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In state first, Tippecanoe County using new law in effort to remove local trustee

County Commissioner Tom Murtaugh discusses his support for a resolution removing Fairfield Township’s Trustee (WBAA News/Ben Thorp)

In a state first, Tippecanoe County commissioners are using a process outlined in a new law to have Fairfield Township Trustee Taletha Coles removed from her position.

On Wednesday, commissioners unanimously passed a resolution that outlined what they deemed were credible allegations of the trustee’s failure to perform basic duties and her use of township funds to purchase personal items - including a spa treatment.

The resolution is the first use of a new state law passed earlier this year in response to two trustees, one in Fairfield Township and one in Wabash Township, who residents and local officials felt were no longer working in the public interest.

Senator Ron Alting (R-Lafayette) helped pass the bill that created the removal process currently being used. Alting said while the bill was largely a response to trustees in Tippecanoe County, he believes the new law will be useful statewide.

“There was no policy for removing a trustee if there was evidence of wrongdoing,” Alting said. “This is a due process that is extraordinarily fair.”

Wabash Township Trustee Jennifer Teising was ultimately removed before the passage of the new law. Teising, accused of staying on in her position while no longer a resident of her township, was found guilty earlier this year.

County Commissioner Tom Murtaugh said Trustee Coles violated the public trust - and must be removed. He said as a county essentially testing the new law - he feels good about it.

“The process here is multi-steps which it should be,” he said. “You never want something like this to be done in a partisan fashion.”

A removal resolution has already been passed by the Fairfield Township board. Now that county commissioners have signed off on Coles’ removal the issue will need to be taken up by the Tippecanoe County Council. If the county council passes a resolution to remove Coles it will then need final approval by a judge.

Trustee Taletha Coles did not respond to our request for comment.