A state law aimed at curbing conflicts of interest by prohibiting volunteer firefighters from holding certain elected offices does not apply to Starke County Council members. President Dave Pearman is also an 18 year veteran of the Washington Township Volunteer Fire Department. He sought clarification about the policy when he ran for reelection.
Pearman says the township is a separate unit from the county in terms of firefighting because there’s not a county-wide fire department. Instead the county has seven township fire departments, over which the county has no authority aside from a non-binding budget review at the end of the year.
Firefighter Brad Hazelton was also recently elected to a first term on the Starke County Council. The policy does apply however to volunteer firefighters who serve on township advisory boards and has forced a few to choose one or the other.
Pearman spoke to both Reps. Tom Dermody, R-LaPorte, and Doug Gutwein, R-Francesville, about the measure. He says the state legislature may look to amend the policy to address concerns in small, rural communities where few people are willing to serve as volunteer firefighters and hold elected office.