Bloomington files for dismissal of case over disputed plan commission seat

In the pending lawsuit over the rightful appointee to a city plan commission seat, the city of Bloomington filed a motion on Monday to have Andrew Guenther’s claim dismissed, based on the idea that Guenther lacks standing to file the lawsuit.

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Chris Cockerham (left) and  Andrew Guenther (right) have claims to the same seat on Bloomington’s plan commission. Cockerham, the mayoral appointment, is now serving on the commission. Guenther has filed suit challenging that appointment.

Bloomington’s claim that neither Guenther nor Republican county chair William Ellis have standing is based on Bloomington’s contention that even if the facts alleged by Guenther and Ellis are assumed to be true, they “are incapable of supporting relief.”

In the lawsuit, would-be plan commissioner Guenther and GOP chair William Ellis ask the court to grant a writ of quo warranto, which is a challenge to someone’s right to hold office.

In this case, Guenther and Ellis are challenging the right of Chris Cockerham to hold the plan commission seat, based on an appointment by Bloomington mayor John Hamilton, made in early May.

Guenther and Ellis say that Guenther is the rightful appointee to the seat, under Indiana state law, which says: “The county chair of the political party of the member whose term has expired shall make the appointment.”

Bloomington’s argument for dismissal hinges on the fact that that “the member whose has term expired,” namely Nick Kappas, was not a Republican.

Continue reading “Bloomington files for dismissal of case over disputed plan commission seat”

Partisan case for partisan judges: Who rules on lawsuit over Bloomington plan commission seat?

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Art based on one of the recusals made by assigned judges in Guenther & Ellis v. Cockerham & Hamilton.

On June 9, a lawsuit was filed in Monroe County’s circuit court disputing the mayoral appointment of the plan commission seat where Chris Cockerham had sat the day before.

In the lawsuit, Andrew Guenther asserts that he has been duly appointed by GOP Monroe County chair William Ellis, and should serve on the commission instead of Cockerham.

It’s not yet decided which judge will hear the case. Owen County circuit judge Kelsey Hanlon, who’s facilitator of District 20, has been asked to appoint a special judge. One of 26 judicial districts the state, District 20 is made up of Monroe, Owen, Lawrence, and Greene counties.

What makes picking a judge a challenge for this case? Partisanship. Continue reading “Partisan case for partisan judges: Who rules on lawsuit over Bloomington plan commission seat?”

Lawsuit now filed in dispute over Bloomington plan commission seat

On Tuesday, a lawsuit was filed over the disputed seat on Bloomington’s plan commission.

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Chris Cockerham (left) took his seat on the plan commission on Monday night, as Andrew Guenther (right) asserted a claim to the seat in the Zoom video conference chat window. A lawsuit was filed on Tuesday over the seat.

In the lawsuit, would-be plan commissioner Andrew Guenther and Monroe County GOP chair William Ellis ask the court to grant a writ of quo warranto, which is a challenge to someone’s right to hold office.

In this case, Guenther and Ellis are challenging the right of Chris Cockerham to hold the plan commission seat, based on an appointment by Bloomington mayor John Hamilton, made in early May.

Cockerham has already served as planning commissioner for one meeting, on Monday this week.

In mid-April, Ellis declared his right to make the appointment as chair of the Republican Party. The announcement from Ellis came after Hamilton for several weeks did not fill the vacancy that was left when Hamilton decided not to re-appoint Nick Kappas. Kappas’s term expired at the end of 2019.

How does Ellis argue that he has the authority as Monroe County GOP chair to make a plan commission appointment that’s normally made by the mayor? Continue reading “Lawsuit now filed in dispute over Bloomington plan commission seat”

Two people, one seat for Bloomington’s plan commission vacancy: Will a judge decide who sits there?

The city of Bloomington confirmed to The Square Beacon on Thursday afternoon that the mayor, John Hamilton, has appointed commercial real estate broker Chris Cockerham to fill the vacancy on the city’s plan commission. The plan commission is a nine-member group, five of which seats are appointed by the mayor.

The vacancy was created in January, when Nick Kappas was not reappointed.

In a statement sent to The Square Beacon city attorney Mike Rouker said, “[T]he Mayor was pleased to select Chris for service on the commission. We are very excited about this appointment, and we are looking forward to Chris and the rest of the plan commission getting back to the important work they do for our community.”

Reached by The Square Beacon on Thursday, Cockerham said, “I’m ready to serve and happy to serve. Hopefully, it works out.”

Why wouldn’t it work out?

In mid-April, Monroe County Republican chair William Ellis issued a press release saying that he, as GOP chair—not the mayor—had the authority to fill the plan commission vacancy. Ellis’s pick for the spot was Andrew Guenther. Continue reading “Two people, one seat for Bloomington’s plan commission vacancy: Will a judge decide who sits there?”

UDO Update: Bloomington’s plan commission OKs city council amendments, elects officers, moves Trinitas PUD forward

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Jillian Kinzie adds the vice president tab to her nameplate, a position on Bloomington’s plan commission to which she was elected Monday night. (CATS screen grab)

At a meeting that took less than an hour Monday evening, Bloomington’s plan commission voted unanimously to approve the version of the updated unified development ordinance (UDO) that the city council adopted last year.

Commissioners also elected officers. Brad Wisler will continue as president, and Jillian Kinsey will serve as vice president.

The plan commission also sent a proposed planned unit development, from Trinitas Development, to the city council with a unanimous positive recommendation. The proposed project is on 39.29 acres on West 17th Street, southeast of the I-69 and SR 46 interchange.

The Trinitas development proposes to include 387 housing units, with a total of 825 bedrooms and 458 parking spaces. Trinities is proposing to turn over to the city 45 single-family lots to be used was whatever housing the city sees fit. Continue reading “UDO Update: Bloomington’s plan commission OKs city council amendments, elects officers, moves Trinitas PUD forward”