Harris on the Record

What impacts you and the media doesn't cover. – Art Harris

Archive for the month “February, 2013”


In my Feb. 8 offering, I stated that Barnes & Thornburg was the law firm representing the Zionsville School Corp.

That was an error.

On Feb. 11, the school board accepted the proposal from the Noblesville law firm of Church Church Hittle & Antrim to represent the school corp.

My apologies to Barnes & Thornburg and Church et al.


Dump Fire & Police – Hire Private Public Safety Firms

Now that the gurus on the Zionsville Town Council have canned the town’s long-time engineering firm, HNTB (2012), and dumped its’ lawyers at Krieg DeVault (Feb. 11) why not go a step further and terminate all the personnel on the police and fire departments?

The savings would be immense. No longer would the town be funding the staggering costs of pensions for personnel on the two departments, plus their health care costs, which amounts to millions annually.

But, what would the town do for police and fire protection?

Contract the public safety services to outside private firms. Where is Blackwater when we need them?

With the reduction in troops from the Mideast, and many returning servicemen and women, surely enough could be found to form private fire and police services for smaller municipalities. Think of the savings to cash-strapped towns and cities.

So, which legal firm did the council select?

At the end of the council meeting Monday night (Feb.11), what followed was seen by members of the public present as most awkward.

Former council president Tim Haak made a motion to retain Krieg DuVault, which died for lack of a second. Welcome to the Lone Ranger team Tim.

Then, Councilor Tom Schuler made a motion to table the vote, which was seconded. After several minutes of trying to explain what was happening, Schuler’s motion and the second were withdrawn and a vote was taken to hire Barnes & Thornburg, the powerhouse Indianapolis law firm.


Barnes & Thornburg represents the Zionsville Community Schools. Doesn’t that create the appearance of a conflict of interest? How is that firm going to represent the schools and town at the same time when an issue arises when one or the other (schools or town) needs legal representation in dealing with a situation involving both, i.e. the schools participation with the town on the DOW property?

And, if anyone is interested Councilor Elizabeth Hopper recused herself from voting on hiring Barnes & Thornburg because her husband is a member of the firm. Presumably, Councilor Hopper would not vote on any further matter involving the firm and the town.


A new proposal for the Ford Road bridge over Eagle Creek suggests a 36-foot wide span, which would provide for four (4) lanes of traffic on a two-lane road.

Some folks are speculating that after the construction of a new bridge, efforts will be made to widen Ford Road to four lanes from Oak Street to 96th Street.

But, then where do we go? 96th Street is the Marion-Boone county line and it’s two lanes to the I-465 overpass.

And, because of the controversy about replacing the current bridge with an historic iron truss span, created largely by County Council member Gene Thompson, the $2.58 million in federal funds have been withdrawn.

My vote is we put Thompson in charge of a new bridge.

An Ulmer Coup Exposed

One of the latest attempted coups by Zionsville Town councilor Candace Ulmer was shot down a week ago (Jan. 25) during an executive session when she tried to get Town Manager Ed Mitro fired.

With the new administration only a month old, Ulmer, with council cohorts Susana Suarez and Elizabeth Hopper, had successfully stymied former Council President Tim Haak’s bid for vice president.

At the executive session last Friday morning, Mitro was asked to leave the meeting, and then Ulmer announced she wanted to discuss his continued employment.


State law requires the topic of an executive sessios be stated on the meeting notice; something as innocuous as personnel matters would have sufficed to discuss an employe’s employment, but Ulmer apparently forgot this small item until it was called to her attention.

But, that didn’t deter a discussion among councilors of reasons why Ulmer wanted Mitro gone.  

It’s no secret that Mitro has put the skids on Ulmer’s attempts to skirt his authority, which has drawn her ire.

Other than that, Ulmer had no concrete objections to Mitro’s work.

She was reminded that at the end of each year, town department heads are subject to an annual job evaluation to determine if goals and objectives have been met. Mitro schedules appointments with each employee and then writes a report.

If a department head continues to fall short on job performance, those reports can be the basis for termination.

So, who reviews Mitro? The town council president. But, despite his continued requests for those evaluations, no council president since Dick Crane has found time to review Mitro’s work.

Thus, Councilor Ulmer was reminded that without a sound basis, i.e. job performance evaluations, the council could be in legal hot water to terminate Mitro without just cause.

Ulmer has apparently been emboldened to rattle some council cages since her move to derail Haak’s bid for vice president.

At the start of the new year, the council elects new officers.  Councilors agreed that Jeff Papa would wield the gavel for 2013, and Haak, who has just completed a year as president, would serve as vice-president.

But, Ulmer objected and made veiled innuendoes about Haak’s performance as president and threatened to reveal them.

For whatever reasons, Haak withdrew his name for vice-president and Steve Mundy was the compromise candidate.

Let the cat fights begin.

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