The following commentary is directed toward Kosciusko County Commissioners Robert Conley, Bradley Jackson, and Cary Groninger, and County Attorney Edward Ormsby
In the course of public events, there arise occasions where citizens are compelled to speak out against the actions of elected public servants. Those officials are put in place by the people and serve at the public will. It is necessary that those officials face public accountability when their actions violate their oath of office and the boundaries of law. Silence on such indiscretions is an abrogation of citizens’ civic duties and injury to the rule of law.
With this in mind, I must protest. I speak out as a 40-year member of the legal system in Kosciusko County, an officer of the court, a former prosecuting attorney and public office holder, a former Democratic Party chairperson, a taxpayer, and a citizen. I speak out against certain actions taken by you since December 2020.
On Dec. 22, 2020, you passed an ordinance declaring Kosciusko County a “Constitutional Rights Sanctuary.” The rationale for your resolution and subsequent ordinance were that you assert that our constitution is under attack and apparently you draw some proverbial line in the sand. Our constitutions, both state and federal, have been in place for over two centuries. Both have been the subject of amendments and high court reviews on countless occasions. The proper venue for modifications and review are the state and national legislatures and the Supreme courts of the States and United States.
Constitutional declarations by the county executive, with no lawful authority, are meaningless, political theatre, and a waste of taxpayer resources.
Later, in the winter of 2021, you passed a resolution and subsequent ordinance designating Kosciusko County as a “Second Amendment Sanctuary” County. The Second Amendment to the United States Constitution provides for the right to bear arms in the furtherance of a well-armed militia. The United States Supreme Court, in the late 20th century, expanded the amendment to include the right to personal protection. There is no dispute that our present legal system endorses gun ownership and all that flows with it. Not only are your resolution and ordinance redundant, such declarations are also, again, clearly outside the scope of your statutory mandate.
You have permitted, and in some respects, encouraged an anti-mask mentality within the old courthouse and the Justice Building. A number of your officials and employees have and continue to work and serve the public without proper masking. Some have contracted Covid-19 and you are certainly well aware of the number of persons within the Justice Building who have become ill. One of my own colleagues nearly died. You have ignored the science and public safety in your apparent allegiance to a political movement committed to ignoring science, masks, and vaccinations. In doing so, you have failed your lawful mandate and placed lives at risk, including the families of those who work within the public buildings you control.
You have addressed, during official business, the issues surrounding racial discrimination and the concept of critical race theory being taught in our public schools. While you have the power, within county government, to block and/or discourage addressing system racism and personal prejudices, asserting what should be taught in our public schools strays far from your statutory mandate and authority.
Your role is well defined by law.
You are the county executive and your legislative power exists to enact ordinances in order to carry out your lawful powers. The legislative authority does not exist in order to wade into social and political issues properly left to the courts and the ballot box. Your actions, beyond the lawful scope, have been and are designed to advance partisan political positions. Your behavior has put lives at risk. Furthermore, you have offended and alarmed the business community with your extremist actions.
By your behavior, you have done the very thing that your own political movement decries: you are acting as intrusive and overreaching government officials. In doing so, you have violated the laws and constitutions you have sworn to uphold.
David C. Kolbe