By Tim Pinkham
Washington Times Herald
LOOGOOTEE — City Councilman John Fraley faces a scheduled initial hearing this morning in Dubois Superior Court before Judge Mark McConnell in a theft case that might cause him to eventually resign from office.
Fraley will be represented by defense attorney Victor Ippoliti of Ferdinand. The attorney returned a call about the case Tuesday morning, but would only say, “No comment, Merry Christmas.”
According to the Nov. 23 Loogootee Tribune, Fraley and his stepson, Dustin Campbell, were arrested Nov. 19 by Jasper police. They were both charged with theft, a Class D felony.
The Tribune article states a press release from the Jasper Police Department alleges Fraley and Campbell stole several items from 1330 3rd Ave., Jasper, including water heaters, air conditioners and copper tubing.
The property is owned by Randy Judy, who reported the thefts to police. In the Tribune article, police also allege both men admitted taking items from the property.
Monday night, Fraley participated in the monthly meeting of the Loogootee City Council. No mention was made of his pending court hearing. Fraley is also a long-time city employee with the Street Department.
Following the meeting, Fraley referred most questions to Ippoliti, who had advised him not to comment. However, the councilman did strongly proclaim his innocence concerning the theft charge, and said he plans to remain in office.
When asked about information reported in the Tribune, Fraley said there were some discrepancies, but would not elaborate, deferring to Ippoliti.
A second Tribune article, which is undated, reported on an executive session held Nov. 26 by the Loogootee Board of Public Works and Safety. The board voted to suspend Fraley for five days without pay, while also reassigning him within the department.
Mayor Noel Harty confirmed Tuesday that Fraley had been demoted from backhoe laborer to step 3 in the department, which includes a reduction in pay.
Harty said no further action would be taken until the legal case is resolved. If Fraley were to be convicted of a theft charge, whether as a Class D felony or a Class A misdemeanor, City Attorney Mark Jones said Monday afternoon that the councilman would be required by law to give up his seat.
Since Fraley’s district only includes Perry Township, Harty said if a vacancy occurred, the Democrat precinct committeemen and women from that township would elect a new council member to serve out the remaining three years of Fraley’s term.
In council business Monday, the members had a lengthy discussion about the city’s hiring policies, which included comments by Harty and Clerk-Treasurer Nancy Jones.
The council finally agreed all full-time city employees must live with the Loogootee city limits for the first five years of employment. After that, they could move outside Loogootee, but still had to live in Martin County.
If a new employee lived outside Loogootee when they were hired, they would be given 90 days to move into the city.
As for part-time employees, they must live within Martin County. The only exception is for firefighters, who must live within five minutes of the station according to the department bylaws. However, due to Loogootee’s location on the border with Daviess County, firefighters are allowed to live outside Martin County.
Mark Jones will write a city ordinance incorporating the wording desired by the council, which will be voted on during the Jan. 14, 2013 meeting.
The council will continue to meet the second Monday of each month next year, except for October and November, when federal holidays on Monday will move the meeting date to Tuesday. The Board of Public Works and Safety will meet at 6 p.m., followed immediately by the City Council meeting.