Home Breaking News Logansport County Council Not In Contempt For Halted Funding Of War Memorial

Logansport County Council Not In Contempt For Halted Funding Of War Memorial

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Katie Stancombe for www.theindianalawyer.com

A Logansport World War I memorial home dedicated in 1922 was the cause for consternation in 2018 between a concerned citizen and local government officials as the home fell into disrepair. In resolving the dispute, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled partially for both parties.

Jim Brugh filed a complaint challenging the property’s transfer from the Cass County Commissioners to the City of Logansport without reference to the property’s indicated purpose. Brugh’s suit resulted in an agreed judgment between the parties, but he filed a petition for enforcement of the agreement two years later arguing the parties had yet to comply.

Brugh also alleged the Cass County Council should be found in contempt due to its refusal to commit $62,500 toward improvements for the memorial home as part of a second grant application. Brugh’s petition was denied and the county council was not found to be in contempt, despite his argument that the council engaged in contemptuous conduct by its refusal to fund the memorial as part of an application for a federal Community Development Block Grant.

The concerned citizen appealed in Jim Brugh v. James L. Sailors, Cass County Commission, et al., 18A-PL-2730, arguing the Cass Superior Court failed to enforce the agreed judgment as written and abused its discretion in not finding the county council in contempt.

The Indiana Court of Appeals partially reversed the trial court’s decision on Friday, finding the city had not complied with a section of the agreed judgment holding that it would execute a deed of dedication transferring the memorial jointly to itself and the county, expressly referring to its dedication and preservation as a war memorial pursuant to Indiana Code §§ 10-18-4-2(b)(3) and 10-18-4-12.

But the appellate court rejected the argument that the agreed judgment required the city and county council to include in its operating agreement a detailed plan for maintenance, repair and improvement of the memorial.

“The 2017 Updated Plan, which was privately funded, indicates that improvements to Memorial Home could cost upwards of $2 million. While they continue to fund maintenance of Memorial Home, it is within the City and County’s discretion, with input from the Board (of Trustees) and the (executive director/manager), to determine how, when, and in what amount costly improvements will be made,” Judge Robert Altice wrote. “We have no authority, nor does Brugh, to require the City and County to each allocate $1 million toward rehabilitation of Memorial Home, which is essentially what Brugh desires.”

The appellate court concluded by noting that Brugh “wholly failed” to establish contempt, agreeing with the trial court that the county council acted within its authority as the fiscal branch of county government in instead choosing to fund the expansion of a county jail and did not in any way willfully disobey the agreed judgment.

“We affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand for further proceedings regarding the enforcement of the deed provision of the Agreed Judgment,” the appellate court concluded.

“…On remand, if the City does not provide the trial court with evidence that a joint dedication deed has been executed, the trial court shall direct performance of this contractual requirement.”