Friday, January 25, 2013

Secretary of State Connie Lawson's Insurance Policy

Gov. Mitch Daniels appointed then-State Sen. Connie Lawson last year to finish the unexpired term of Secretary of State Charlie White after he was convicted in Hamilton County on bogus charges brought by overzealous and unethical special prosecutors who claimed he committed vote fraud and stole money from the Town of Fishers by representing a council district in which he didn't reside. White is appealing the conviction of all the charges, and Connie Lawson isn't taking any chances on his likelihood of success. Lawson asked State Rep. Jeff Thompson, her state representative, to introduce legislation that would bar White from reinstatement to his office if his convictions are overturned on appeal. HB 1282 provides that a public officer who has been removed from office after being convicted of a felony is not entitled to be reinstated to the office to which he was lawfully elected if the conviction is reversed, vacated, set aside or reduced to a Class A misdemeanor or not entered because the trial court did not enter a guilty plea. Under current law, White would be entitled to reinstatement to his office if any of those events occurred. If Lawson's legislation becomes effective, she'll get to keep her job but White will be allowed to draw the salary he would have earned as if he had never been removed from office.

UPDATE: Indianapolis attorney Karen Celestino-Horseman, who represented the Indiana Democratic Party in the unsuccessful election contest challenging White's election as Secretary of State in 2010 based on issues pertaining to his residency, posted this interesting comment questioning whether Lawson's proposed law could constitutionally apply to White since he has already initiated his appeal. She also wonders if it's not intended to throw a bone to get White to drop his appeal:
"Under current law, if former Secretary of State Charlie White wins the appeal of his criminal conviction, he gets to finish the term to which he was elected. HB1282 would prevent White from returning to the taking office if he wins his appeal. Given that the appeal process has already started, I do not know if the legislature can remove White's right to reclaim the office. But they are throwing White the bone of collecting his salary for the entire term. In other words, Charlie, if you don't waste time challenging this potentially unconstitutional statute, we'll pay you off. HB1282 is sponsored by Representative Thompson. Thompson represents the district where current Secretary of State Connie Lawson resides. Lawson was appointed to finish White's term and she stands to lose the office if White wins and the law isn't changed."

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