LaPorte County Elected Positions

Who is Elected

The law establishes the elected offices within county government. According to the Indiana Constitution, Article 6, Section 2, the following officers "…shall be elected…a Clerk of the Circuit Court, Auditor, Recorder, Treasurer, Sheriff, Coroner, and Surveyor." The offices of county council, board of county commissioners, and county assessor, however, are not constitutional offices. The General Assembly created these offices by statute.

Article 7 of the Constitution provides for the election of a prosecuting attorney and a judge of the circuit court. Statutes provide for the election of superior and county court judges in many counties. These officers are actually officials of a judicial circuit or district, which may sometimes include more than one county.


Terms of Office

All county officials are elected for a four year term of office. Except for the surveyor and judicial officers, constitutional county officers are limited to two terms or eight years of service in a period of twelve years.

{Article 6, Section 2 of the Indiana Constitution} There is no limitation on the number of terms a statutory county officer can serve. Circuit, superior and county court judges are elected to six- year terms, and the prosecutor is elected to a four-year term.


Qualifications for Office

Article 6, Section 4 of the Indiana Constitution details the legal requirements for holding office that apply to all constitutional county officers. Article 6, Section 4 states, "No person shall be elected, or appointed, as a county officer, who shall not be an elector of the county; nor anyone who shall not have been an inhabitant thereof, during one year next preceding his appointment…"

This requirement applies to all county offices; not just those created by the Constitution. In addition to the constitutional one year residency requirement, a county commissioner or a councilperson elected from a specific district must reside in the district for at least six months prior to the election.


Holding Dual Offices

Article 2, Section 9, of the Indiana Constitution prohibits government officials from holding "two lucrative offices" at the same time. This prohibits an elected or appointed official from serving in two offices if both offices provide compensation for service, which includes payments of per diem. The amount of compensation paid does not determine whether a position is lucrative.

A court has even determined that a $3 per diem for attending a council meeting makes a city council seat a lucrative office.A person holding a lucrative office who accepts a second lucrative office automatically forfeits the first office. To come within the constitutional prohibition against holding two lucrative offices, a person must hold an office in which he or she is authorized to exercise some portion of the state's authority for the benefit of the public, be entitled to compensation for those services, and also hold office under the general laws of the state as contrasted with an office that is a creation of the county.

The Attornery General's Dual Office Holding Guide is an excellent resource on the issue of duel lucrative offices.


Compensation

The county council sets salaries at its annual budget meeting after considering the recommendation of the board of county commissioners. At the July meeting the board of county commissioners must review the recommendations of each of the departments and submit its recommendations to the county council before August 20.

The amount of annual compensation for elected county officials, as fixed by the salary ordinance, may not be changed during the year. Through a majority vote, the council may change the compensation or number of other county officers, deputies and employees at any time at the request of the affected officer or head of a department, commission or agency.

The minimum salary of judges, prosecuting attorneys, court officers and deputy prosecutors are set by statute. However, the county council may elect to pay these officers more than the minimum statutory amount. The maximum additional amount for a judge and a full- time county prosecutor is $5,000 per calendar year.

The salaries fixed by statute and by the salary ordinance are full compensation for a county officer's services and are in lieu of all other fees, per diems, penalties, costs, interest, forfeitures, percentages, commissions, and other remuneration.

There are a few exceptions to this rule, including mileage allowances, sheriffs' tax warrant fees, commissioners' drainage board per diems, etc. In general, the county fiscal body determines the mileage allowance paid to county officials and their employees when they are authorized to use their personal vehicle in the performance of county work.


Vacancies in Office

A vacancy exists, according to state law and the Indiana Constitution, when any of the following instances occur: death; resignation and lawful acceptance thereof; removal from office for incapacity, conviction of a felony, official misconduct, malfeasance, or nonfeasance; a decision of a court declaring the election or appointment void or loss of eligibility for office, i.e., change of residence.

The Governor is responsible for filling vacancies that occur in the offices of the prosecuting attorney and judge. All other offices are filled in accordance with state election law. IC 3-13-7, provides for the filling of a vacancy by a caucus of precinct committee persons of the party from which the official was elected. In the case of a council member or commissioner elected only by voters within a particular district, the caucus is limited to the precincts within that district.

The caucus must convene within 30 days following the occurrence of the vacancy. IC 3-13-7, also provides a procedure for filling a vacancy in an office held by a person not affiliated with a political party or in an office held by a person affiliated with a political party that does not have a precinct committee person. If the vacancy occurs on the county council, the county council fills the vacancy. If the vacancy occurs in the office of the county commissioner, assessor, sheriff, auditor, recorder, surveyor, treasurer, or coroner, the board of county commissioners fills the vacancy.


Removal

Indiana does not have a procedure for recalling elected officials, but it does have a statutory method for initiating impeachment proceedings against local officials. The county grand jury and court system conducts the proceedings and subsequent removal.

Any official convicted of official misconduct, bribery, or conflict of interest may be removed from office by a court. The court may also issue an order rendering the person ineligible from holding public office for a period of up to ten years.