Internal probe into candidate throws Cumberland council in turmoil

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An investigation into a successful candidate for the Cumberland Town Council has resulted in backlash for the official who wrote the report and left the council president scrambling for answers.

The report raises doubts about candidate Donald Terheide’s residency in Cumberland and whether he violated election law in running for office or committed theft in taking a salary from the town.

Terheide, an IMPD captain and Ball State University professor, said he has claimed Cumberland on the far east side of Marion County as his home address for several years after buying a house there in 2013.

Terheide said his wife lives at another home in Anderson while caring for family members.

Town Manager April Fisher undertook an investigation into Terheide’s legal residency status following his announcement in June that he would be seeking a seat on the Cumberland Town Council.

Terheide currently serves on the Cumberland Board of Police Commissioners.

“Several of the officers approached me here from Cumberland PD and said that, ‘We don’t feel we get enough representation on the Council,’ so I decided to go ahead and throw my hat in the ring.”

In late October, Fisher reported her investigation to the Council.

The six-page report lays out in specific detail Terheide’s various real estate holdings and concludes, “If Donald Terheide is not a resident of Cumberland, then his receiving payment for being on the Board of Police Commissioners could constitute Theft under the Indiana Criminal Code. Per Indiana Statute, the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office…must be contacted.”

Fisher, a former deputy prosecutor, forwarded her report to the Prosecutor’s office.

On December 2, 2019, CBS4 News received an email response from Metro Police that found, “The IMPD Special Investigations Unit was contacted by personnel in the Grand Jury division of the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office reference allegations of campaign violations against Captain Terheide. An investigation was completed, and no charges were filed.”

Terheide said Fisher’s investigation was politically motivated and damaged his personal and professional reputations.

“I decided not to bring it out because I did not want it to alter the election negatively for anyone,” he said. “Win or lose, taxpayer dollars were spent to investigate this. In the report it was freely put in there that staff, I believe was the term that was utilized, was sent to drive by my house. These are tax dollars being spent. I was elected to represent the council and the town of Cumberland. These are tax dollars being spent in an inappropriate way.”

Following Wednesday night’s council meeting, President Joe Siefker, while refusing to comment on the report’s content, said such an investigation was legitimate.

“The process is if our policies are that people who receive payment for services from the town, as on a board, are members of the town, and if a staff member thinks that that may not fit, then staff looks into it, we look into it.”

Siefker refused to say whether Fisher undertook the investigation on her own or was directed to do so by the Council.

“I don’t know,” he said. “I don’t have any comment at this time.”

Fisher told CBS4 News that she was denied representation by the town’s attorney, Daniel Taylor, and told instead to engage private counsel.

Fisher also said she feared being fired from her job if she was quoted in the media without Council approval.

Taylor refused to confirm his conversation with Fisher.

An attorney representing Fisher, Karen Celestino-Horseman, told CBS4 News that her client, “is continuing to work at the town of Cumberland and looks forward to working with all councilors, including the newly elected ones,” and that a counter-complaint filed against her by Terheide, “is in the hands of the Town Council and it is not appropriate to comment.”

The Council examined Terheide’s counter-complaint and Fisher’s report in executive session two weeks ago and the councilors have, “pretty much wrapped up our inquiry and we’re just still waiting to see what’s going to happen,” said Siefker. “There’s still the other party and their process and what they’re doing as well, which is what we’re going to respond to.”

“We’re still waiting to hear what their next steps will be so we can’t do anything until then.”

Terheide’s attorney, Robert Turner, said he would wait to craft a response to Siefker’s call for further direction but still wants to know who else has a copy of Fisher’s report.

“We’ve asked for a Freedom of Information request that has not been responded to by Cumberland, but I know (the report) went to his opponent in the election. That’s one person. I know it went to the council members and at this point, we can’t say who she may have sent it to.”

Terheide said he has lost trust in his ability to work with Fisher once he is sworn into office next month.

“The main allegation after reading the report is of my residency in Cumberland. It seems to be challenged since my wife and I do not reside in the same house that that is a physical impossibility.”

Terheide cited Indiana Election Code that finds, “a married person who does not live in a household with the person’s spouse may establish a separate residence from the residence of the person’s spouse,” with the intention of running for election.

“The really sad part about this is, this could have been cleared up in a five-minute conversation versus have to protract and go to this length,” said the councilman-elect, referring to the various proof and documentation he has that lists the Cumberland home address. “Basically, it’s where you park your vehicle, sleep at night, where you’re registered to vote, where your driver’s license is registered to, all of those things which clearly if anybody would do a check, a thorough check, that would be here in Cumberland.”

On the third page of the investigation summary, Fisher notes, “There are additional things that could be examined; however, these items are not publicly accessible.”

In her report, Fisher confirms she did not examine Terheide’s driver’s license, voter registration, employment records, utility bills, tax filings or vehicle registrations, as well as various mortgage and Homestead Tax Deduction documents which may have shed more light on the candidate’s claimed residential address.

The backdrop for this controversy may be a recent report by the State Board of Accounts.

In a response to a report, covering the years 2017 and 2018, while Fisher was town manager, Cumberland admitted, “a mismatch exists between Police General Orders and the Employee Handbook.”

The examiners found that Cumberland police officers, “were allowed to accrue compensatory time in excess of what was allowable.”

One police officer accrued more than 120 hours in compensatory time, another accounted for 200 hours.

In a response filed on August 30th, the town, represented by Fisher and Siefker, promised to amend its handbook to bring its compensation and benefits policies in line with salary ordinance.

Terheide said it was a change in holiday compensation pay for police officers that was among several reasons that brought him into what would be his successful if not controversial campaign for a council seat.

“My concern is on the police department,” he said. “Try to keep good equipment, keep officers here from leaving and going to other departments which means obviously addressing salary and pay reasons and public safety as a general rule throughout Cumberland.”

The Cumberland Town Council meets again December 18th.

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