Rokita petitions state Supreme Court to take up case against former Wabash Township trustee
Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita has petitioned the Indiana Supreme Court to take up a case involving the residency of former Wabash Township Trustee Jennifer Teising.
The Indiana Court of Appeals overturned Teising’s conviction in December. She was initially found guilty of taking her trustee salary while not a resident of the township – with the state showing that over a nine-month period, she spent less than 10 percent of her time in the township.
The Court of Appeals argued that her absences needed to be considered in the context of the global COVID-19 pandemic – and that Teising never established a residency outside the township.
In documents urging the state Supreme Court to take up the case, Rokita said that shouldn’t matter. He argued that too much emphasis was being placed on her official residency while, quote, “ignoring that the person has ceased to live in a place.”
Rokita argued that the lower court was correct in finding that “Teising’s decision to adopt a nomadic RV lifestyle and sign a six-month lease and live in Florida was an abandonment of her office.”
The petition conceded that “reside within” is not defined within the state constitution - but Rokita pointed to a number of court cases offering a further definition of residency.
Specifically, Rokita pointed to State Election Board v. Bayh – a 1988 case that found that then-Secretary of State Evan Bayh had maintained residency in Indiana despite renting an apartment in Washington D.C. and working for a D.C.-based law firm before taking office.
Bayh had announced a run for governor and was required to have lived in the state for five years before being allowed to run.
That case found that “reside within” meant something different for citizens compared with officeholders because a “physical presence is necessary to retain office once elected.”
Under that stricter definition, Rokita argued that as an office holder, Teising did not meet the requirement.
And Rokita wrote if the Court of Appeals decision were to stand, it “effectively authorizes local officials to leave their district without ever returning and remain in their lucrative office as long as they do not establish a different residency outside their district.”
The Attorney General asked the court to clarify that a physical presence was required to meet the “reside within” requirement.
Teising’s attorney, when reached for comment, said that the Supreme Court, like the Appellate Court, would quote “find the facts are insufficient to support the law.”