The Westfield City Council on Monday night voted to override Mayor Andy Cook’s veto of a term limits ordinance that some officials believe could lead to lawsuits against the city.
The ordinance limits the mayor and city council members to two consecutive four-year terms and the clerk-treasurer to three consecutive four-year terms.
The requirements are scheduled to take effect with elected terms beginning in January 2024, according to the ordinance. Time in office before 2024 would not count toward the term limits.
The council voted 5-2 to override Cook’s veto, which he issued Dec. 6.
Council members Joe Edwards, Scott Frei, Jake Gilbert, Mike Johns and Troy Patton—who introduced the ordinance—voted in favor of overriding Cook’s veto, while Cindy Spoljaric and Scott Willis voted against it.
The same councilors voted for and against the term limits ordinance at the Westfield City Council’s meeting on Nov. 28.
At that meeting, both Spoljaric and Willis said they support term limits, but they worry about the legality of the ordinance and fear the city will face lawsuits and increased attorney fees.
Willis noted that the Indiana State Board of Elections told the city, “One, you can’t do it, and two, you will get sued.”
City attorney Manny Herceg, who works with the Indianapolis office of Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP, also told the council on Nov. 28 he does not think Westfield’s term limits ordinance passes “legal muster” and eventually will be overturned in court.
On Monday, Patton said he received a letter from an attorney who specializes in municipal law who contacted Dale Simmons, general counsel of the Indiana Election Division.
Patton read from the letter, which said “the Election Division advised against a local municipality enacting an ordinance to limit the terms of its elected officials. So the Election Division’s interpretation is that municipalities should not, but likely still can limit elections by setting term limits.”
Cook is scheduled to hold a press conference Tuesday afternoon to discuss the ordinance.
He has not publicly announced if he plans to run for a fifth term as mayor in 2023. Clerk-treasurer Cindy Gossard was appointed in 2001 and has been elected to five terms since 2003.
Five members of the Westfield City Council—Frei, Gilbert, Johns, Patton and Willis are serving their first terms. Spoljaric is serving her fourth term on the council, while Edwards is in his third. All seven seats on the council will be on the ballot in next year’s municipal election.
Gilbert and Willis announced this year they will run for mayor in 2023. Edwards and Spoljaric do not plan to run for reelection.