Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

January 18, 2014

Miami Co. commissioners want police investigation

Officials allege falsehoods in recorder's protective order request.

By Carson Gerber Kokomo Tribune
Kokomo Tribune

---- — PERU — The Miami County commissioners want police to investigate statements found in a request for a protective order filed against one commissioner by the county recorder and her first deputy.

Commissioner Josh Francis made a motion Monday to have the Indiana State Police investigate what he said were false accusations made in the petitions by Recorder Brenda Weaver and her First Deputy Rhonda Trexler.

Weaver and Trexler sought the protective order after Commissioner Jerry Hamman entered their courthouse office last month and tore down a letter expressing grievances and complaints against other county officials.

Weaver said in her petition Hamman entered her office “enraged.” She said Hamman told her she could not post anything on the wall without his permission.

“His aggression became violent towards me and her,” Weaver said in the request. “He kept throwing his fist downward as he kept telling me he is in charge. I felt as though he would have hit me with that fist if the counter wasn’t between us.”

She went on to say “I fear violence from him. I am afraid of more retaliation and threats.”

In their petitions, both Weaver and Trexler crossed out the word “stalking” and wrote in “intimidation-bullying” as the reason they requested the protective orders.

Circuit Court Judge Timothy Spahr rejected the requests, stating intimidation is not a legal basis to issue a protective order.

Hamman said last month he removed the letter from the door because it personally attacked the county auditor, claiming she engaged in “gossip sessions” and criticizing her job performance.

The letter was written by Trexler and originally sent to the council president, but it was later posted on the door of the recorder’s office.

“She’s entitled to file a grievance or complain,” Weaver said Monday. “She voiced her opinion. You have a right to do that.”

Commissioner Larry West said the investigation into last month’s confrontation will help determine what really happened and whether any false statements were made in the petitions.

People who file a protection order request must take a sworn oath that all the information in the request is true and correct. Lying under oath is perjury.

“I think we need to get to the bottom of this,” West said. “It reflects bad on Commissioner Hamman, and it reflects bad on all of us. We just want to know if there’s any truth to those accusations and move on. It’s disruptive to the courthouse and the morale here.”

Weaver said Monday she welcomed the investigation and stood by all her statements.

“The truth is the truth and I have no problem with it,” she said. “ … (The commissioners) are targeting us. That needs to stop. They need to move on. They don’t like us because we question things. If we feel like someone has been treated unfairly, we say something.”

In a written statement, Francis said the petitions made “very harsh accusations.”

“This type of action should not be happening within our county government,” he wrote. “This investigation will hopefully allow us to know exactly what happened and how to address our problems within the workings of our local government.”

This isn’t the first time commissioners have butted heads with the recorder’s office.

In October, commissioners banned Trexler from sending emails on courthouse computers after they say she personally attacked other courthouse workers using her official county email address.

Francis said Trexler and Weaver were told twice to stop sending offensive emails, but they continued to do so.

“The emails they send out do nothing but bad-mouth people,” he said in an earlier interview. “That’s not what the email system is for. It’s for business.”

Weaver said commissioners have unfairly targeted her office and don’t punish other county employees who criticize officials in emails.

“They’ve tried to turn this around on us to make us look like the bad guy,” she said. “They made much ado about nothing.”

Carson Gerber can be reached at 765-854-6739, carson.gerber@kokomotribune.com or on Twitter @carsongerber1.