Charges fly in District 48 Indiana House race as primary looms
Posted: 05/07/2012 at 1:15 am
By: Tim Vandenack
Neese has countered with his own charges and strong words, questioning Brewton’s grasp of the facts.
As director of the Solid Waste Managment District of Elkhart County, Neese ends up getting pay from two public sources — the district, created by state mandate, and, as representative to the District 48 Indiana House seat, from the state. That’s drawn fire from Brewton, in a mailer to voters last month and in an ad in The Elkhart Truth on Sunday.
“I’m suggesting you shouldn’t get pay from both,” said Brewton, who, along with a third GOP hopeful, Randy Weinley, is challenging Neese in Tuesday’s primary.
He pointed to other states that ban or restrict the ability of state lawmakers to hold other public jobs, and also maintains that a state lawmaker coming from the private sector would face more of a financial hit than someone coming from a public-sector job. If he were elected, for instance, Brewton said income coming into the insurance agency he runs would take a hit because he’d be in Indianapolis three to four months out of the year for the legislative session. A public-sector employee, by contrast, wouldn’t necessarily face that sort of hit, said Brewton, contacted Sunday.
In fact, Neese, who’s headed the Solid Waste Management District, or SWMD, for 19 years, said the SWMD board reduced his annual salary by 18 percent after he was elected to the Indiana House in 2002. That was meant to account for the three to four months of the year when the Indiana legislature is in session and when lawmaking duties dominate Neese’s time.
He also forfeited the chance at holiday and appraisal bonuses each year, which leaves his annual SWMD salary in the $40,000 range, said Neese, also contacted Sunday.
Brewton — unaware of Neese’s apparent 18-percent pay cut — indicated Sunday that he isn’t necessarily against public-sector workers holding state legislative posts. At the very least, though, they shouldn’t get their full pay since part of their attention would be shifting to lawmaking duties.
“I’m saying there should be an adjustment, at the least a prorated adjustment,” Brewton said.
Told of Neese’s claim that his salary was cut by 18 percent, Brewton said: “If he can prove that, I’m mistaken.”
Neese, in a press release Saturday, derided Brewton, saying his challenger “is confused when it comes to telling the truth.”
“If you get a campaign mailer from Jerry Brewton, it’s probable that the only accurate information is your address,” Neese said.
Had Brewton done “appropriate opposition research,” he would have known Neese took an 18-percent pay hit on election to the state legislature, the press release said. On Sunday, Neese dug up his employment contract from 2003, saying that it reads that his salary that year would be cut 15 percent from the 2002 level and that he’d forego an anticipated 4-percent pay raise. He’s received a limited number of cost-of-living raises since then, he thinks, though none in the past six years or so.
Neese further called Brewton to task for calling him an “Elkhart County employee.” Brewton’s ad in Sunday’s Truth, aside from suggesting Neese has faced no pay cut for his SWMD duties since election to the Indiana House, alludes to Neese as an Elkhart County employee.
The SWMD, overseen by a board of seven made up of elected officials from around the county, is funded with tipping fees from the Elkhart County-owned landfill and another private landfill in the county. And though a state-mandated entity, the Elkhart County Council reviews its budget each year.
Neese, though, emphasizes that no county tax revenue goes into SWMD coffers.
“He’s an employee of the solid waste district,” Elkhart County Administrator Tom Byers said last week. “He’s not on the county payroll.”
District 48 covers northwest Elkhart County, including northern Elkhart and Bristol. With no Democratic contenders, the winner of Tuesday’s primary faces likely election to the post in November.