WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) - Wabash Township Trustee Jennifer Teising is speaking out after accusations have risen that she does not reside in the township. She talked exclusively with News 18 to share her side of the story regarding her residency, and shared proof.
"Innocent people shouldn't quit their job because they've been bullied and harassed and intimidated by people," she said. "All of this sparked from an article in our local tabloid that claimed that I was not a resident of West Lafayette."
Trustee Teising has a message for the people of the township: her residency is in the township and always has been for the tenure of her leadership role.
As we previously reported, this all began when accusations began to circulate that she had moved from the township to Florida.
The Wabash Township Board called for Teising to resign in December. In an email sent from the board to News 18 in December, they claimed that Teising sold her home in June and moved to Anderson, Indiana, and later Florida.
"I don't really understand where this is coming from. I have always unequivocally stated that I am a resident of West Lafayette and that I have followed all the Indiana state laws regarding residency," she said. "I've spoken with lawyers now and I've consulted with several people and a residency expert in the state of Indiana for elected officials specifically."
Documents Teising showed News 18 indicated that she did sell her home on Princess Drive in June. Her lease agreement and moving company records show she moved out in June and started renting a home on Knox Drive starting July 1st. She also had bank statements showing regular payments in rent since then.
Her current voter registration card was processed on July 20th and has the Knox Drive address on it.
The Wabash Township office closed in March of 2020 for COVID-19 and still has not reopened. She said when Governor Eric Holcomb closed government offices for pandemic protocols, he did not say that elected officials had to remain in their area of jurisdiction while working remotely. So she said she took advantage of this chance to travel and see loved ones.
"I have a mobile RV," she said, and had the vehicle registration for the RV, which is registered at her Knox Drive address. "I pulled it all over. I went to different friends and family in Anderson, Indianapolis, Colorado, Florida, Vincennes. This was a way to visit friends and family in a socially distant environment where I didn't put anybody at risk."
Teising also took this interview opportunity to address other controversial issues that have risen in the past few months. Members of the Wabash Township board said that she has been difficult to work with when it comes to moving forward with a funding plan for the fire department, and that it appears she doesn't do a lot of the leg work on these plans.
"We laid out a three year funding plan that is on our website along with all the subsequent board meetings on there," she said. "I think if you watch them from the beginning, it's very clear that we've followed the plan that we laid out."
She said she believes the township board has overstepped its duties in recent months. She said the board has very specific roles and responsibilities under the Indiana statute that are mainly in a financial oversight role. She said the trustee has discretion over management of the fire department as far as hiring and firing employees.
This ties back to former Fire Chief Ed Ward, who was fired in December. Teising said she couldn't go into specifics on her decision into letting Ward go. However, she brought up News 18's previous interview with Ward where he said he was completely blind sided by the move to let him go.
"There were other members of the community involved in this process that were brought on in a mentoring capacity," she said. "These issues were discussed for months and if he was surprised by it he was the only one."
The volunteer firefighters got involved next and decided to boycott work for several days because Ward was not given due process. In February, the Wabash Township Firefighters Association voted unanimously for no confidence in Trustee Teising and called for her resignation.
Teising said she brought the issue of due process up with lawyers and they told her there are different statutory rules regarding due process for volunteer firefighters, and those laws state that due process does not have be be given in this situation.
"That's the law and I'm sorry that that's the way it is," she said.
The tensions of the last few months have taken a disturbing and scary turn for her. She says she has received several anonymous death threats and hate messages from people through email and texts.
"They say horrible things like I hope you kill yourself and go die you b****h," she said. "And you don't know who they are. They could be the community member standing next to you or it could be someone who isn't even from here."
She said she isn't letting the push back deter her, and is turning her focus to the important work ahead of finding a funding source for the fire department.
"Lots of things in life are hard, but that doesn't mean I'm going to quit. I never quit, I keep fighting," she said directly into the News 18 camera. "I'm going to keep fighting for the people who put me in office, I'm going to make sure we get done what we set out to get done in Wabash township."
Trustee Teising is moving forward with trying to establish a fire district to create a permanent funding source, but she said the township is in a tough spot right now: either raise taxes or reduce services. She hopes people will give feedback about what they want to see happen and become more educated about the fire district plan by going to the township trustee website.