John Haskell, who has served as County Commissioner from District One since January of last year, announced his resignation on Monday night.
“If it would have been under different circumstances, I would really have liked to finish the term,” John Haskell said by phone on Tuesday, “But it just became too much.”
John Haskell said that the whole situation started when he first filed to run, when someone made a call to Belterra Casino Resort, where he was working at the time. The caller contended that he was accepting contributions for his campaign from guests; and that led to him having to sit through several days of meetings and questioning – even though he never received any funds from Belterra guests.
“As government went on, every time the commissioners would go to the council for money, I couldn’t attend because we would get either less money or rejected because I was in that group,” he said. “That began to effect the job that we were doing. If we wanted to chip and seal or if we wanted to asphalt, the County Council holds the purse strings; and it became really difficult.”
John Haskell said that as bad as matters were here, he really became concerned when calls began being made to Spencer County, where his wife, Candis Haskell serves as superintendent of the South Spencer School Corporation.
“When it got down there to where Candy works, I thought ‘this is nuts’,” he said. “She had to go before the mayor’s office and explain that she was a part of the community and she did vote there and she did build a house there.”
The last straw, according to John Haskell, came last week when he received official letters from the Switzerland County Council asking him to come to a meeting on Wednesday, May 14th. At that meeting, the letter told him that he would need to testify as to where he was paying rent in order to establish his official residence.
“I just decided enough was enough,” he said.
John Haskell said that having a “long distance” marriage and also with opportunities that he had with a Ford dealership in the Spencer County area of the state, he had already been considering stepping down.
“Back in December, I was going to meet with Josh (South, Switzerland County Republican chairman) and them and work out something where they could appoint somebody, for the best interest of the county,” John Haskell said. “I could be there on a moment’s notice, but I usually stood somebody up by doing it. I don’t want to be a part time Commissioner, and it got to be that way.”
But, as he leaves office on June 1st, John Haskell said that he has always been a Switzerland County resident and will always be from the county. He said that he truly appreciates the opportunity that the voters of Switzerland County gave him.
“I’m sorry that I’ve let them down,” John Haskell said to the voters. “I really didn’t mean to. The timing wasn’t good. Switzerland County is full of great people. I don’t have any regrets for serving, but I found it difficult to serve in the situation that I was put in. It was a learning experience, and I wish them the best.”
The letter requesting his attendance at the May 14th meeting of the Switzerland County Council was to clarify his residency status.
Cody Kendall, attorney for the Switzerland County Council, said that the May 14th meeting was to be a “fact finding” hearing for the County Council, which is charged by state law with investigating whether or not an elected official in a county meets the qualifications to serve.
With Monday’s resignation, Cody Kendall said that he expects the matter to still be on the agenda, but he believes that it will be tabled and no discussion will be held – but that’s up to the council members.
Cody Kendall said that at issue is that a complaint was made that John Haskell didn’t live in the district that he represented.
“There’s a statute that basically says if a commissioner doesn’t live in the district, he abandons his office and it’s up to the county council and it’s their responsibility to make a finding that he’s abandoned that office,” Cody Kendall said. “What we did is basically look for documents to see if this even held any water to go forward, and I was able to obtain a homestead exemption out of Spencer County that was signed under penalty of perjury by Mr. Haskell saying that he lived in Spencer County.”
Cody Kendall said that he then pulled John Haskell’s voter registration, which shows him living in Switzerland County.
“The two contradict each other, so that’s why the council asked him to appear,” Cody Kendall said. “People move and he might not have gotten around to moving his voter registration, however the homestead exemption was signed in May of 2013, so that’s what we were proceeding on.”
Cody Kendall said that the notices were so that John Haskell could come to the council meeting and either explain it away or resolve the issue.
“I can tell you, the members of the county council didn’t particularly take an interest in wanting to do this, however, it was kind of me informing them that they had a responsibility under Indiana Code,” Cody Kendall said.
At Monday night’s meeting of the Switzerland County Commissioners, in announcing his resignation, John Haskell read the following letter:
It is with much sadness but few regrets that I am resigning my commissioner’s seat in Switzerland County effective June 1, 2014. On April 16 I received a letter from County Council to appear at a hearing to testify where my residence is. My home and residence always has been in Switzerland County since 1957.
I bought my first home in 1977, and have paid my taxes yearly until the fall of 2012 where our home sold. Since then I have been paying rent monthly and in my district.
Which makes me wonder with all of the problems that County Council has, why this is a priority?
Going back to my days of filing to run, a phone call was placed to my employer, Belterra, in the Spring of 2012. Nameless, faceless, and spineless; a call was made and there was an investigation launched claiming that I took political contributions from guests for my campaign.
None were, but I had to endure the embarrassment, nonetheless.
The only political contributions I received were from my dad and the Republican Party. This was just the beginning of our nightmare.
My wife, Candis, who is superintendent at South Spencer School Corporation, began receiving phone calls from Spencer County officials such as County Council, Mayor, and the courthouse; saying they had received anonymous letters from Switzerland County saying that she was not a great education example: being a non-voter, would not buy property or pay taxes.
Little did they know that she was a registered voter, built a new home, and paid taxes. Also, she leads 4 Star Schools with a contract running through 2018.
But, unlike Switzerland County, her parents, staff, and community rallied around her, giving her support. I am sure Spencer County wonders what kind of people would behave in this fashion.
While I think enough has been said here tonight, and although I would have loved to fulfill my term, I will not participate in what I and my family perceive to be a witch hunt against someone who just wanted to serve one term.
I wanted to share conservative ideas and make our roads safe for our future children of tomorrow.
In closing, I would like to thank my family who always stands behind me; Josh South and the Republican Party; Mark and Steve; Bruce and Wil; all the ladies and men who work in the courthouse; my county road guys; Switzerland County EMT; Connie and EMA; the Sheriff’s office; Jeff Craig Fire Department only; and many others.
I believe now my days will be served better by being a great husband, Dad, and Grandpa. I have accepted a position at Champion Ford in Reo, Indiana; two miles from my house and 1/2 mile from my wife’s school.
Once again, thank you to the voters, both Democrat and Republican. I didn’t mean to let you down.
So now, Mr. Jones, Mr. Crabtree, Mr. Conroy, and the rest of Council: my new address is 2197 W. Fairview Drive, Rockport, Indiana. I will pray for all of you and good luck.
What comes next?
Switzerland County Republican Chairman Josh South has called a meeting of the Republican Precinct Committeemen, who are charged will making the appointment to fill the remainder of John Haskell’s term.
The Republican caucus will be held on Thursday May 8th, at 6 p.m. The meeting will be held at the GOP headquarters, which is located at 106 E. Main Street in Vevay.
At that meeting, the vacancy for County Commissioner in District 1 will be filled.
The person chosen will assume the post effective June 1st, 2014.
Josh South said that all interested parties who wish to be considered to fill the vacancy must be: a Republican in good standing; live within District 1; and send form CEB-5 (which is available at the court house) to Dr. Elizabeth ‘Itsy’ Jones at 406 West Main Street, Vevay Indiana, 47043. Those wishing to be considered must have their forms in by Monday, May 5th, at 6 p.m. to be eligible.
Any forms received after the Monday deadline will not be eligible to run in the caucus.