Wabash Township board members call for trustee to resign

Wabash Township board members in an email Monday morning called on Wabash Township Trustee Jennifer Teising to resign.

Posted: Dec 21, 2020 12:16 PM
Updated: Dec 21, 2020 6:11 PM

TIPPECANOE COUNTY, Ind. (WLFI) - Wabash Township board members in an email Monday morning called on Wabash Township Trustee Jennifer Teising to resign.

The email alleges Teising sold her home in June and moved to Anderson, Indiana, and later Florida. The email also states several concerned citizens will file a petition with the prosecutor's office to challenge her residency in Wabash Township.

The Tippecanoe County Prosecutor's Office said Monday morning that no such paperwork had been filed.

The township's secretary, Brendan Betz, says Teising has missed three of the last four board meetings.

He says she's also spent just a fraction of the money budgeted this year for township assistance amid the pandemic and record unemployment.

"Since March, the township has dispersed zero dollars in township assistance, whether that be for food, medical expenses, whether that be for rental assistance or housing assistance or utility assistance," he says. 

Betz says the township budgeted more than $18,000 for aid this year but has dispersed only about $4,200.

"We're seeing applications sit and not be processed and certainly not gain approval, so as of now we've got over $14,000 still remaining in that fund for township aid with ten days left in the year," he says. 

The email also states board members and fire fighters no longer have confidence or trust in Teising's ability to manage the township.

As News 18 previously reported, the township recently raised property taxes to pay back a $450,000 emergency fire loan. The loan was used to hire two additional full-time fire fighters with retirement and health insurance benefits.

The email, provided by Betz, states the township's "pathways to securing a permanent revenue stream for our fire department are severely, perhaps irreparably, jeopardized."

Betz says the township would need cooperation from Tippecanoe County and West Lafayette to create a fire district or fire territory, which he says are two more sustainable options to fund the fire department moving forward.

"On some level, throughout this process, we'd likely need their OK or participation or help," he says. "Right now, there's a lack of trust that exists between this trustee and those entities."

The board is holding an emergency meeting via Zoom at 6 p.m. Dec. 28.

Betz says Ed Ward, chief of the Wabash Township Fire Department, was terminated by Teising via email late Monday. Ward provided a statement to News 18 earlier Monday saying Teising placed him on paid vacation through the end of the year. The full statement is below:

"This morning I was made aware that the Wabash Township Advisory Board had sent Township Trustee Jennifer Teising a letter requesting her resignation due (at least in part) to her no longer residing within Wabash Township. While it’s clear that this situation is still evolving, I am unable to speak to the status of the situation and circumstances. I can say however with the utmost faith and confidence, that the residents of Wabash Township will continue holding the bar extremely high for those elected officials in our community and will continue to be the voice of accountability, responsibility, & transparency.

As it pertains to the impact of this situation on the Wabash Township Fire Department, I can say little more than it has created a tremendous layer of complexity to the job that we do on a daily basis. On Friday December 11th Trustee Teising advised me (via Zoom) that I was being placed on 'Paid Vacation' through the end of the year. Her reasoning was unclear and provided very little factual information as to a cause. While our agency has been significantly impacted by this move, the members of the Wabash Township Fire Department have continued to serve and respond to the needs of those in and around our community. It is my hope that this situation is able to be resolved without any further impact or interruption to not only those we serve, but also to those within our agency who have continued serving tirelessly in already unprecedented times and circumstances."

Teising characterized the opposition from members as a "coup." She provided the following statement to News 18:

"After having conversations with township personnel, it has come to my attention that the commissioners of Tippecanoe County have been uninterested in approving a fire district if I am the trustee. They are upset with me personally and 'it goes beyond you beating Dave Byers wife in the election'. This has created a problem because both Lafayette and west Lafayette fire chiefs have gone on record at the county council meetings and in writing to the township board members in support of the township fire department fire district. Therefore a faction of the fire department, lead by chief Ed ward have been working with board president Michelle whitbrock to stage a coup and get me to resign from my position. They asked me to resign because I haven’t actually done anything wrong. During this global pandemic I have been working remotely. I did indeed sell my home and become a renter. All completely within the regulations and laws of our state. I’ve attended all board meetings required by my position and supplied all the information necessary for the board to vote and complete their jobs. Which they did. I have been working with the state (we are the only township in Tippecanoe county to do so) to administer state funds in the rental assistance program. I have been working with the non profit task force hotline to make sure that township residents are receiving any funds they are eligible. This has saved the taxpayers tax dollars for next year when foreclosures are likely to start happening. The fire department has told me they have everything they need to do the job and in fact benefits have been expended under my leadership. This blatant power grab and people attacking me for their own political gain is appalling and does nothing but cement my commitment to the voters. The leadership in Tippecanoe county shouldn’t be taking their political inspiration from Donald Trump and usurping the will of the people."

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