Audit probe moves forward: Jackson County prosecutor will weigh charges

The Jackson County prosecutor has agreed to determine whether criminal charges will be filed against a former Rockcreek Township trustee in Bartholomew County.

AmyMarie Travis has been appointed to serve as special prosecutor in the matter of David E. Buzzard, 16750 E. County Road 200S, and his wife, Jacqueline, court officials said.

The Buzzards, both 50, were paid more than twice as much over a four-and-a-half-year period than they were entitled to receive — he as trustee, the highest-ranking position in township government, and she as township clerk, according to a State Board of Accounts audit filed Sept. 12.

One day after the audit was filed, Bartholomew County Prosecutor Bill Nash asked Circuit Court Judge Kelly Benjamin to appoint a special prosecutor to avoid possible appearances of impropriety because he and Buzzard were both elected GOP office holders in the same county, Nash said.

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Jennings County prosecutor Brian Belding had been asked to serve as special prosecutor but declined.

A court reporter for Benjamin confirmed the judge had difficulty securing a special prosecutor from neighboring counties. That’s likely because almost all Indiana prosecutors are currently burdened with heavy caseloads, Travis said.

Although Travis has accepted the responsibility, she has reserved the option of appointing one of her deputy prosecutors to handle most details, said Brenda Mijares, Nash’s office administrator. Nash served as special prosecutor in the June trial of a Jackson County commissioner.

From the beginning of 2012 through late summer of 2016, David and Jacqueline Buzzard should have been paid no more than a combined $26,000, the state board of accounts audit states.

However, the Buzzards actually received $54,141 during that period, according to an affidavit signed in April by field examiner and auditor Eugene West of Hancock County.

Records show David Buzzard paid back $12,825 to the township shortly before submitting his resignation Sept. 12, 2016, to Bartholomew County GOP chairwoman Barb Hackman. Four days later, a GOP caucus resulted in Marcus Speer being appointed as Buzzard’s successor.

The State Board of Accounts is requesting the return of another $27,541 in monies they claim were overpaid to the Buzzards, according to the audit.

Travis did not give any indication of a time frame for filing charges, saying only that she will first examine all evidence gathered by the State Board of Accounts before making any decision.

This is the fifth time in the past three years that township officials in Bartholomew County have been investigated for financial improprieties.

Other elected officials who have been investigated include former Clay Township Trustee Rebecca A. “Becky” Smith, 2017; former Wayne Township Trustee Clint Madden, 2016; and former Clay Township Trustee Christa K. Acton and Deputy Trustee, Laurie L. Baker, 2014.

For Travis, this will be the fourth time she has served as a special prosecutor in Bartholomew County.

After earning her law degree from Indiana University in 1993, Travis served as chief deputy, first deputy, deputy prosecutor and senior trial attorney in Lake, Monroe and Jackson counties.

She replaced former Jackson County Prosecutor Rick Poynter when he became Circuit Court Judge on Jan. 1, 2013. Travis was then elected to the office in her own right the following year.

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Mark Webber is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at mwebber@therepublic.com or 812-379-5636.