Beleaguered Wabash Township Trustee found guilty on all counts
Wabash Township Trustee Jennifer Teising was found guilty on 21 counts of theft Wednesday, in a case over whether she illegally took her trustee salary while not residing in Wabash Township.
Over the course of Teising’s three-day bench trial in December, the state brought witnesses ranging from a police investigator to a local Democratic Party official who testified that the trustee spent long periods outside the Greater Lafayette area and voiced an intention to resign her position and move to Florida.
In closing arguments, the state specifically argued that the COVID-19 pandemic created a “silver lining” for Teising, who was able to move to Florida without leaving her position - to “have her cake and eat it.”
In her decision, Judge Kristen McVey seemed to buy this line of reasoning, writing that Teising’s rental of a property in West Lafayette “appeared designed to maintain the appearance of residency.”
Judge McVey also cited numerous occasions where Teising articulated her desire to resign her position and move to Florida - saying they amounted to more than “private expressions vented in frustration, bar stool style” but were instead “communications made to professional colleagues closely involved with township business.”
All told, between time spent in Anderson, Indiana and Florida, Teising’s phone records found that she spent just 27 nights out of 275 days at her West Lafayette rental.
“Upon the Defendant’s move out of Wabash Township in June of 2020 to live a nomadic RV lifestyle, she ceased to… make her ‘true, permanent and fixed’ home in Wabash Township… and forfeited the office of Township Trustee,” Judge McVey wrote. “Upon forfeiture… the Defendant’s continued collection of her salary constituted the crime of Theft.”
McVey concluded that as an elected official, Teising took on a “special obligation” to reside in her district when elected - an obligation that is a “long-held value enshrined in the Indiana Constitution.”
Teising’s attorney declined to immediately comment on the order.
A hearing on the order is scheduled for Jan. 28.