New details have emerged in the case involving Elkhart County Commissioner Terry Rodino, focus of an inquiry stemming from allegations of inappropriate sexual activity.
Court filings by business foes in an unrelated legal dispute over management of Rodino’s wood pallet companies say he “sexually assaulted” a woman with whom he had a business relationship, somewhere on company property. The woman, not named in the paperwork, had previously faced sexual harassment at Rodino’s hands and rebuffed his advances in the Oct. 29 incident, according to the court papers and accompanying documents, made public Wednesday.
News that Rodino was focus of allegations of some sort of sexual misdeed stemming from an Oct. 29 incident in Elkhart emerged earlier this month. The Allen County Prosecutor’s Office is looking into the matter, initially investigated by Elkhart police, but officials have largely remained tight-lipped.
The filings in LaGrange Circuit Court, however, by two minority shareholders in Rodino’s businesses, Tim Dugle and Amit Shah, delve into the allegations head-on. They cite an Elkhart General Hospital “suspected sexual assault form” and a form filed with the Indiana Civil Rights Commission accusing Rodino of discrimination, among other documents.
Dugle and Shah each have standing lawsuits against Rodino, the majority stakeholder, stemming from what they charge is faulty management of Recycled New Pallets and the other so-called Duro Entities that they collectively own. They maintain they’ve long been excluded from company management and use the allegations of sexual misdeeds as ammo in new calls to get the varied companies, located in Elkhart County, put into receivership.
“In light of recent criminal allegations that Rodino sexually assaulted (the woman) and because of his ongoing, fraudulent financial mismanagement of the Duro Entities, a receiver is urgently necessary to protect the interest of the Duro Entities and all their shareholders,” says Shah’s motion.
Rodino, in earlier filings in the lawsuits, has rejected charges of mismanagement, and he issued a denial earlier this month in connection with allegations of sexual wrongdoing. His lawyers haven’t yet formally responded to Shah’s filing this month, a motion for receivership, nor a similar motion filed by Dugle. One of Rodino’s lawyers, E. Spencer Walton, had no comment Thursday, an assistant said.
A representative from the Allen County Prosecutor’s Office, contacted Thursday, said only that the follow-up inquiry into the Elkhart police investigation continues. Elkhart County Prosecutor Curtis Hill had sought a special prosecutor to look into the matter and Allen County Prosecutor Karen Richards got the job.
The Oct. 29 incident, according to the EGH report in Dugle’s and Shah’s filings, occurred at an “offsite location” of the Duro businesses, headquartered off C.R. 45 in the Dunlap area. Rodino and the woman drove separately to the location, ostensibly to see “one of his projects,” when things unfolded.
The hospital report doesn’t identify Rodino by name, but Shah’s and Dugle’s motions link the activity back to him. And the description of events in the EGH document is similar in a charge the woman makes in a Nov. 10 Indiana Civil Rights Commission report — also included in the motions — that does name Rodino.
Rodino “proceeded to grab patient’s neck to force faces together and patient turned away. (Rodino) held more firmly. (Rodino) put hand up patient’s shirt... Patient pushed hand away,” says the EGH report. The “patient” goes on to say that the man puts his hand down her pants and digitally penetrates her.
Shah’s filing said two search warrants were subsequently issued, one for a Duro Entities facility, and that both the woman and Rodino were interviewed by police.
John Henning, the Indianapolis attorney representing Shah and Dugle, declined comment.
Dugle’s and Shah’s concerns, as described in their recent court filings, stem largely from the impact they fear Rodino’s situation could have on the wood pallet business they jointly own.
If Rodino ultimately faces criminal charges the company “will be exposed to significant negative publicity,” says Shah’s filing.
They worry Duro Entities resources would be tapped to cover any legal expenses Rodino incurs. They also worry the company could be targeted in a civil lawsuit by the alleged victim, purported victim of harassment for years, and note previous allegations of inappropriate sexual conduct against Rodino that initially appeared in 2008 in Dugle’s lawsuit.
“If a pattern of misconduct by Rodino is substantiated, the Duro Entities will face legal liabilities associated with his ongoing employment,” according to Shah’s filing.
The motions for receivership are to be addressed in a planned LaGrange Circuit Court hearing on Dec. 11. Dugle’s and Shah’s lawsuits were originally filed in Elkhart Superior Court 3 in Goshen, but the cases have since been transferred to the neighboring county.