The Delaware County sheriff, the Muncie Tea Party and that county referendum
By Rick Yencer
MUNCIE, IN - Delaware County Sheriff Mike Scroggins, a Democrat and Ken Baskette, a leader of the Muncie Tea Party have something in common. They both oppose and have problems with a county voter referendum that reorganizes local government under a 15-member council, eliminating the mayor and county commissioners.
Scroggins spoke to Tea Party members Monday at Kennedy Library about the duties of the sheriff like running the jail, chasing law breakers and providing security to county courts. The sheriff of any Indiana county is a constitutional office that dates back to the original Indiana Constitution in 1816 that was updated in 1851.
As Scroggins put it, county police and corrections offers are not punishers but there to protect and help the public besides those pre-trial detainees in the jail. And looking sharp and being ready to handle any situation is what the sheriff promotes whether it is the newest road deputy or a veteran investigator.
The talk, as Scroggins said up front, was not a political one, as he told the Tea Party that he will address any group regardless of political affiliation. "I represent all the people," said the sheriff.
As most know, the Tea Party is a strict constitutionalist group that is so conservative it opposes the federal government outside of what the U.S. Constitution calls for. And they have billionaire conservative supporters that have been able to take over the mainstream Republican Party just witnessed by the defeat of veteran Republican Senator Richard Lugar by Indiana State Treasurer Richard Mourdock.
When it came to questions, one political issue was raised about that county voter referendum that essentially eliminates local city and county government and replaces it with a hybrid legislature that has an executive that replaces the current mayor and commissioners.
Scroggins said he did not have a problem with how government was reorganized, but did object to the reorganization stripping away Muncie's tax base to operate the jail and sheriff's office.
Without that base that represents has much as 70 percent of the sheriff's revenue, a current $6 million budget could not sustained nor the jail that houses about 275 inmates and employs 56 corrections staff.
And the sheriff, like any other in Indiana, is required by the Constitution to operate that jail besides provide security to courts.
Baskette also said he objected to the reorganization and how it came about, describing the process as a group of power brokers trying to impose their will on voters.
The reorganization plan was drafted by a group appointed by elected officeholders and driven by former Mayor Sharon McShurley. Among its leaders is Eric Kelley, an urban planning professor at Ball State University, and some elected officials like Muncie City Council member Linda Gregory and now Delaware Circuit Court 2 Judge Alan Wilson, another former mayor.
Baskette said, "I really don't like anything about it," referring to how it eliminates elected executives, divides up taxing districts and puts government in the hands of a large council.
Democratic Mayor Dennis Tyler and Todd Donati, president of Delaware County Commissioners, and another Democrat, also oppose the referendum as do Democrats on both Muncie City Council and Delaware County Council.
While the reorganization leaves town governments in place, including the biggest , Yorktown, some town officials are concerned about how the proposed government will impact their services and taxes.
The local Tea Party has not spoken out too much about the 2012election except for their diehard support for Mourdock.
Some local Republicans are looking for Tea Party help like higher education administrator Brad Oliver, Republican for the House 34 seat, against Democrat Sue Errington, and Yorktown Town Council member Steve Fields, Republican for a Delaware County commissioner seat, against Daleville Town Marshal James King, county council president and the Democrat seeking that office..
A Fields supporter asked the group for contributions to buy signs for the good government candidate, while Oliver made his debut at the meeting after appointed by Republican precinct committeemen to run against Errington.
Baskette indicated a referendum proponent, Garry Addison, would be talking to the group soon along with Gregory, who was on the committee.