Bacon: Increasing transparency, accountability in township government

Posted by: Victoria Klimczak  | Friday, January 18, 2019 2:12 pm

Many townships in Indiana operate efficiently and transparently, but there are changes that can be made to help improve oversight and accountability across the board. Over the summer, I met with township trustees and advisory board members to discuss what steps can be taken to improve the structure and effectiveness of township government.

Based on those discussions, this session I authored legislation to help eliminate issues of nepotism within township government. In the past, there have been cases where trustees would hire and overpay their family members with public funds. Currently, state employees are prohibited from hiring family members, except under certain conditions.

To further address the issue, under my legislation, immediate relatives could not serve together as members of the advisory board, or as a trustee and board member. Township government has responsibilities like assessing property taxation, providing fire protection and emergency medical services, and maintaining cemeteries. Open conversation and debate about these topics can be hard when there is family involved. This change would help ensure there are checks and balances within township government to help eliminate conflicts of interest and instances of nepotism.

Although this proposal makes changes to who can serve in township government together, it would not limit individuals from running for office. Those who qualify and are interested in running for a position in township government will still be able to, even if a relative is running as well. Measures would be put in place to address what would happen if immediate family members are candidates for township positions.

Another proposal for a new law would require townships to submit capital improvement plans if their funds exceed 150 percent of the township’s budget estimate. Putting this check in place would ensure that, if a township has significantly more savings than it needs to operate, there is a proper capital improvement plan explaining the intended use of those funds.

While township government can be an asset to our local communities, it is important they operate effectively and serve their citizens. As always, please let me know your thoughts and feedback on this legislation and more by contacting me at h75@iga.in.gov or 317-232-9643.

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State Rep. Ron Bacon (R-Chandler) represents House District 75, 
which includes portions of Warrick, Pike and Spencer counties.

Click here to download a high-resolution photo.