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House speaker to help define Greenwood clerk role

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In year three of Greenwood’s life as a second-class city, not all the kinks have been worked out from the transition.

That’s why the city clerk’s office has hired lawyer Brian Bosma, Indiana House speaker, R-Indianapolis, to help interpret state law and write a job description for the court clerk, a role that is now the city clerk’s job under the new classification.

Greenwood switched from third-class city status to a second-class city in 2012. A city can choose to become second-class when the population tops 35,000. Second-class cities have nine council members rather than seven, one or more deputy mayors to help run the city and a city council president who presides over meetings instead of the mayor. They also have a mayor-appointed controller to manage city finances, instead of an elected clerk-treasurer.

The clerk-treasurer position was split into two offices. The elected clerk now maintains city records, while the appointed controller oversees the finances, keeping track of spending, account balances and income.

The clerk’s role hasn’t been clearly defined, especially with duties such as filing cases for the city court and managing court finances, Clerk Jeannine Myers said.

Greenwood wanted to avoid conflict, while also following state law, which at times seems unclear. For example, state law says the city clerk should be the court clerk and will manage the fines the court receives, but the law doesn’t state if the clerk has to work in the court’s offices or if she manages court employees, Myers said.

She hired Bosma because, as a legislator, he knows state law well and his opinion could help avoid confusion, she said. Bosma is an attorney with Kroger Gardis & Regas LLP of Indianapolis and specializes in municipal law.

Jeffersonville, which became a second-class city at the same time as Greenwood, struggled while figuring out which court employees and files the clerk should manage. From Jeffersonville, Greenwood officials saw that the law wasn’t clear about all of the clerk’s responsibilities in a city court, Myers said.

Myers hired Bosma in early 2013 after auditors from the Indiana State Board of Accounts asked her to approve financial documents from the city court, and she didn’t feel comfortable signing off on records she hadn’t handled.

She also thought that getting into her office in the new city building that Greenwood is renovating would help her and the judge decide where to store city court case files and other documents her office hasn’t handled in the past, she said. But moving into the city building has taken longer than planned, and she now hopes to have the city council approve a definition of her position before the new city hall opens in April.

“We’re trying to think through everything as clearly and carefully as we can,” Judge Lew Gregory said. “We’re not talking about any new jobs being done, any new work being done. We’re talking about dividing the existing work out to include the clerk’s role.”

The city court already has employees doing the tasks that state law says Myers should be doing, such as accepting payments for traffic fines and court costs. And the city has let the court continue as it has been, with some tweaks. For example, court employees now take arrest warrants to Myers to sign, when in the past those weren’t handled by the clerk-treasurer at all.

Myers also wants confirmation that the way the court has given her tasks, with court papers coming to her office for signatures, is legal, she said.

“I think I know what they do, but if I’m responsible, I want to be hands-on,” Myers said. “I just want to be in compliance with the (law), to make sure that I’m performing my duties and that everything’s being done legally.”

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