By Ken de la Bastide
---- — TIPTON — The member of the Tipton County Plan Commission whose political affiliation has recently been called into question will retain his seat on the commission.
The Tipton County Board of Commissioners declined a request to remove Harry Diamond from the county’s plan commission after the chairwoman of the county’s Democratic Party said he was a Republican.
No more than three citizen members of the nine-member Plan Commission can be from the same political party, according to state law.
Linda Smeltzer, chairwoman of the Tipton County Democrat Party, asked the commissioners to resolve the issue of Diamond’s appointment to the plan commission because he voted in the 2012 Republican Party primary.
Diamond’s voting record, which is public information, shows he voted in three of the past five Democratic Party primary elections. Commissioner Phil Heron said that, along with Diamond’s statement that he considers himself an independent, was enough to solidify Diamond’s independent political affiliation.
“This fact, not claiming to be a party affiliate, makes it legally possible for him to hold membership as a planning commission member,” Heron said.
Though Smeltzer sought to have the commissioners appoint two Democrats, one to replace Mark Noble, who resigned, and the other to Diamond’s seat, she said Diamond has done the best he can as a member of the plan commission.
Diamond’s term ends on Dec. 31, 2014.
Tipton County’s continued struggles with wind farms prompted Heron to say he would be hesitant to name anyone new to the plan commission at this time.
Smeltzer said she was prepared to name Marsha Giles, the party’s 2012 candidate for auditor, and Mark Lynn as candidates for appointments. Lynn is a member of the Tipton County Citizens for Responsible Development, a group formed to oppose wind farm development in the county.
“We’re being shut out as the Democrat Party,” Smeltzer said. “I feel the people I have who are willing would be able to serve.”
She said Lynn has never voted in a primary election and it’s in her discretion as party chairman to declare him a Democrat.
“In this county they know who is a Democrat,” she said.
Smeltzer said both Giles and Lynn would look beyond the wind farm issue to do what is best for Tipton County.
Commissioner Joe VanBibber said he wished he had done more due diligence prior to Diamond’s appointment in April, but added Diamond was a Democrat on the library board.
He said anyone interested in serving on the plan commission should contact the chairman and the plan commission will make a recommendation to the commissioners.
VanBibber said the only way to remove a member is through a resignation or the finding of “cause,” but there is no definition of what “cause” implies.
John Brooke, Tipton County attorney, said state law does not say the commission must be made up of Democrats or Republicans.
“They could be three members of the Libertarian Party,” he said.
Brooke said there is no case law in Indiana on how the statute concerning political affiliation applies so its interpretation is up to the commissioners.