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Fortville council to sue clerk over performance

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Marcie Stafford
Marcie Stafford

FORTVILLE –— The town of Fortville is pursuing legal action against Clerk-Treasurer Marcie Stafford, accusing her of neglect of her duties as the town’s financial officer.

 “We agreed to move together on litigation,” Councilman Ron Stafford said. “The issues have been ongoing, and we’re at that point.”

The council met in a special meeting Monday morning to address their longstanding complaints with the clerk-treasurer’s performance. The council members present – council  President Bill Hiday, Janet Manship and Stafford – voted to proceed with the lawsuit. Council members Robert Holland and Nancy Sizemore did not attend the special meeting.

The council members instructed town attorney Alex Intermill to draft action against Stafford to fulfill her statutory duties under the law. The filing is called an mandamus action, in which a court is asked to command proper performance from an official.

“We’ve been trying as a council for years now to straighten these things out, and nothing has worked. We are looking for a judicial action,” Intermill said.

The most serious of the issues facing Stafford was the continued failure to pay the town’s bills, including insurance premiums for town employees and licensing fees for utility software, which resulted in several potential instances of threats to disrupt town functions and operations.

The insurance premiums for the town employees’ health plan had not been paid for months, threatening to put the employees in danger of losing their health insurance.

To help alleviate some of those concerns, the council voted Monday to authorize town manager Joe Renner to increase the credit limit on the town’s credit card; add his name to the town’s accounts at the bank to provide signing authority; and to issue checks or otherwise ensure payment of bills for the town that have not been paid or were in jeopardy of going unpaid.

Earlier this year, the council moved to request Stafford’s resignation. In April, Stafford said she would not resign. At the time, the council cited the lack of monthly reports on the town’s finances, expressing concerns that they were signing off on bills and vouchers from more than a year earlier. The council was also troubled by the fact the some of the invoices inaccurately reflected the proper due date.

Stafford said she had been trying to resolve the issues. She previously said the council had tied her hands by not providing enough staff for the clerk-treasurer’s office. She has requested a deputy clerk position several times.

At the June 16 Fortville Town Council meeting, the council voted to approve Stafford’s sought-after plan to hire a clerk-treasurer’s assistant to help handle the workload. That has yet to take place.

Stafford will be able to continue working in her clerk-treasurer position as the legal case moves forward. According to Intermill, the only way to remove someone in such an elected office is through impeachment.

Marcie Stafford was unavailable for comment on Monday.

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