Happening in Franklin: City council member resigns after sharing post with derogatory comments

The Franklin City Council member who came under fire for sharing a post on social media that made derogatory remarks about certain countries, Democrats and votes has resigned.

Joe Ault, a Republican who has represented District 1 in the city for decades, announced his resignation in a letter to the city and the Johnson County Republican Party on Thursday afternoon.

He wrote: “In light of what has transpired over the past few days I have changed my mind and will be resigning my seat on the Franklin City Council as of this date.

“After having a few days to think about this I can see no reason to put the City or the Council through anymore bad publicity. I know the city is in very capable hands with the current leadership that’s in place. Once again I want to apologize to the citizens of Franklin and to the Council for my lack of good judgment in this matter.”

Late last week, Ault shared a Facebook post that said “We bring people from s***hole countries because s***hole Democrats need s***hole votes so they can turn America into a s***hole. Do you agree?”

Franklin Mayor Steve Barnett said the comments were disappointing and were not reflective of the city’s attitude, and asked Ault to do what was best for the city. Commenters on social media called for Ault’s resignation from the city council, but Ault said Monday that he would not resign.

He deleted the post Monday afternoon and said he was sorry for putting the city in a bad light. He characterized the post as part of a nine-year exchange of jabs with liberal friends. He said he was not racist and did not judge people based on their political party, and his record as an elected official proved it.

He said Thursday evening that he was angry at himself as the situation was unfolding Monday, and changed his mind and decided to resign after reflecting on the matter.

“I don’t want to bring any more bad publicity to the city, and it’s time,” he said Thursday evening. He said no one contacted him directly to ask him to resign.

“It’s my decision, and I just felt it was the best thing to do for everyone involved,” Ault said. Earlier this week, he apologized for putting Franklin in a bad light and said that he never intended to offend anyone.

Several social media groups brought Ault’s post to the attention of their memberships and called on their members to take action. Some of them planned to attend the upcoming Franklin City Council meeting on Monday.

Ault reflected on his years of service to the city and his continual re-election by the voters in District 1.

“I feel like I contributed to the city in several ways, and obviously the city has progressed since I first came on the council,” he said. He remarked on the aesthetic and financial conditions of the city and the progress and growth in matters that he had been a part of, such as a city government building boom, the flood of 2008, redistricting and changes in property assessment.

“I’ve had more good times on the council than I’ve had bad times,” he said.

Ault also has been a reserve deputy at the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office for more than 20 years. Sheriff Doug Cox said earlier this week that he would ask the chief deputy and the deputies who oversee the reserve program to look into the matter.

The office had spoken to Ault and was consulting with attorneys, then Cox would make a decision about Ault’s status, the sheriff said Thursday evening. Until a decision is made, Ault is not working as a reserve deputy and does not have the authority to take on part-time work as a reserve sheriff’s deputy, Cox said.

Reserve deputies work for free and serve at the pleasure of the sheriff and do not face promotion, termination or punishment by an appointed merit board, as full-time police officers and sheriff’s deputies typically do in Indiana.

Ault’s post a week ago came hours after the national news that President Donald Trump had grown frustrated with lawmakers in a meeting in the Oval Office and reportedly questioned why people from s***hole countries were coming to the United States.

Ault’s term on the Franklin City Council ends at the end of 2019, and a caucus will be conducted to fill his position on the seven-member board until city elections are conducted next year.

The county Republican Party will conduct the caucus, and precinct committee members will select the new city council member.

The city council is a seven-member elected board that is responsible for approving the city’s annual budget and local ordinances.