By Nicole Minier
COLUMBIA CITY — The Whitley County Commissioners named an individual to fill the open seat on the Blue Lake Conservancy District Board.
Commissioner Don Amber, who serves Smith Township, suggested Lisa Waterman fill the position, despite a different recommendation by the conservancy district’s attorney, Andrew Grossnickle.
Grossnickle recommended Jerry Working, who had been a board member for eight years.
“He has experience with serving on this board and understands what is necessary,” Grossnickle said.
Amber responded, “I recommend Lisa Waterman for the position.”
Waterman was unanimously selected by the commissioners.
“I didn’t have anything against the individual they had, except that this opening represents district two, and he lives in district five,” Amber said. “Some friends came to me and said Lisa Waterman lives in district two and might be interested. She’s a very smart young lady, and I wanted to nominate her.”
The decision was left up to the commissioners after there was “something wrong” with an election held by the Blue Lake Conservancy District, Amber said.
The conservancy district did not provide the proper legal notices required by Indiana Code. Nominations were to be published beginning Oct. 24, 2017 and no later than Nov. 1, 2017; however the vacancy was not published. The election was supposed to be held Feb. 24, but it did not take place due to the lack of legal advertisement.
Local resident Dave Hall pushed back against the board, which informed him they were unaware of the state statute.
“Without notifying the public, there has been no one to run against the current board members for a long time,” Hall said. “They were going to move forward with the election until myself and others convinced them to put the election on hold so the board could review the issue, as moving forward with an election that has a ballot that is not legal would not be in the board’s best interest.”
When there’s a problem with an election, the decision is left to the Commissioners for appointment.
“Lisa will be a good fit. It might not be a comfortable fit, but a good fit,” Amber said.
There has been talk about potential issues with the Blue Lake Conservancy District for some time.
“There is a good possibility that most of the board members have been ‘elected’ outside the bounds of this legal requirement,” Hall said. “Over the last two years several members of the community have been attempting to get the board to outline how the elections work, but they have been unable to provide details.”
Two weeks before the Commissioner’s meeting, Amber requested a copy of the board’s bylaws.
“I never got it,” he said. “I’ve been receiving complaints for six months that the board won’t give information to community members.”