Five candidates seek prosecutor’s job in do-over caucus

The second caucus planned this month to name a new Johnson County prosecutor is set for Thursday, and this time five candidates are seeking the job.

All five of the men and woman have submitted their legally required Declaration of Candidacy forms and proof of their statement of economic interest forms, Republican Party Chairwoman Beth Boyce said on Tuesday, after the Monday night filing deadline for candidates.

The Daily Journal requested copies of the candidacy forms for review, but Boyce would not release the forms before the caucus, because state law does not require it, she said.

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She will release the forms after the caucus, she said. The event is planned for 6:30 p.m. Thursday at Grace Assembly of God Church in Greenwood.

The candidates are James Ackermann, Carrie Miles, Beckie St. John, Lori Torres and Joe Villanueva.

Local attorney Michael Vertesch decided not to re-apply for the position.

The candidacy and economic interest forms were the reason the first caucus on Aug. 15 was canceled in the final minutes, even after more than 100 Republican Party precinct committee members had gathered to hear from the candidates and vote to name a replacement to complete Brad Cooper’s term through 2022. Cooper was prosecutor for a decade. He was removed from office in July when he was convicted of felony charges.

At the Aug. 15 caucus, Boyce said none of the candidates were eligible because none had filed a state-required declaration of candidacy form by the deadline, which was 72 hours before the caucus.

She said that the party’s central committee had discovered the form was necessary after further review of Indiana law in the final two days before the caucus, after the deadline to file all proper paperwork to be a candidate had passed.

But one candidate had filed the candidacy form. Ackermann, a Greenwood resident who is a longtime deputy prosecutor in Marion and Hendricks counties, had filed the form — not once, but twice. He was disqualified because he had dated and signed the form, and had it notarized, before Cooper was removed from office. He had sent it to Boyce in June, then resubmitted it as instructed by Boyce once Cooper was removed.

The date the form is filled out and signed is not outlined in state law, but the party and its attorney Bill Barrett have said it was grounds for disqualifying him. If his form had been ruled acceptable, he would have been the only eligible candidate at the initial caucus.

A review of public records from past caucuses shows that none of the candidates placed in local office by a caucus in recent years have complied with the state law requiring the declaration of candidacy. The party knew the form existed, and routinely had candidates fill out the form the night of a caucus, rather than file it in advance as state law spells out.

At the caucus this week, the procedural rules will be reviewed, and the five candidates will be given three minutes to speak, Boyce said. As many as 131 Republican precinct committee members will vote for their candidate of choice, and the winner will need a simple majority. If multiple rounds of voting are required, the candidate with the lowest amount of votes will be removed after the second round.

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Johnson County Prosecutor Caucus

What: Local Republicans are scheduled to select the next prosecutor among five candidates.

When: 6:30 p.m. Thursday

Where: Grace Assembly of God Church, 6822 North U.S. 31, Greenwood

The event is open to the public, but seating is limited.

Results: Check on Thursday night and follow us on Facebook @DailyJournalNews