Residents speak out about Sunman Marshal
AMY DAVIDSON PHOTO
A much larger than usual crowd gathered last Thursday, January 13 at the Sunman Town Hall for a meeting concerning the status of their police department. It was not an angry mob, but rather citizens with many questions swirling about the dismissal of their marshal, Jason Hoffman.
Town board members Don Foley, Carol Eckstein and Sharron Bennett sat before the people answering as many questions as the law would allow. Cheryl Taylor, clerk-treasurer was there to record, and Attorney John Kellerman attended as their legal counsel.
“We’ve had good police coverage…nothing has slipped through the cracks,” Foley told the crowd. This was to dismiss misinformation that the town was without police presence. While they no longer have a viable police department of their own, they have been and continue to be covered by the Ripley County Sheriff’s Office and Indiana State Police. ISP officers were in attendance at the meeting.
Some citizens expressed their disapproval of the marshal being let go, saying that they just don’t understand. Foley said, “These things are never easy,” but by law wasn’t allowed to divulge any information as to why the marshal had been fired.
Some asked if the marshal had done anything illegal and again, the board members couldn’t answer, except to confirm to their knowledge there were no criminal charges against him. “So, he (Hoffman) did not break the law?” Allison Knue asked. “We didn’t say that,” Sharron Bennett, board member responded. She, along with Carol Eckstein voted to let the marshal go, while Foley voted to keep him.
While Foley wouldn’t say who the police agencies were – he did say there were a couple who were giving guidance as they pursue a full time marshal. In the meantime, an executive session was held before the meeting on Thursday night with candidates being interviewed for the position of Interim Marshal.
“We’re going to take our time,” Foley told the citizens, about getting a permanent marshal for the town. He said a committee has been appointed that will, with the assistance of other police agencies, help them find the right candidate for the job.
It was noted at the meeting that the Reserve Marshal, Adam Boeksin had resigned, along with several of the reserve officers. Ken Steinfort, a reserve for the town who was in attendance, said he had nothing to resign from since his police powers had been stripped when the marshal was let go. His wife begged the Board to get an Interim soon so the reserves could get back to what they were passionate about – helping people.
The lack of communication between the Board and the police department was evident at the meeting with board members struggling to even say the names of their officers. Bennett said they didn’t have phone numbers of the officers to contact them when the marshal was let go. “I talked to Adam and asked him to take care of notification for me,” she said.
Steinfort said when the marshal was terminated no one (board members) had thought ahead far enough to have an interim in place so they could continue as reserves.
Knue asked if the Board thought there was room for improvement when it comes to communication from them. “There’s always room for improvement,” Foley noted, with a resident saying that was a “cop out”.
Bennett reiterated throughout the meeting, “It would be nice to have all you people who are so interested to [come] to every meeting.” She said there are very few, if any residents at the regular town board meetings.
The idea of an investigation into a robbery at the town hall was brought up without much response, except that the new marshal and team would take up the matter.
While the Board said there was no deadline to hiring another marshal, they did say they were putting this as high priority and moving forward with the process.