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Wayne Township trustee out of office following criminal conviction involving nonprofit

Chuck Jones' last day was June 27
Wayne Township trustee Chuck Jones has resigned from office following Monday’s conviction for Conflict of Interest, a misdemeanor.
Posted at 7:41 AM, Jun 29, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-29 12:36:13-04

INDIANAPOLIS — Wayne Township Trustee Chuck Jones has resigned from office following Monday’s conviction for Conflict of Interest, a misdemeanor.

In a resignation letter obtained by WRTV Investigates, Jones said Monday, June 27 was his last day, the same day a judge accepted his guilty plea.

“I have appreciated working with you and I appreciate your service to the Township,” Jones’ letter read. “Pamela Presley will serve as the Interim Trustee in my absence and Lynn McWhirter will act as her Designee if she were to become incapacitated.”

The Marion County Democratic Party will now be tasked with finding a temporary replacement for Jones.

Jeff Harris, a spokesperson for the party, said they are hoping to send out notice of a caucus Wednesday and have the caucus on Saturday, July 9. State law requires a 10-day notice.

Voters will elect a new township trustee, Democrat Jeb Bardon or Republican Rick Scott, on November 8, 2022.

Jones and three other current and former Wayne Township employees pleaded guilty Monday to Conflict of Interest, a high-level misdemeanor, following a 2021 WRTV investigation into compensation involving a nonprofit.

Jones, current fire chief Mike Lang, former fire chief Randy Adams and mechanic James Parham all appeared in court remotely Monday morning and pleaded guilty to misdemeanor Conflict of Interest.

None of them will serve any jail time.

Court documents reveal the charges involve the public officials' involvement in Wayne Township Fire Department, Inc., a non-profit corporation founded in 1954.

Prosecutors allege between December 20, 2019, and May 19, 2021, they "knowingly or intentionally" profited from contracts between the nonprofit, Wayne Township Fire Department, Inc, and the fire department.

As WRTV reported in 2021, township officials have been receiving compensation through the nonprofit, which is funded through donations and taxpayer money.

As part of a plea agreement with prosecutors, the charge was reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor.

Adams, Jones, and Lang must each repay $31,939 in restitution and mechanic James Parham has to pay $1,200 in restitution for total of $97,017.

Their criminal charge can be expunged after a year if they pay the money back to the taxpayers.

According to the prosecutor’s office, Indiana law says Chuck Jones will no longer be allowed to serve as an elected public official.

WRTV Investigates caught up with Jones, but he declined to answer questions including if he has anything to say to the taxpayers of Wayne Township.

PREVIOUS | Democrats ask Chuck Jones to step down

Adams, Jones and Lang do not have to serve probation, but Parham will be on non-reporting probation for 363 days.

Parham’s probation does not include drug and alcohol testing, according to the court hearing.

The criminal case is separate from an audit released last week by the Indiana State Board of Accounts that said they must repay $351,505 to the taxpayers.

Lang released the following statement to the Wayne Township Fire Department Monday afternoon, which said he will serve an unpaid suspension:

"Over the past year, in addition to working with the Indiana State Board of Accounts for the Township and Corporation’s audit, I have also been providing subpoenaed information for an investigation by the Marion County Prosecutor's Office. After consultation with my attorney, I have accepted the fact that while operating as the President of Wayne Township Fire Department, Inc., I should have filed the necessary form to disclose a conflict of interest. This oversight is my own fault, as the conflict of interest laws have changed since my start in that position in 2001. I will be resigning from the corporation board as soon as the state audit and all actions have been completed to fulfill the funding being returned to the township. Contrary to the rumor mill, all donated funds are still available for their intended purposes.

After working in partnership with four trustees and five fire chiefs, I am proud of the accomplishments that were reached through the 22 plus year partnership with our fire department and the former volunteer corporation. Many of the programs supported, would not be possible without that partnership.

I indicated after the Conflict of Interest charge was filed, I would make a statement once my plea agreement was accepted by the court. Today, my plea agreement was accepted by the judge as presented. While the charge was filed as a Felony, I agreed to a plea agreement as a misdemeanor. Under the terms of the plea agreement, I will make restitution in the amount determined by the Prosecutors Office as soon as the court record is updated and allows me to do so.

With the legal process behind me, I have accepted the discipline associated with the misdemeanor charge in which I agreed to in my plea agreement. I will serve an unpaid suspension at the discretion of the Trustee.

I will await the selection of the new Trustee to determine my next assignment. I will continue to work every day to support our great fire department and continue to move in a positive direction, regardless of the position I am assigned."

RELATED | Audit says trustee and fire employees owe $351K

Jones released a statement last month about the charges.

"I am writing to address my recent legal concerns and reinforce my deep respect and admiration for our community. I am disappointed to share that I recently had a conflict of interest that may have affected my tenure as Wayne Township Trustee. I would like to take this opportunity to apologize to my employees, the citizens of Wayne Township, and the rest of my community. I solemnly regret my actions that created this conflict of interest and I have taken full responsibility for my lack of discretion. I pray that our community will heal and continue to blossom as I take steps to remedy this unfortunate situation.

On advice of my attorney, I may not share any further details at this time. However, I plan to be as transparent with you as possible and will relay more information as soon as I am able."

Taxes filed in 2020 show the nonprofit’s five board members each received an annual salary of $17,500 totaling $87,500.

Adams, Jones and Parham are listed as directors for the nonprofit, Lang is the president and Tim Smith is the secretary, according to the 990 filed in 2020.

The board members’ nonprofit compensation is even more concerning considering Lang and Adams have already taken heat over their fire department administration pay.

PREVIOUS | Wayne Township Fire Department administrators take heat over overtime pay | New fire chief pledges changes to payroll

WRTV Investigates found the current and former fire chiefs, as well as the township trustee, used the nonprofit to pay themselves on top of their six-figure government salaries.

As WRTV reported in June 2021, Lang got paid a total of $151,766 in 2020 as a deputy chief at the fire department including $14,445 in overtime.

As fire chief, Adams got paid $190,345 in 2020 including $41,860 in overtime.

On top of their government salaries and overtime, they also received $17,500 salaries from the nonprofit—some call this “triple dipping.”

As township trustee, Jones received $105,504 in compensation in 2020 for his elected position.

PREVIOUS | Wayne Twp changes overtime rules for fire administration | Fire administrators can no longer get OT under new ordinance

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