ARCADIA, Ind (March, 23, 2016)-- A complaint has been filed with the Indiana Public Access Counselor, accusing the Jackson Township trustees of violating the open door law and denying access to public records.
This complaint stems from Jackson Township's board voting to pull out of a fire territory agreement with neighboring Atlanta and Arcadia in Hamilton County.
Now, residents are questioning where and why the decision was made.
"I think we were all kind of shocked at first. We are angry," said Arcadia resident Nicole Duncan.
Wednesday, residents attended an already scheduled Jackson Township board meeting. Many came looking for answers but weren't given any. The board allowed time for public comment but cited state statute as their reason for not engaging in dialogue.
Some board members lingered after the meeting and took questions from constituents. However, these conversations were off the official meeting record.
"The secrecy behind the whole situation is troubling. We can't get honest answers," said Robyn Cook, clerk treasurer for the town of Atlanta.
Township Trustee Chris Miller swiftly left seconds after the meeting adjourned. Last month, she told CBS4 the reason for dismantling the fire territory was strictly a business decision. After several requests by residents and officials to see the financial records, Miller has failed to provide those documents.
Along with the formal complaint claiming the board violated the public records law, there is a text message exchange attached. The conversation is allegedly between board president Jeff Roberts and Miller.
Residents who have seen the texts believe they suggest the decision to pull out of the fire territory might have been made behind closed doors and not during a public meeting.
One text allegedly from Roberts reads, "I don't want to waste any more of our money on those retards because we've done this once before and they didn't understand that then it surely won't understand it now. "
"I’m really anxious to see what they are going to say about deleting emails that are public record," said Cook.
The trustee's have until March 28 to respond to the public access counselor. The attorney for the board says they plan on submitting a written statement by the deadline.