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Hancock County News

In split vote New Pal Town Council approves censuring clerk-treasurer.

An already rocky relationship between the New Palestine Town Council and its clerk-treasurer took an even more interesting turn Wednesday night as council narrowly voted in favor of censuring Tonii Pyle, the town’s clerk-treasurer.

Councilman Bill Niemier made the motion, laying out several issues the council has had with Pyle since January, alleging that Pyle has “engaged in conduct and actions that are contrary to, and directly interfere with, the orderly functioning of Town business.”

“The residents of New Palestine deserve better and such deficiencies need to be documented. If Tonii Pyle were an employee of the Town, I would be moving that her employment be terminated, but that is not an available option as she is an elected official. Therefore, my motion, based upon these facts and circumstances, is that the Town Council formally censure Tonii Pyle. Although there may be few practical implications from being formally censured, and the same cannot and does not remove Tonii Pyle from her elected position as the Clerk-Treasurer, such motion does in fact create a formal and permanent record of Tonii Pyle’s failure to properly perform the functions of her elected office,” Niemier said shortly before the vote.

Council voted 3-2 in favor of censuring Pyle. Council members Angie Fahrnow and Brandee Bastin joined Niemier in favor of voting yes, while council members Clint Bledsoe and Jan Jarson voted no.

In laying out his motion, Niemier said Pyle’s behavior is unacceptable.

“Tonii Pyle’s conduct and actions do not meet reasonable standards for acceptable behavior… She has also requested Walker IT to engage in activities that served no town interest and, in fact, were intended to collect evidence to be used in litigation against the Town Council.

Specifically, I am referring to Tonii Pyle requesting security camera footage be retrieved from Bob Ehle’s computer, while Bob was not in his office, for her own personal interests and not the town’s interests,” Niemier said.

Niemier further explained that Pyle’s actions resulted in the town council to adopt a security camera access policy and that Walker IT submitted an invoice for payment and that he believed Pyle should pay for the invoice.

Pyle said she had asked for the information and it was Walker IT who came in with a USB port and said they could get the information.

“I said okay and he downloaded it onto Bob’s computer with his permission while he wasn’t here. And, I followed up with him in the morning, and he explained to me the proper policy and procedures. I was not aware of that, and that is now being followed,” Pyle told council.

Fahrnow immediately countered by saying Ehle was not aware of what was being taken off his computer, and Pyle said she was not going to get into that discussion.

Niemier then asked Ehle if he had received a request to access security footage and was it presented as such. Ehle said no such discussion ever happened.

“No. I was contacted Mr. Robinson that they needed to get there. We had just received quotes for camera systems and he said something about getting footage. I assumed he was talking about the measuring because they were talking about putting different cameras elsewhere. Jim said they needed to get over there, and I informed him one of my officers was next door. So I was already off work. He had left on a run so my door was already locked and secured. It was remote access… When I came in the next morning there was a file folder on my desktop that says for Tonii. I did not know what it was and did not know what the download was,” Ehle said.
Niemier asked had the request of been properly request what would have been Ehle’s response.

“It would have been denied,” Ehle said.

Council voted 3-2 in favor of not paying the invoice and having Pyle personally pay for it. Jarson and Bledsoe voted against the measure.

In addition, Niemier also explained that Pyle has created barriers as to the free flow of information and documentation between her office and to council regarding public records and demanding that council members submit a public records request for all documents.

“Such procedures are not uniformly applied to all document requests. Specifically, council member Angie Fahrnow has requested minutes and contracts regarding the use of our sewer plant and testing performed at our sewer plant and those documents still have not been provided. However, Tonii Pyle requested that at least one town employee, and, perhaps, more than one town employee, search for such documents. Such documents were in fact located and provided to Tonii’s father-in-law, Dave Book, even though he did not submit a public records request in order to receive these documents,” Niemier said.

He continued that Pyle has refused to make changes in a town employee’s salary despite the council passing an ordinance more than a month and a half ago.

Fahrnow said it is now her hope that council and Pyle will be able to co-exist.

“My hope is she will begin cooperating with the council and those involved in a positive, constructive manner. Nobody is perfect, but the key is whether we learn from our mistakes and are able to make things right going forward. My hope is she is able and wanting to take this approach,” Fahrnow told Giant FM.