Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

January 23, 2013

Court rules against Clements claims

Former state representative locked in lengthy legal battle

By Scott Smith
Tribune staff writer

— The legal battle between former state Rep. Jacque Clements and the Clinton County commissioners appears to be winding to a close, five years after it began.

The commissioners fired Clements from her job as Clinton County’s deputy auditor in 2009 and filed suit against her, blaming her for ongoing problems with the county’s tax assessment software.

A Clinton County trial judge eventually ruled against the commissioners’ claims, saying Clements had professional immunity for decisions she made while she served as Clinton County auditor.

Clements counter-sued for malicious prosecution, seeking legal fees and damages, but so far the courts have ruled against her on largely the same grounds.

Tuesday, the Indiana Court of Appeals dealt a further blow to Clements’ hopes, upholding the trial court’s decision to throw out her counterclaims against the commissioners.

That leaves Clements, who served one year as an appointed state representative for Clinton County and portions of Howard County, with the Indiana Supreme Court as her last court of appeal.

The Supreme Court already has declined to hear the commissioners’ claims against Clements, which arose after Clinton County officials said they spent nearly $150,000 on software that didn’t perform to expectations.

The commissioners alleged Clements was essentially responsible for the county’s decision to hire Nikish Software Corp., a New York firm that was trying to sell the county a program to generate property tax bills.

In the lawsuit, the commissioners allege Clements failed in her duty as auditor by channeling information about Nikish in a partial manner and encouraging the county to purchase a software product that never worked as promised.

County officials claimed Clements misrepresented what it would cost to retain the county’s former software vendor, Manatron, bypassed the county attorney and negotiated with Nikish herself, failed to warn county officials about an existing copyright infringement lawsuit between Manatron and Nikish prior to the contract signing, and failed to mention two other companies that wanted to bid on the software contract.

Clements denied each of the allegations during a 2009 press conference held at the Clinton County Courthouse.

She said Nikish was offering “next generation” software at a reduced price, in return for the county agreeing to act as a “beta test site,” and for county employees helping Nikish find the bugs in its new product.

Ultimately, Clements said in 2009, the software would have worked if the county had stuck with the plan.

“Unfortunately, not everybody cooperated,” she said. “Instead of assisting the county and assisting Nikish in working out the bugs, certain resistance to the beta site efforts surfaced, and it interfered with a smooth transition to the new software package.”

Clements also denied allegations she’d worked for either Manatron or Nikish while also serving as auditor.

Clements was defeated in the 2010 Republican District 38 primary by current State Rep. Heath VanNatter, R-Kokomo.

Scott Smith can be reached at 765-454-8569 or at scott.smith@kokomotribune.com