Elizabethtown’s clerk-treasurer will be removed from office once a judge accepts her guilty pleas for wire fraud and filing a false tax return.
Gail Greathouse, 57, of Columbus, is accused of defrauding an Edinburgh business of $2.1 million, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. She faces six counts of wire fraud and one count of filing a false income tax report. Greathouse has petitioned the U.S. District Court to enter a guilty plea to all seven counts.
State law says public officials who are convicted of or plead guilty to felony charges automatically are disqualified from office, said Dale Simmons, co-legal counsel for the Indiana Secretary of State’s Election Division.
If the disqualified office holder belongs to a political party, that party would choose a replacement through a caucus, Simmons said. If the person is an independent, then the town council picks a replacement, he added.
Greathouse has performed her duties as clerk-treasurer despite being under investigation since October 2010 for taking money from LB Mold Inc. of Edinburgh. Simmons said state law does not allow a public official to be removed for being accused of a crime or being investigated for one.
Greathouse was appointed Elizabethtown’s clerk-treasurer on Nov. 1, 1993, by then-Bartholomew County Democratic Party Chairman Robert Harden, according to records in the Voter Registration Office at the Bartholomew County Courthouse.
Since her appointment, Greathouse’s name never has appeared on an election ballot. That’s because Elizabethtown has not held elections since the early 1970s.
State law allows towns to cancel elections if all the candidates running for office are unopposed.
Fred Barnett, one of the three Elizabethtown Town Council members, said the council would follow state laws and do what is in the best interests of the town’s residents.
He said he had not had a chance to discuss Thursday’s announcement with the other two board members, James Brown and Eric Peery. However, Barnett said they would have more answers for people at the 7 p.m. Monday Town Council meeting at Town Hall, 100 West St.
Messages left for town board members Brown and Peery were not returned.
Barnett was appointed to the board in January 2012. He replaced David H. Thompson, Greathouse’s son-in-law.
Thompson and his wife, Rhonda Thompson, who is Greathouse’s daughter, owned and operated an automotive repair and restoration company to which Greathouse is accused of funneling money from LB Mold Inc.
Greathouse has continued her role as clerk-treasurer during the investigation and performed it the way she always has, Barnett said. However, he has asked the State Board of Accounts to review the town’s finances for 2011 and 2012, even though the council members have no reason to suspect any wrongdoing, Barnett said.
“Just to be safe,” Barnett said. “I’m not an accountant.”
The investigation in 2010 sparked an audit of the town’s finances for the period Jan. 1, 2008, to Dec. 31, 2010. The State Board of Accounts report found record-keeping errors, overdrawn balances and payments exceeding budgeted amounts.
None of the findings from that audit are related to the federal charges against Greathouse.
Barnett said he wasn’t sure what Thursday’s announcement about Greathouse means for Elizabethtown, but he didn’t want the news to overshadow good things that have happened in the past year. For example, he said the Town Hall was made handicap-accessible, a learning library was opened for kids, senior citizen luncheons were started at the Town Hall and the town received a $203,000 state grant to repair homes.
The Town Hall in Elizabethtown was locked up Thursday afternoon with snow from last week’s storms still covering the sidewalk in front of it.
Allen Cox, who owns Elizabethtown Liquors, said he felt residents in the community are not notified in a timely fashion about town board and clerk-treasurer elections.
“If nobody is pushing it, she’s going to stay elected all the time,” Cox said.
Cox said he and other Elizabethtown business owners suggested that Greathouse be removed as clerk-treasurer after the thefts from the Edinburgh business made headlines in 2010, but those efforts were unsuccessful.
Republic reporter Mark Webber contributed to this story.