana taxpayers are no longer subsidizing the toll roads to the tune of millions a year as we had for the last 20 years because the legislature did not have the guts to raise tolls. Good for the State. If the consortium fails, they either find another operator, acceptable to the State, to buy them out or the road gets turned back over to the State and we keep the Billions. Good for the State. Pat Bauer is no longer the Majority or Minority Leader of the House. Good for the State. Anyway you look at this, the State received billions of dollars for an assett the taxpayers were subsidizing, the State does not have to pay to maintain the road for 70 years. I am having trouble seeing the downside.