Outgoing Anderson mayor refuses to give up title
Chris Proffitt/Eyewitness News
Jan. 3 update: A Madison County judge appealed to the Indiana Supreme Court on Wednesday to immediately appoint a special judge to resolve a dispute over the residency of Anderson's new mayor.
Madison Superior Court Judge Dennis Carroll's request for a special judge states that all of the county's judges believe they have a conflict of interest in the case.
Madison County - Anderson's former mayor said Tuesday that he's not surrendering his office pending the outcome over a lawsuit involving the city's new mayor. One-term Republican Mayor Kevin Smith did turn over the keys to City Hall, but isn't prepared to turn over his title as mayor.
"They keys may be surrendered, but that's not the issue here," said Smith.
The issue, filed in a lawsuit last week by five Anderson residents, is whether Democrat Kris Ockomon fulfilled a one-year legal residency requirement to run for mayor. Ockomon beat Smith in the November election.
According to Ockomon, "I lived by the letter of the law and I have met and complied with every part of that statute."
Ockomon, on his first day as mayor, defended his claim that he lived in an Anderson home and not at his family's home outside city limits. Ockomon calls a suit filed last week, asking that Smith remain in office pending a court ruling over the residency issue, an act of desperation.
"I believe the timing was poor and I think it reads very loudly of sour grapes," said Ockomon.
But on Wednesday, a Madison County judge in the case called upon the State Supreme Court to appoint a special judge to resolve the residency issue. The lawsuit was filed by some former employees in the Smith administration.
John Suko, a former member of the city's plan commission is one of the plaintiffs. "Speaking for the other plaintiffs, I can say that our actions were motivated by our concern about Mr. Ockomon's residency and our strong belief in our need for courts to determine issued raise by our lawsuit," said Suko.
The suit brings into doubt whether the will of the voters could be trumped by a legal requirement.
According to plaintiff's attorney Mark Regnier, "It's our position that if it's in Smith's favor, then he would remain in office for at least a short period of time and perhaps an extra term."
Mayor Kris Ockomon now occupying the mayor's office, says he's here at the will of the people, but it will likely be a judge who decides if he keeps the office.