AG Curtis Hill confirms recovery efforts against Gary councilwoman

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Attorney General Curtis Hill today confirmed that his office is pursuing recovery of funds improperly received by a Gary councilwoman who held two municipal positions at the same time in violation of Indiana law.

Councilwoman Mary Brown was an employee of Gary Sanitary District from 1995 through Jan. 1, 2016, when, as a matter of law, she was deemed to have resigned her position. She continued receiving compensation for this position until June 26, 2018, when she provided her personal resignation to the District. She was elected to the Gary Common Council in 1999, took office in 2000, and has been re-elected five times.

While Brown was serving her fourth term of office, the Indiana General Assembly passed a law holding that “an individual is considered to have resigned as a government employee when the individual assumes an elected office of the unit that employs the individual.”

This law, which took effect in January of 2013, allowed affected office-holders to serve out the remainders of their terms without resigning other employment. However, to comply with the law, Brown should have resigned as customer service director for the Gary Sanitary District following her re-election to the Common Council in November of 2015. Instead, she began her new term of office on Jan. 1, 2016, while also continuing in her other position.

On October 14, 2016, the Indiana State Board of Accounts (SBOA) issued Audit Report B47027, finding that Brown was deemed to have resigned her employment with the Gary Sanitary District effective Jan. 1, 2016.

In Lake County Superior Court, Brown then filed suit against the Attorney General and the State Examiner in their official capacities, seeking a declaratory judgment that she was not in violation of the law by holding both positions contemporaneously. The Office of the Attorney General argued successfully that pursuant to statute, Brown was deemed by law to have resigned her position with the Gary Sanitary District.

Then, on Nov. 30, 2018, the SBOA issued Special Report B51450, covering the period from Oct. 15, 2016, to July 20, 2018. This report charges Brown with misappropriation based on the improper compensation she received for a position she legally was deemed to have resigned. She has been ordered to reimburse the Gary Sanitary District $132,742.35 in wages for the time she held both positions in violation of Indiana law.

“No citizen is above the law, even if that citizen happens to be a public office-holder,” Attorney General Hill said. “You can disagree with a law. You can lobby to change it. But you cannot ignore or disobey it. In this case, we are taking action to make sure the law is upheld and that financial restitution is made for monies that were misappropriated.”

The Office of the Attorney General has begun recovery efforts on behalf of the Gary Sanitary District.

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