Three Porter Town Council members want to unseat Dave Babcock as council
president saying his Dec. 28 election violated town code because it didn’t
occur at the “first annual meeting” of 2011.
Babcock said concern has been expressed to him that his leadership “will
mess up everything because of appointments I would make and I’d prevent the
town from moving forward.” He denied both contentions.
Thursday, members Michele Bollinger, Trevin Fowler and Todd Martin signed a
letter requesting a special council meeting for Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. at the
town hall. The council’s first regular meeting of 2011 will follow at 7 p.m.
Fowler said a special meeting was called because it’s “the best way to
address this separately in hopes it doesn’t come to be a big problem at the
7 o’clock hour.”
“The purpose of the special meeting is to discuss the position of the Town
Council President and, if requested by any Council Member in attendance, to
take a vote on the selection of a member for such position,” according to
the trio’s letter.
Town code provides for either the president or at least two of the five
council members to call in writing for a special meeting, such request
requiring certification by the clerk-treasurer and delivery by the chief of
December 28 vote
At the last meeting of 2010 --- with Fowler absent --- member Jon Granat
unexpectedly nominated Babcock for president; Babcock seconded. They voted
yes and Bollinger and Martin voted no. Clerk-treasurer Carol Pomeroy broke
the tie in Babcock’s favor.
Babcock said he didn’t know Granat would make such a motion until Babcock
arrived at the town hall that night. “It was a surprise to me and Carol. It
wasn’t a set-up.”
Fowler released a statement in person Thursday saying it appears Granat and
Babcock took advantage of his absence; Fowler had announced Dec. 14 he would
not be present Dec. 28 but “had an agenda item been presented to reorganize,
I would arranged my schedule to return prior to our meeting.”
Fowler said, in addition to violating town code regarding the timing of
reorganization, it was a further code violation to elect Babcock because
reorganization was not on the published Dec. 28 agenda and it required
Giving prior notice, said Fowler, applies to council members wishing to
place something on the agenda as well as to members of the public. A
non-agenda item may be taken up by the council if it first votes to waive
the agenda omission.
“The nomination and vote was submitted by Jon unannounced, not listed on the
agenda and made during ‘closing comments,’ thus a violation of our town
code,” said Fowler. “A unanimous vote to waive this requirement was not met.
A re-vote is both fair and legal.”
Associate town attorney Ethan Lowe was present Dec. 28 during the vote but
neither he nor Bollinger or Martin objected on procedural grounds although
Bollinger did say reorganization was planned for Jan. 11.
Fowler said his District 4 represents “a growing and influential part of the
Town of Porter,” and “my vote, view and voice were not heard in our Dec. 28
meeting. I feel strongly I was deprived of my right and privilege to
represent my district.”
Fowler was chosen by a Republican caucus in September to replace outgoing
elected councilman Mike Genger, who moved to South Korea. All Porter elected
officials are Republicans.
Big plans in
Babcock’s disputed election comes on the heels of an attempt by some council
members to have all Porter Park Department employees taken from Park Board
jurisdiction and placed under direct supervision of the Town Council to
The Park Board voted 4-0 last month to deny that request despite a reminder
that the Town Council could disband the board. A council response is
Porter’s Redevelopment Commission also is the lead agency planning a $30
million Gateway to the Indiana Dunes including an iconic entrance along
Indiana 49 to the state and federal parks; motels, restaurants and related
tourism development are planned with spillover benefits into area downtowns.
The commission will meet Tuesday at 5 p.m. to finalize Gateway
recommendations so it can apply for additional regional grant funds.
The Porter Redevelopment Commission spent $350,000 to buy 30 acres west of
Porter’s downtown. Municipal uses as well as a mix of residential,
neighborhood commercial and senior living units are eyed with development
partners being sought.
In light of these ongoing projects, Fowler said a concern was what
presidential board appointments Babcock would make Tuesday with key seats on
the Redevelopment Commission, Board of Zoning Appeals and Park Board to be
“We made significant progress as it relates to the Gateway, a good project,
and the Brickyard, and after Dec. 28 I have concerns what Dave might do in
his leadership,” said Fowler, who formerly served on the Redevelopment
According to Babcock, “Trevin asked me to resign. I said no.” Fowler said he
posed the question hypothetically: if Babcock were to resign. “Dave feels
strongly ‘what is done, is done’ and stands strongly against a re-vote. We
have agreed to disagree.”
Babcock said he thought the objection was that Pomeroy broke the tie, which
is provided for in state law and town code, but Fowler said nobody is
challenging her decision to do so. At the 2010 reorganizational meeting Jan.
12 last year she broke a tie vote with Genger absent to place Joe Wagner on
the Porter Police Commission.
implications for 2011
Babcock and Fowler were asked what the presidency dispute portends for
council unity in the coming year. Granat served as president in 2008 and
Bollinger in 2009/10.
Said Fowler, “Nobody likes division. I tried figuring out how to work this
through, short of Dave being president.” Asked whether denying Babcock the
presidency would fracture the council, Fowler declined comment.
As for Babcock, “We’ve got all these problems. It’s not enjoyable at all.
It’s politics at its worst. It’s a shame we can’t take turns being
president, do our job, and instead have to deal with this petty stuff.”
Town Council elections take place this year. Fowler said he will be a
candidate after becoming more resolved the last 10 days to run. His district
represents Dune Meadows, Wagner Hills and Porter Beach.