Democrat chair argues police commission members skewed politically

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Hamilton County Democratic Party Chair Joe Weingarten recognizes there’s lots of discussion nationwide about police reform. That’s why he’s confused the City of Fishers has more Republican representatives on its police merit commission board than Democrats.

Weingarten (Photo by Ann Marie Shambaugh)

“I remembered having read this code a couple of years ago, and in the code, it says two of the members of the commission – one Democrat and one Republican – are elected by officers, and that just doesn’t sound right,” he said. “So, if you think about it, let’s say you were going to be reviewed by this commission because you did something wrong, two of the five people on the review board were elected by you and fellow officers. So, it didn’t sound right from that start.”

When Weingarten learned who the members of the police commission were, it seemed even more wrong to him. One of the Democrat members is a known Republican, according to Weingarten.

“I pulled his voting records and he doesn’t meet the code,” Weingarten said. “You end up with four or five Republicans instead of two and two and then one in between.”

The state code mandates that the political affiliation of the commission members is determined through voter registration records from the three most recent primary elections.

In a letter to Mayor Scott Fadness, Weingarten claimed the following:

“The current police board as listed on the cities website lists Mr. Bryan Babb as a Democrat and under the code the “political affiliation shall be determined through the voters’ registration records of the three (3) most recent primary elections” in which each commissioner voted. Mr. Babb voting record shows that he voted Democrat in 2016 and Republican in 2011 and 2014 primaries and thus cannot be listed as a Democrat. This would result in four of the five members of the Commission to be listed as Republican. Again, under the code no more than three members can be from the same party.

Mr. Gary Bolenbaugh, does not show party affiliation on the website, but voting records show that he has voted Republican in the last three primaries (2016, 2018 and 2019).

On the Fire Merit Commission Mr. Babb is also a member and listed as a Democrat.

Mr. Mike Peterson, does not show party affiliation on the website, but voting records show that he has voted Republican in the last three primaries (2016, 2018 and 2019). Mr. William Stuart is listed as a Democrat but voting records show that that he has not voted Democratic in the past three primaries (2014 R, 2016 D and 2018 D). Therefore, he can’t be listed as a Democratic member of the Commission. This results in all five members listed with none being valid members of the Democratic Party.”

At the end of his letter to Fadness, Weingarten called for Fadness to replace one member of the police commission and two members of the fire commission to comply with Indiana code.

“I don’t think they have a choice,” Weingarten said. “I think they need to remove one of the Republicans and replace them with a real Democrat.”

Weingarten said the response he received from the city was “nonsense.”

“It said basically they are not in the wrong,” he said. “But we have proof, and through the primary (elections), they didn’t qualify if they don’t vote Democrat.”

Weingarten said if the board must make a decision on whether or not to take disciplinary action against an officer or firefighter, it may not be legal due to the political make-up of the commission.

“If I were a firefighter or police officer and I was fired, I would be looking into that,” he said.
The City of Fishers did not respond to several requests from Current for comment.


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