Trustee removed from office for first time in Indiana history, officials say

Judge orders Sandra Norman removed

MARTINSVILLE, Ind. - For what appears to be the first time in Indiana history, a judge has removed a public official from office for failing to do her job.

Ashland Township Trustee Sandra Norman admitted Wednesday she failed to file annual reports as required by law.

The court accepted her admission and issued an order removing her from office .

Norman's removal from office comes after efforts from Paul Joyce, deputy examiner from the State Board of Accounts, and County Prosecutor Steve Sonnega, to hold public officials more accountable for how they spend tax dollars .

"I give Steve Sonnega a lot of credit for following through with this and holding this public official accountable," Paul Joyce told Call 6 Investigator Kara Kenney Thursday. "I think it creates a good blue print for other prosecutors to follow for public officials who aren't doing the job they're elected to do."

Under Indiana law, a public official who fails to keep financial books can be removed from office.

However, Joyce said this is the first time it's actually happened since the law went into effect in 1909.

Last year, the Call 6 Investigators found two thirds of public officials accused of misusing tax dollars are never criminally prosecuted and many keep their jobs even after facing criminal charges.

Joyce said Norman's case may spur other prosecutors to take action.

"It's a start," said Joyce. "Public officials have to be held accountable."

Sonnega told Kenney Thursday that Norman is living out of the county and is not doing anything, to his knowledge.

"I'm glad we were able to get her out of office and they can replace her, that is a major accomplishment just to get her out of office," he said. "Hopefully the new person will get engaged in training and do it right and is responsible."

Norman was also arrested earlier this month and charged with stealing $270,576 in taxpayer money , one of the largest theft cases for an Indiana township.

According to Sonnega, Norman pleaded guilty to theft and official misconduct, both felonies, Wednesday and will be sentenced on Nov. 25 at 4:00 p.m.

Norman has vowed to repay the money, Sonnega said.

Call 6 Investigator Kara Kenney caught up with Norman in July, but she did not have any explanation for the missing money .

"No comment," Norman told Kenney as she left court July 12. "You guys should stop. I said no comment."

Norman's case is the first time in Indiana history that a county prosecutor has taken such action against a public official.

"It's very problematic when a trustee doesn't do the job the law requires," Sonnega said after Norman's hearing in July. "The filing of reports is pretty fundamental."

The Attorney General's Office sent demand letters to Norman, requesting she repay $7,860 after the State Board of Accounts found she made purchases without supporting documentation, including hotel stays, mileage, conferences, utilities, repair work and other expenses.

Morgan County Republican Chairman Daniel Elliott told Kenney that once the legal process is complete and there's a vacancy, the party will hold a caucus to select a new Ashland Township trustee.

Norman replaced her mother, Dorothy Brummett, who submitted her resignation in 2010 saying the township was out of money for poor relief .

While she was still in office In 2010, Brummett told Kenney that because of personal issues, she didn't do the best job as trustee.

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