Hancock County News

New Palestine Town Council says town employee violated COVID-19 declaration

Another meeting, another embarrassment for New Palestine town officials.
 

Recently, town officials acknowledged that its own clerk-treasurer had violated a declaration of local emergency due to the COVID-19 outbreak, thus prompting officials to extend the declaration by another 30 days.


In the same month the town council censured Tonii Pyle, the clerk-treasurer, council hit Pyle with an allegation of violating an emergency order, which stated only employees could be inside town hall.


Town council president Brandee Bastin said she sent an email to all employees, stating what the restrictions were.Bastin said the email stated that only employees were allowed inside the buildings and the town’s community room was closed to the public except for town council meetings.


“It’s clear what it means to me,” Bastin told council.
 

Fellow council member Bill Niemier said he thought council was “dancing around” who was in violation and asked how the emergency declaration was not followed.
 

“We had somebody that was public in town hall that was allowed in town hall in two separate occasions where it was stated nobody from public be allowed. We had a town employee allow public access after it was said no public allowed. The executive order was not followed. How is it enforced,” council member Angie Fahrnow said.
 

Bastin dug in her heels on the emergency declaration.
 

“I don’t feel like this order says I can bring my children in here or anyone else in here. I’m an elected official, and I don’t feel like it tells me I have an exception and can bring anyone into the building,” she said.
 

However, it wasn’t clear to Pyle, who, according to council, brought former clerk-treasurer Becky Hilligoss and a small child to town hall on two occasions and allowed them access to her office.

 

Earlier this year, the town council terminated a contract drawn up between Hilligoss and Pyle and made it Hilligoss was not to be allowed back to assist Pyle.
 

As a result, a no trespass notice was given to Hilligoss.
 

“If that person comes back a third time in violation, they would be arrested,” Niemier said.