Does New Palestine have a nepotism problem?
According to one candidate for the New Palestine Town Council, the answer is yes.
Independent candidate Angela Fahrnow believes there is some cause for concern in regards to the relationship between town manager Dave Book and Tonii Pyle, who is running unopposed for the clerk-treasurer position and is Book’s daughter-in-law.
Beginning January 1, Pyle will become the town’s clerk-treasurer and control the town’s finances. Book, on the other hand, is the town manager, and that includes submitting an annual budget and working with the clerk-treasurer.
And, that is where the issues begin for Fahrnow.
“First, I would like to state I’ve never said the town was breaking nepotism laws. I would also like to add that I never criticized or questioned anyone’s integrity. I’ve stated facts. Dave Book is the town manager. Tonii Pyle is his daughter-in-law. Dave works closely with the clerk-treasurer. It is a conflict of interest. His job description provides several instances where he has to work closely with the clerk-treasurer,” Fahrnow told Giant FM.
She also asked why the potential conflict was never brought up at a town council meeting after Pyle declared her intent of running.
“Town officials said this was discussed before she was hired as an assistant to the clerk-treasurer, but the only documentation in regards to this is on 4/18/18 town minutes that stated that Tonii Pyle had been hired back in March for the assistant clerk position. The town was unaware of the relationship between Mr. Book and Mrs. Pyle, the conflict it brought in regards to town matters, or that there was even a Nepotism Policy in place that was adopted by the town of New Palestine,” she said.
The Indiana General Assembly has weighed in on nepotism issues, stating that town and city governments must adopt policies. New Palestine did just that in July of 2012 with a resolution that addresses nepotism and relatives, which does include a person who is an in-law.
In an email to Giant FM, Book wrote, “There is no nepotism issue. We have and will follow the state law and town ordinances, as well as all internal safe guards.”
Two current council members, who are also up for re-election, have also weighed in on the matter.
Both Brandee Bastin and Jan Jarson believe the town has done nothing wrong and said they have checked with the town’s attorney to confirm that.
“In regards to the nepotism issue, it is something that I take seriously. I have spoken with our town attorney on this issue, and he has advised that no violations of this policy currently exist with our current employment structure. I understand it has been put into question whether or not this will change effective January 1 with the election of the new clerk-treasurer. My pledge is to continue to work with our town and legal counsel to review our nepotism policy, our job descriptions and work to address and clarify any real or perceived conflicts of interest with our legal counsel. We are accountable to the taxpayers of our town,” Bastin said.
Jarson told Giant FM the town’s policy is to follow state law at all times.
“Advice from our legal counsel was sought and received. There is no nepotism. The offices in question are an administrative and an elected position. While these jobs interact, there is no control of one over the other. I am comfortable with our attorney’s answers and the election office vetting candidates,” she said.