Hamilton County asks state police to probe late-fee claims in lawsuit

Hamilton County Commissioners have asked the Indiana State Police to investigate after a former county Treasurer’s Office employee filed a lawsuit alleging the office allowed county employees to waive penalties on late property tax payments for themselves and family members.

Last month, Susan Byer, a former deputy treasurer and bankruptcy lender clerk, filed the suit in Hamilton County Superior Court, saying she was fired earlier this year after she confronted her supervisor, Chief Deputy Kim Good, after Good waived penalties on late payments for her own family members. Doing so had been a longtime practice of the office, according to the lawsuit. 

The defendants are Hamilton County and Hamilton County Treasurer Jennifer Templeton.

In mid-2017, the office told employees they weren’t allowed to mark late payments as on-time, the lawsuit states. Byer said she confronted Good about the practice after Good directed employees to do so for some of her family members. Good responded by saying, “That’s none of your business,” according to the lawsuit.

A day later, Byer reported the interaction to the county's human resources office to file a formal grievance against both Good and Templeton.

On July 12, 2017, Byer went to a meeting where she was read a Notice of Disciplinary Action by the department head for the county’s human resource office, the lawsuit states. Byer was disciplined two more times before having her employment terminated March 27, ending 13 years of employment with the office.

One disciplinary notice referenced Byer’s “glaring, continued negative body language and ostracizing your supervisor, Chief Deputy Kim Good and Treasurer Jennifer Templeton.” Another—the last one Byer received before being fired—said that she looked at her personal cellphone on Feb. 7, a violation of office policy.

Byer said in the lawsuit that she believes Templeton and Good “conducted a pattern of harassment and eventual termination” because Byer knew about the office’s practice of changing payment dates and they were attempting “to conceal potentially criminal activities of employees.”

She said she believes she was fired to intimidate other employees into keeping quiet, according to the suit, which seeks $700,000 from each defendant.

The county commissioners have asked state police to independently investigate Byer’s claims, saying they feel its their duty to ask an impartial party to look into them.

“We owe it to the taxpayers to investigate the claims and to assure them that their tax dollars are being managed properly,” County Commissioner Mark Heirbrandt said in written comments.

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