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Judge Will End Council Seat Controversy

Last updated on Monday, January 16, 2012

(MITCHELL) - A judge will end the controversy surrounding the legality of Evertt Ferrel’s City Council seat.

Mitchell attorney Byron Steele will file a motion for a declaratory judgment asking the courts to make a determination. Steele asked the Board of Public Works and Safety Thursday to allow him to file the motion. The city agreed to pay the $137 filing fee.

Ferrel was elected to the city council in 2003, served four years and was re-elected in 2007 and began serving his second four-year term when he found out that his property was never located within the city limits. Upon learning of the issue, former Mayor Dan Terrell declared Ferrel's seat vacant, citing Indiana code that states a council member must forfeit the seat if he "ceases to be a resident of the district."

Steele told the board Terrell didn't have the right to vacate the seat.

Steele said two things could happen: Ferrel could sue the city for back pay because Terrell refused to pay him the $4,900 a year council member salary, and the judge would determine if Ferrel was a legal councilman; or another citizen of Mitchell could file suit alleging false representation. The counselor said to avoid the lawsuits, the city could opt for a declaratory judgment and force the court to make the final determination, once and for all.

Steele said he will represent the city in court, and if Ferrel seeks representation, it will be up to him to hire a lawyer and pay the attorney fees, or "he could represent himself," Steele added.

In May 2009, William Vance, a special judge from Jackson County appointed to hear the case, ruled that the city council illegally annexed Ferrel's property into the city limits. Vance said he didn't believe a mistake had ever been made in the 1979 annexation as Ferrel contended; therefore the way the council annexed the property was not legal. However, the judge stopped short of determining whether or not Ferrel could legally serve as a councilman. The council went on to legally annex Ferrel's property.

Ferrel ran for his third term in November and defeated Roger "Moe" Keith. His third term began this month.

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