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Attorney: Park board appointments OK

By TRAVIS WEIK - tweik@thecouriertimes.com

Henry County Memorial Park is known as the “largest memorial in the State of Indiana.” The designation is even included in its marketing materials.

This distinction between “county park” and “war memorial” means different rules apply to Henry County’s public park, said Joel Harvey, who serves as attorney for the county.

“I don’t have concerns regarding the Commissioners’ authority to appoint persons to the Park Board,” Harvey said.

Harvey said the statute governing appointments to the Board of Trustees of Memorial Park is Indiana Code 10-18-3-6, the section of state law regulating war memorials, rather than Indiana Code 36-10-3, which governs general park and recreation law.

Under war memorial code, once a county establishes a war memorial, the county commissioners must appoint five trustees “for the establishment, maintenance, management, and control of the memorial.”

In this case, that means the Henry County Commissioners appoint the five members of the Board of Trustees of Memorial Park.

Under IC 10-18, the Memorial Park Board has full charge and supervision of “the construction of the memorial adopted” and authority to employ a superintendent, engineer or architect.

Legal history

Henry County Commissioner Kim Cronk reminded The Courier-Times Friday that this issue of the state law governing Memorial Park came up as recently as 2007, when the commissioners and the Memorial Park Board faced each other in court.

At that time, the debate was over who had authority to hire the park superintendent.

According to court documents, the Memorial Park Board argued in that case: “The statutes (I.C. §10-18-3-1 et seq.) under which the County Council and Commissioners created the Henry County War Memorial Park was adopted by the General Assembly in 1919 and provides that a bi-partisan Board of Trustees shall manage the park and hire its superintendent.”

On Sept. 7, 1920, the Henry County Council passed an ordinance and the Henry County Commissioners passed a resolution creating Henry County’s Memorial Park.

The park board in 2007 argued IC 10-18-3-1 was the only statutory section at that time authorizing the creation of a World War Memorial, so it is the sole guiding legislation over Memorial Park.

“This was created as a war memorial and not a county park system,” the 2007 Memorial Park Board stated.

The courts ultimately decided in favor of the Memorial Park Board in that case, accepting their argument that IC 10-18-3-1 is the governing legislation over Henry County’s park.

While the commissioners at that time appealed this decision, the Court of Appeals ultimately dismissed the commissioners’ motion.

Park name

Throughout the 2007 court case, the park is referred to by the full name “Henry County War Memorial Park,” “War Memorial Park of Henry County” or “Henry County War Memorial.”

Park board members have recently discussed using the full name, so as to remind Henry County residents and visitors of Memorial Park’s true nature and purpose.

Advisory Park Board

The Henry County Commissioners voted in January to also appoint three people to an “advisory park board.”

Commissioner Ed Tarantino said in January these people would “serve on the park board as non-voting members.”

Cronk said Friday the appointments were not actually to an “advisory park board.” Instead, those people were selected to serve as needed or “ad-hoc” for the commissioners at Memorial Park Board meetings.

Harvey said the Commissioners appointed this group to serve on ad-hoc basis as non-voting participants in park board meetings.

“As I understand things, these persons have an interest in and want to be involved with the Park and are willing to attend the meetings and work with the Park Board and the Commissioners,” Harvey said. “It is not a formal board or committee that has specified powers by statute.”

Harvey noted there is not a resolution regarding the advisory park board, much like there is not for other committees that are formed by government bodies to review a particular issue and make a report.