SOUTH BEND, Ind. – A bill that is expected to soon become law in Indiana would stop firefighters and police officers from holding a city or county government position at the same time. Indiana House Bill 1005 will crack down on nepotism and conflicts of interests.
The bill does two things. It’ll stop elected officials from hiring or overseeing a relative, and it will also cause city and county employees to give up their jobs if they win an elected position in city or county government.
“It's ridiculous that you would exclude a police or fireman who wanted to serve their community,” said Derek Dieter.
Dieter is the current South Bend Common Council President. He’s served on the council for nine years, and is also a member of the police force. This is his 34th year with the South Bend Police Department.
City and county employees, like Dieter, could still run for office, but if they win, they’d have to quit their public safety jobs.
One of the biggest complaints of the overlap of power is that council members vote of the salary of public safety officials.
Dieter said the public is protected because salary votes go through many other avenues, like the unions and the mayor’s office, before the council ever gets a vote.
"I think it's really unfair to characterize a police or fireman just going to the council so they can vote for their own salary. I think it's a ludicrous statement to make and an absolutely ridiculous thing to send out to those public safety officers who want to step up and help out their community,” said Dieter.
He said if that is the salary argument is the main one, then fix it without stopping them from serving.
"If it's truly a conflict over wages just make an amendment, you don't vote for wages. There, boom, problem solved,” said Dieter.
Dieter also argues that these are elected positions, so voters know who they’re choosing.
“They know who you are when you run for office. Apparently, if they thought it was that big of an issue you wouldn’t be elected,” said Dieter.
He said these overlaps in experience can have positive impacts when it comes to having an insight into what a police officer and/or firefighters’ jobs entails when making city or county decisions.
Dieter’s jobs will not be affected by the bill since he will retire from the police department before the next election.
There is a grandfather clause in the bill that allows anyone with a current position as of January 1, 2013, to keep their position until the next election.
The bill passed the Senate with a few changes on February 27th with a vote of 30-19.
It should come before the House again on Tuesday March 6th.
It’s expected to pass because it overwhelmingly passed before going to the senate with a vote of 70-26.