Thursday, July 16, 2009

Has the General Assembly Given Felon Elected Officials Staying Power?

City-County Councilor Doris-Minton McNeil (D-District 15)now awaits a verdict, which Democrat Judge Annie Christ-Garcia took under advisement after concluding a one-day trial for D felony battery and resisting arrest charges (A misdemeanor).

The charges arose out of a June 2008 incident that started when Councilor Minton-McNeil called 9-1-1 (using some rather salty language) to inform police that a molester with a knife was in her home. Police arrived to investigate, and according to the allegations, Minton-McNeil shoved an officer and knocked her down, resulting in an injury to her wrist.

Jon Murray with the Star provides Minton-McNeil's explanation for her tone.

But as a lawyer, I'm interested in the following phrase from Murray's story:

"A guilty verdict on a charge of battery as a D felony would disqualify Minton-McNeil from holding elected office."
This sounds like she would have to resign, but I am not certain this statement is true.

The Indiana Supreme Court just addressed Indiana's disqualification statute, IC 3-8-1-5, and concluded that it stopped a felon from either being a candidate for office or assuming an office. It says nothing about stopping a felon from serving in an office.

In other words, unless there's another statute of which I'm unaware, it certainly seems that elected officials can serve out their terms following a felony conviction, as long as the conviction occurs after they assumed the office.

That, of course, is separate from whether a person should serve out his/her term. As a Democrat who cares about the party's reputation, my answer for Democrats who are convicted is always going to be an emphatic NO, they should not.

If the Indiana General Assembly thought a felony conviction meant you were dishonorable enough to serve at all, why wouldn't it also feel such a conviction made one too dishonorable to stay in office? Plus, what party in its right mind wants a recently convicted felon casting votes? (Please, please, please don't embarrass me on this if she gets convicted, Marion County Democratic Party!)

Does anybody have a different interpretation or know of another provision that forces the resignation of an elected official convicted of a felony?



Anonymous said...

I am not a lawyer so I dont know the legal ramifications. I do know Doris Minton McNeil and I know she has been good for the community and has been a hard working councilwoman. She responds to every citizen's complaint and attempts to find a resolution. It remains to be seen whether she is convicted or not and what that means as far as her remaining in office....but if she has to resign, it is a real loss for her district.

Anonymous said...

I don't know the laws, but I know that Sam Smith stayed in the Senate until the end of his term after he had his tax issues. He was unable to run again, but he wasn't required to give up his seat. Again, I don't know he was charged with and what he ended up pleaing to, but something let him stay in office even though he couldn't run again.

Anonymous said...

I think the judge made a mistake in this case.

Miklo Velka said...

Anon 8:09,

Were you in attendance at the trial of councilwoman Minton-McNeil?

If you DID attend the trial, describe what about the Judge's decision you believe is mistaken.

If you you did NOT attned, your thoughts on whether Judge Christ-Garcia made a mistake or not are valueless.

Support yourself, or leave your baseless comments on some other blog where folks like to hear about such nonsense.