By Lasca Randels
WARSAW — A rather quiet Kosciusko County Commissioners’ meeting involving standard items such as grant requests and adoption of the county’s 2022 calendar, became a bit more spirited toward the end when residents raised issues about an upcoming public meeting that will likely touch on Critical Race Theory
After the last item on Tuesday’s agenda was addressed, Commissioner President Bob Conley asked if there was any further business to come before the commissioners.
Brian Smith, of Leesburg, spoke up and asked if the county is paying the rental fee to use the Winona Heritage Room for Thursday night’s public meeting where Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita is expected to discuss his office’s “Parents’ Bill of Rights” and concerns over CRT.
The commissioners have said they are looking into establishing an ordinance addressing CRT.
The event featuring Rokita was originally planned as a special commissioners’ meeting at 5 p.m. Thursday in the Old Courtroom; however, due to the amount of interest expressed and the limited amount of seating in the Old Courtroom, a decision was made to move the event to the Winona Heritage Room. The start time remains 5 p.m.
Responding to Smith’s question, Conley replied, “I think that was taken care of by the attorney general’s office. They’re putting everything together. We were asked to be there and represent the community and that’s the extent that we are involved.”
Area resident Don Zolman then approached the podium and said he’s working to create an online petition urging county officials to focus on county business. He’s calling the petition a Taxpayer Bill of Rights, which appears to play off Rokita’s newly released “Parents Bill Of Rights” that seeks to help parents know how they can investigate concerns of public school curriculum.
The petition says Kosciusko County deserves to have county officials work in the best interest of the health of Kosciusko County residents.
“When they don’t follow government mandates and scientifically proven data, they make taxpayers and themselves liable for damages due to illness, injury and death caused by exposing the public to disease,” Zolman said, adding that when there is scientific information, the county should be focusing on that and putting those mandates in place.
“I came in the county offices many times during the pandemic and saw officials not wearing masks and my understanding is even during department head meetings with health officials that people were not wearing masks,” Zolman said. “I know that currently, Mr. Rokita is suing our governor to try to hamstring him further, but the next time we have a situation like this it may not be as gentle as COVID was with us. If we have something like Ebola, with a 90 percent mortality, it’s going to be a lot more serious situation so we need to make sure that we’re following good health practices.”
Zolman said, “Taxpayers of Kosciusko County deserve county officials that know their boundaries.”
He then referenced “county commissioners passing ordinances or resolutions to which they fight to have constitutional authority.”
The commissioners in recent months have passed resolutions declaring the county a Second Amendment Sanctuary County and another that underscored its opposition to mandating COVID-19 vaccines.
Zolman said county officials have no right to determine what is or is not constitutional.
“Those answers lie with Congress and the Supreme Court of the United States of America, not the county commissioners of Kosciusko County,” Zolman said, adding that to present otherwise is a violation of county commissioners’ duties.
This led to a round of applause by many in attendance.
Zolman ended his comments by saying he would be happy to meet with each commissioner individually to discuss the petition.
In another matter, County Clerk Ann Torpy announced there will be a public meeting at 6 p.m. on July 22 to discuss the initial county vote center plan. The meeting will be held in the Old Courtroom and will allow for public comments.
Torpy also received permission to purchase encoders for E poll books.
“The encoders attach to the iPad and program the vote cards specifically for each voter as they sign in so that way when the poll worker goes to the voting machine they place that vote card in the machine and it will pull up that specific voter’s ballot so they can go ahead and cast their votes. It’ll make it a lot easier, especially in larger vote centers that are a little busier,” Torpy explained.
County Auditor Michelle Puckett presented the 2022 county holiday calendar, which was adopted by commissioners. The calendar includes holidays as well as dates of commissioners’ meetings. The commissioners will continue to meet on Tuesdays during 2022 except for Nov. 8, which is election day. That week’s meeting will be held on Monday.
Local attorney Travis McConnell later inquired if Juneteenth is included in the 2022 county holidays. Puckett said the new federal holiday is not among the approved holidays. She explained that the holidays approved by commissioners are not a complete, all-inclusive list of federal holidays but rather some of the main ones the county has observed historically. She added that each county employee has two floating holidays that may be used at their discretion.
Commissioners also approved an electronic meetings policy resolution. County Attorney Ed Ormsby said Indiana law provides that 50 percent of meetings can be missed in person and can instead be done virtually; however, commissioners previously expressed concern over that figure and instead agreed to a 35 percent limit.
In other matters:
- Warsaw resident Joe Harris was honored as Veteran of the Month.
- Emergency Management Agency Director Ed Rock was given approval to apply for a $15,000 hazardous materials training grant.
- County Administrator Marsha McSherry was given the OK to proceed with applying for an Indiana Healthy Workplaces grant.
- McSherry also received approval to seek out a request for proposal regarding configuration of the county justice building parking lot.
- The next regular commissioners’ meeting will be 9 a.m. July 20.