Embattled council president, attorney say lawsuit is part of "smear campaign"

City-County Council President Stephen Clay

INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) - Embattled Council president Stephen Clay promised to "fight to the gate" to remain president and newly filed court documents show he's doing just that.

In those documents, Clay and his attorney Linda Pence call the lawsuit against him "frivolous," saying the "public has been directly harmed by the actions taken by the plaintiffs and others over the last few weeks."

They say rather than working with the newly elected president, the plaintiffs have engaged "in a smear campaign to demean and belittle President Clay without allowing him to defend himself."

This all stems from Clay's firing of council clerk Trina DeBow and council attorney Fred Biesecker January 31st, just three weeks after he was elected president. At the time, Clay said bringing in new people was part of the "transition process" with any new administration. But fellow Democrats called it wrong, saying Clay had no authority to fire DeBow and Biesecker.

DeBow and eight councilors responded by filling suit. Friday morning, a Marion Superior Court judge will decide whether to issue a temporary restraining order against Clay. It asks that council clerk Trina DeBow and council attorney Fred Biesecker be reinstated before Monday's council meeting. They maintain the council is unable to conduct any new business without an attorney/parlimentarian. The agenda for Monday's meeting is also expected to include a vote to remove Clay as president. It was a motion introduced and seconded by two Democrats who initially backed Clay, but withdrew support after learning he had promised Republicans leadership roles if they voted for him.

Clay's 19-page argument for denying the temporary restraining order claims the eight councilors don't and can't represent the entire 25-member council. It also alleges that Biesecker "did not provide independent counsel to the Council," rather he "advocated for the Democratic Caucus and orchestrated a plan to undermine the actions by the council and its president in his efforts to seek new employment."

One of the exhibits includes an e-mail from Biesecker to a friend sent two days after Clay was elected president, indicating he knew his days were numbered. It makes derogatory remarks about Clay and the four Democrats who voted for him.

Friday's hearing begins at 10 a.m. Watch for updates on WTHR.com and Twitter.

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