I am pleased to report that the Indiana General Assembly, during this past session, did not eliminate Townships or make any substantial changes in the operation of your Wayne Township Government. We will continue here at Wayne Township to provide our residents with professional and efficient service that meets the needs of our community.
I have had the pleasure of serving as your Trustee for over five years. Every year since I have been Trustee, eliminating or changing Township government has been brought up at the legislature. And, every year, the legislature has wisely turned down the proposed changes. Our legislators thankfully have recognized that local governmental units are in the best position to provide services for those who need our help.
Two bills passed this session that I believe will have a positive impact on local governments. One of the bills deals with conflicts of interest and nepotism, and the other strengthens Indiana's open government laws. Regarding conflicts of interest, the new law prevents individuals who work for a governmental entity from serving on the legislative body of that same entity.
For Townships, this means that an elected Township Board member could not also be an employee of the same Township. This certainly makes sense to me because the Township Board approves the salaries of employees and votes on budgetary issues that could impact employees. An employee being able to vote on his or her own salary simply is not right.
No Wayne Township employees serve on our Board. Our Township Board. Our Township Board consists of Anthony Henry, Board Chair and Social Worker at St. Mary's Catholic Church; Bruce Stier, Board Secretary and a local attorney, and Pat Turner, Board Finance Chair and consultant for Social Service Agencies. Our Board brings wide-ranging knowledge, a variety of experiences and integrity to their service to Wayne Township.
While the nepotism part of this bill contains many items, it generally prohibits public officials from supervising their own relatives. Major media outlets have been very vocal in criticizing governmental entities, particularly townships, for what they perceive as the negative impact of nepotism. Here at Wayne Township we have no one who directly supervises a person who meets the definition of a "relative." So again, this new law does not have a direct effect on us other than some new recordkeeping duties to prove we are not violating the law.
Concerning open government, the legislature established fines and defenses for public officials who intentionally violate the public access laws. Prior to this legislation, there were no specific penalties for violations. We make every effort at the Wayne Township Trustee's Office to provide the public with information about our operations. Our Board meetings are open to the public and take place at 4:30 p.m. on the second Tuesday of each month at our office, 320 East Superior Street. We provide those attending the meetings with an opportunity to speak to our Board. Further, forms are available in our office for persons seeking public records.
I hope many of you had a chance to attend the Taste of Waynedale at Kingston Residence. This is a wonderful event in the Waynedale Community, and I just can't say enough about the great food. The event also raises money for worthy causes, Trails in Waynedale and Community Harvest Food Bank, which works closely with our office to provide food for our clients.
Richard A. Stevenson, Sr.
Wayne Township Trustee