[The Brazil Times nameplate] Overcast ~ 57°F  
High: 64°F ~ Low: 41°F
Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Court overturns 2007 Terre Haute mayoral election

Thursday, November 13, 2008

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- The Indiana Court of Appeals threw out the 2007 mayoral election in Terre Haute on Thursday, declaring the office vacant because winner Duke Bennett's former job running a federally funded mental health network made him ineligible to run.

The court ruled 2-1 in favor of former Mayor Kevin Burke, who claimed after the election that Bennett's candidacy had violated the Hatch Act prohibiting political activities by federal workers.

"Because Burke has standing to contest the election and Bennett is ineligible, we conclude that a vacancy exists," the appeals court agreed.

Terre Haute has no deputy mayor. City attorney Chou Il-Lee said he may ask for a stay of the ruling, which could force a special election.

Bennett formerly was operations director a Hamilton Center Inc., a Terre Haute-based mental health system that received more than $4.8 million from the federal government for its Head Start program from 2000 to 2005.

The appeals court said Bennett's work in connection with the federally funded program made him subject to the state's Little Hatch Act and therefore disqualified him from being a candidate.

Bennett, a Republican, won the election by 110 votes and took office last Jan. 1, two weeks after Vigo Superior Court Judge David Bolk ruled that he saw no evidence indicating that Bennett had "willfully flouted" the Hatch Act.

Burke, a Democrat, appealed the lower court ruling and sought to be declared the winner because of Bennett's ineligibility, but the appeals court ruled he cannot take over the office because voters weren't aware Bennett wasn't eligible.

"To act constitutionally we must either count all votes cast in good faith, including those cast for a disqualified candidate, or count none of the votes cast in good faith," the court ruled.

Judge Edward Najam dissented from the majority opinion, calling the ruling "incompatible" with common law.

He said a challenge after the election can't be based on the winning candidate's ineligibility "unless the voters knew of that ineligibility and wasted their votes accordingly."

Najam said because of that, Burke "failed to state a successful claim against Bennett and has no grounds to upset the election."


Comments
Note: The nature of the Internet makes it impractical for our staff to review every comment. If you feel that a comment is offensive, please Login or Create an account first, and then you will be able to flag a comment as objectionable. Please also note that those who post comments on thebraziltimes.com may do so using a screen name, which may or may not reflect a website user's actual name. Readers should be careful not to assign comments to real people who may have names similar to screen names. Refrain from obscenity in your comments, and to keep discussions civil, don't say anything in a way your grandmother would be ashamed to read.

Since Bennett no longer works for Hamilton Center, would he qualify to run in the special election?

-- Posted by BrazilBillie on Thu, Nov 13, 2008, at 2:34 PM

Excellent question ~ I hope he does run now that he is eligible & I hope he beats Burke again fair & square ~ who isn't fed up with Burke's whining over this election ~ so he won this battle in court ~ the fact remains that the citizens of Terre Haute City did not want Burke as Mayor ~ nothing can change that ~

-- Posted by karebabe on Thu, Nov 13, 2008, at 4:21 PM

I believe in the event a mayor vacates office, the president of the city council steps in as acting mayor. Brazil residents, of all places should know that!

*wink*

-- Posted by Dagnabbit on Fri, Nov 14, 2008, at 6:51 AM

Thoughtful ~

You are so right ~ I think the battle in Terre Haute is far from over after listening to the news ~ both sides still have plenty of legal tatics to utilize ~ by the time Bennett/Burke are finished it may be time for the next election ~ meanwhile Terre Haute citizens just keep plugging along ~ the citizens may find out they really don't need a mayor ~

*wink* right back at you

-- Posted by karebabe on Fri, Nov 14, 2008, at 7:43 AM

All I have to say is........"Ouch"!

But the law is the law and we elect judges to interpret it for us, too bad a person needs to have the law "interpreted" as English has a large enough vocabulary to express ideas coherently to any reader in the first place.....lol.

-- Posted by FlyinLion on Fri, Nov 14, 2008, at 9:24 AM

What a can of worms! Glad that doesn't go on over here ;>

-- Posted by sassypants on Fri, Nov 14, 2008, at 9:42 AM

Sassy ~ really like your new smiley face ~ cute!

-- Posted by karebabe on Fri, Nov 14, 2008, at 9:53 AM

Thanks! It is kind of whacky... just like me;>

-- Posted by sassypants on Fri, Nov 14, 2008, at 5:27 PM

What kind of man is Burke? How many times have we seen him crying on TV because he lost the election. look what the CRyBABY did after crying about it he took it to court. TERRE HAUTE DOES NOT WANT YOU!!!!!!!!!! Take a hint, look at the final count....you got beat. Suck it up go back to selling spring, shocks and mufflers and what ever else you sell. Terre Haute has been a better place since you have been gone.....Keep you chin up Bennett. Nobody likes a crybaby!

-- Posted by BigCB20 on Sat, Nov 15, 2008, at 12:54 AM

My Thoughts is this if they care so much about the people of Terre Haute # 1 go with who they elected. (They should have played the tectncality games during election) #2 How much is this costing the people of the City. #3 by the time they get this figured out it will be time to elect a new mayor. Also Burke needs to get a life they dont want him as a mayor did he not get it. LOL gotta love poltics. Sorry dont spell well

-- Posted by kd323 on Thu, Nov 20, 2008, at 7:19 AM


Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: