FORTVILLE — Every candidate running for Fortville clerk-treasurer — a position responsible for overseeing the town’s books — has faced personal financial woes.
Two of the candidates filed for bankruptcy in the past five years after falling on hard times and one was sued by a financial institution over an unpaid loan. The candidates spoke openly this week with the Daily Reporter about financial problems they’ve faced in the past and defended their qualifications for the position.
Republican Sherry Durbin is challenged by independents Jeff Ratliff and Tonya Drake Davis for the office Marcie Stafford will vacate at the end of the year. Stafford lost her bid for re-election in May.
The candidate elected will be charged with keeping the town’s financial records and overseeing Fortville’s budget under direction of the town council. The office oversees payroll and is responsible for reporting the town’s budgeting to the Indiana Department of Local Government Finance.
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‘It’s a job’
Ratliff, a former real estate broker who described himself as self-employed, filed to run for clerk-treasurer following the primary. He filed to run for the same position in 2011 following a term on the town council but withdrew his name from the ballot, saying other candidates were more qualified.
He chose to pursue office after receiving encouragement from residents and chose to run for clerk-treasurer instead of town council because the clerk job is a full-time position, he said.
In 2011, the lifelong Fortville resident filed for bankruptcy following two civil suits filed by financial institutions, including one mortgage foreclosure, court records show.
Ratliff said his financial problems started after the economy and the housing market crashed in 2008. CitiMortgage Inc. filed a civil suit to foreclose property against Ratliff in 2009, court records show.
He said he was like many who filed bankruptcy following the economic downturn. He had owned a real estate company that specialized in brokering land for subdivision development, and when the housing market crashed, he was out of a job.
At the time, he was serving on Fortville Town Council and dedicated his time to that work, he said.
“Truly, the reason I went bankrupt is because I focused more on the council job that didn’t pay anything instead of real estate employment,” he said. “My expertise was no longer necessary in the marketplace.”
He added, “I was on the forefront of those that got hit. That’s about all I’ve got to say about that one.”
Ratliff served on town council from 2008 to 2012. He said that experience makes him best for the job of clerk-treasurer. Additionally, he’s attended clerk-treasurer conferences and been through classes geared toward education for municipal officeholders, he said.
And he’s got the best interest of the town at heart, he said.
“I personally will be in the office,” Ratliff said. “Quite simply, for me, it’s a job.”
An open-door policy
Durbin won the Republican primary election over incumbent Stafford with 62 percent of the vote.
She’s lived in Fortville for about 15 years and said she became interested in the position after hearing about problems with the town’s record-keeping and finances. She has been manager of a pizza restaurant and an apartment complex. She said those jobs and more importantly her current job at a dental office, which she has held for seven years, have provided her with a strong foundation in record keeping, skills that would transfer well to the clerk-treasurer position.
In 2010, she and her husband, Fortville Police Officer Doug Durbin, were facing a mortgage foreclosure after Doug Durbin left his crane operator job to become a full-time police officer.
When her husband switched careers, the family’s income was slashed, she said. She went back to work, but the couple still weren’t making ends meet, she said. Public records show Doug Durbin earned about $42,000 in 2014.
“My husband went from making over $100,000 a year to being a police officer again because it’s his desire, his love, his passion,” she said. “He took a very large pay cut.”
When they were sued by U.S. Bank for falling behind on mortgage payments, the couple filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy, a type of bankruptcy that enables people to repay their debts over time with the income they earn, Sherry Durbin said.
“It was our only option at the time,” she said.
The civil suit regarding the mortgage foreclosure was dismissed, court records show. And the candidate said voters shouldn’t lose confidence in her ability to do the job.
If elected, she plans to be in the office Monday through Friday to be available for residents, department heads and town officials, she said.
“I feel like Fortville just needs somebody in there that can kind of take lead and get that clerk’s office running in the right direction,” she said. “I’ll have an open-door policy, and if elected, I will be the one in the office.”
‘I’m an honest person’
Davis threw her name in the race following the primary. She’s worked in her family’s custom awning business, Shade by Design, for 23 years, and has lived in Fortville most of her life.
She said her experience in business and as a broker assistant in the stock market make her qualified for the job, which she’s seeking because she feels her experiences and knowledge will benefit the town.
In 2004, she and her husband, Kent, were sued by Citifinancial over an unpaid loan of about $7,500. The parties settled, and the Davises paid off the balance of the debt, she said.
The Davises took out a loan to help pay veterinary bills for the family dog, and after some time stopped receiving statements even though they knew they still owed money, Davis said. When they called their creditor, they were told the loan had been closed.
Eventually, they received paperwork saying they were being sued.
“I knew we owed the money, but we didn’t know how to pay it,” she said. “It was just one of those things.”
That situation shouldn’t cloud voters’ judgments about whether she can manage the town’s finances, she said, citing her business, stock and customer service experience.
If elected, she said she wants to simplify the clerk-treasurer job and help save the town money. She admits she doesn’t know everything about the position but is ready to learn.
She plans to hold regular office hours and to be an open book to residents and town officials, answering any questions they might have, she said. And, it’s time to have somebody in office who has no political or personal ties and can focus on doing the job well, she said.
“I’m a get-it-done kind of person,” she said. “I’m very straightforward; I’m an honest person.”
1. When and where can I vote?
Polls are open 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Nov. 3, but vote centers in Fortville, Greenfield and McCordsville will have early voting hours starting today. See the map of places and times for early voting.
2. Don’t forget a form of ID
You need a photo ID like an Indiana driver license, Indiana photo ID, military ID or U.S. passport to cast a ballot. You can pick up an ID at the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles.
3. Want to know the results?
On Election Day, stick with the Daily Reporter for updates. You can visit greenfieldreporter.com or the Daily Reporter’s Facebook and Twitter pages for breaking news. Complete coverage of the election will appear in the Nov. 4 edition of the Daily Reporter.
Only residents living in Fortville and Shirley may vote Nov. 3 for their towns’ clerk-treasurer races.
District 5 voters only may cast a ballot for Greenfield City Council.
Occupation: Business assistant, West 38th Dental
Political experience: None
Family: Husband, Marlin “Doug” Durbin; two daughters, one son
Occupation: Former real estate broker
Political experience: Fortville Town Council 2008-2012; Fortville Redevelopment Commission
Family: Not married, no children
Tonya Drake Davis
Occupation: Business operations manager for Shade by Design
Political experience: None
Family: Husband, Kent