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Tuesday, March 15, 2016 6:37 pm

Embattled city clerk to resign

Dave Gong | The Journal Gazette

The city of Fort Wayne’s city clerk will resign amid accusations of electioneering in her office at Citizens Square.

City Clerk Sandy Kennedy is expected to announce her resignation within the next several days, her attorney Mark GiaQuinta said Monday.

GiaQuinta, a former Fort Wayne city councilman, stressed that the clerk’s resignation isn’t the result of the allegations or a call by the Allen County Republican Party for her resignation. He said her decision to resign was due to an ongoing medical condition and under the advice of her doctor. 

Her resignation comes just weeks before the Nov. 3 municipal general election. 

"(Kennedy) is under her physician’s care. She has been advised by her doctors, given the medical condition she is suffering, the stress of this office is not helping her get well," GiaQuinta said. "For that reason, she is going to resign."

Allegations surfaced late last week that Kennedy threatened city employees’ jobs if they did not contribute to or participate in the election campaign of Deputy City Clerk Angie Davis. Davis is running to replace Kennedy, who earlier this year announced that she would not seek another term. Kennedy has served 32 years as city clerk. 

The claims were accompanied by video recorded, edited and captioned by former parking enforcement supervisor Colin Keeney, who resigned his position last month. Parking enforcement operates under the supervision of the city clerk.

The video shows Kennedy telling parking enforcement employees that they would lose their jobs if Republican candidate Lana Keesling is elected in November. Kennedy told employees in the video that the Republican Party would outsource their jobs to a private company. 

A message left for Keesling seeking comment Monday afternoon was not immediately returned.

In a written statement released early Monday, Steve Shine, county Republican Party chairman, called for Kennedy’s resignation and urged Davis to not accept the position should she win the Nov. 3 general election. Should Davis choose to relinquish the position if she wins, the Allen County Democratic Party would then choose a replacement for the city clerk position. 

Shine reiterated his call for Kennedy’s resignation while speaking to reporters Monday afternoon, saying he would like to see the clerk’s resignation by the end of the day.

"I call upon Clerk Kennedy to resign immediately," Shine said. "Her actions, as captured in damning videos, undermine citizen confidence in city government in a way not seen since the days of former City Clerk Charles Westerman, also a Democrat, and the last Democrat to serve as city clerk and also serve jail time."

Westerman was convicted in 1983 of stealing $210 in parking fines. Kennedy proceeded to take office shortly thereafter.

Mayoral spokesman John Perlich declined to comment on what he described as a personnel issue. He again stressed that the position of city clerk is a separately elected position that does not fall under Mayor Tom Henry’s jurisdiction. 

John Court, chairman of the Allen County Democratic Party, also described the controversy as a personnel issue. But Court said he does believe the statements Kennedy made in the video regarding the outsourcing of jobs are accurate. He also said political conversations frequently take place inside the clerk’s office involving elected officials on both sides of the aisle.

Court also commented that the Democratic Party is still willing to support Davis’ campaign. 

"At this time we’re still trying to gather all the information, trying to get a handle on what roles anyone played in this regard and giving (Davis) time to make her decision as well," he said. 

Davis did not return a message seeking comment late Monday. 

It’s still not clear whether Kennedy broke any laws.

However, the Allen County prosecutor’s office is checking into the video and the allegations, Deputy Prosecutor Mike McAlexander said. 

"We have not received a formal complaint from anyone, but obviously I think we have a certain responsibility when allegations involve public officials," he said. 

McAlexander said the prosecutor’s office is examining Indiana’s election laws, as well as laws related to elected officials and public servants. He said election law is a little convoluted, however, and sorting out whether a crime had been committed would likely take time. 

Whether the Fort Wayne city clerk qualifies as a government employee will also likely play a role in determining if Kennedy broke the law.

The answer isn’t as black and white as people may think, said Andy Downs, director of the Mike Downs Center for Indiana Politics at IPFW.

While Kennedy could be considered a government employee because she receives a paycheck and some benefits from the city of Fort Wayne, a number of policies and procedures that apply to non-elected officials in other departments don’t apply to the city clerk. There is also no requirement for elected officials to work 40 hours a week, he said. 

There’s also some question of whether the videos show Kennedy engaging in unethical conduct.

The city of Fort Wayne does have an ethics policy, but the city clerk is exempt. The policy covers the mayor, all non-elected city employees as well as all appointees of the city’s executive department.

dgong@jg.net