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The Journal Gazette

Tuesday, September 11, 2018 1:00 am

Trustee accused of withholding requested files

MATTHEW LEBLANC | The Journal Gazette

The Democrat running to unseat Republican St. Joseph Township Trustee Sarah Gnagy accuses the incumbent of violating open records laws in a complaint filed Monday with the state.

Carol Griffin mailed letters seeking dozens of documents in March to Gnagy's office, but the trustee refused to accept them and the letters were returned, according to paperwork sent to the Indiana Public Access Counselor.

The requests were hand-delivered in late June, and Gnagy has not responded, Griffin alleges.

State law requires public agencies to respond to records requests within seven days.

Gnagy denied the allegations Monday and said her office has provided all of the information Griffin has asked for.

“It is my belief that Sarah Gnagy is exploiting the Indiana Access to Public Records Act by delaying her response in turning over the material requested because she knows there is a likelihood the information will be used against her in the November (general) election,” the complaint states. “Therefore, she is stalling the release of the requested public records in an attempt to avoid negative publicity prior to the election.”

The complaint is the latest turn in a tumultuous race that has included claims by Griffin that township Fire Chief David Ringer is unfit for office and a lawsuit filed by Ringer alleging Griffin defamed him in letters sent anonymously to town officials in Ashley.

Ringer sought the GOP nomination to the trustee post, but lost in a primary election in May. The lawsuit is pending in Allen Circuit Court.

Griffin sent letters March 5 and 7 to Gnagy seeking records including presentations by Ringer to the board and copies of contracts dating from 2013 for ambulance services. She also asked Gnagy for explanations of payments to a variety of businesses.

Some of the records were provided, and others were not, according to the complaint.

Gnagy rebuts the claims and said documents were provided to Griffin after she visited her office in June.

“Everything she has requested has been sent to her,” Gnagy said. “If she wants more information, she can come into the office like she did before.”

Public Access Counselor Luke Britt said he received the complaint and will review it before deciding whether to issue an opinion on whether Gnagy broke the law. Britt said he could also send a letter to the trustee, advising her to comply with the request.

His office is advisory and has no enforcement authority, Britt said.