Hancock County News

New Pal Town Council, clerk-treasurer still dealing with issues

The divide between the New Palestine Town Council and its clerk-treasurer grew even larger recently as town officials discovered two huge issues pertaining to the clerk-treasurer.

 

First, she has locked several town officials out of the town’s digital financial database as work begins on the 2021 budget. At a council meeting earlier this month, clerk-treasurer Tonii Pyle offered no explanation as to why access was cut off to officials, including the town’s police chief and town manager.


The move did not sit well with council member Angie Fahrnow, who told Giant FM, she is “tired of the games.”


“I am very disappointed, but I am not surprised. We have an employee that the clerk-treasurer has allowed continued access. I’m tired of the games. It makes our job much more difficult, and it takes away from the other town needs,” Fahrnow said.  


Fahrnow said by Pyle locking department heads out of the programs, it creates more work.
“It’s an extra inconvenient step to have her print for the department heads, but we continue to find ways to keep moving past the obstacles. She has cost the town thousands of dollars getting help to do her job. That isn’t even including her requested attorney fees,” Fahrnow told Giant FM.


To further complicate matters, town officials also discovered that Pyle, former clerk-treasurer Becky Hilligoss, former town manager Dave Book and current council member Jan Jarson all played a role in modifications to the town’s employee handbook pertaining to return to work provisions for employees returning from medical leave.


The changes include alternate job descriptions for light duties with medical exceptions. It is believed Hilligoss put the changes in the handbook.


Fahrnow again said she was disappointed, but not surprised.


“There were a lot of things that were being done behind Clint Bledsoe and Brandee Bastin’s back,” Fahrnow said, adding there is documentation stating that Jarson was aware of the changes.


Earlier this year, the council voted in favor of censuring Pyle.


In making the motion, councilman Bill Niemier laid 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.


At that meeting, council voted 3-2 in favor of censuring Pyle. Fahrnow and Brandee Bastin joined Niemier in favor of voting yes, while council members Bledsoe and Jarson voted no.


Despite the rift, Fahrnow said she hopes council can work with Pyle moving forward, a request she has made numerous times.


“I would love to try and work with her and will always keep that door open. She reached out and asked to meet and mend bridges and then she took access away from our department heads,” Fahrnow said.