VERNON — No charges will be filed against former Jennings County Sheriff Earl Taggart for potentially mishandling absentee ballots.
Last week, Barry S. Brown, a Bloomington-based attorney appointed special prosecutor in the case, concluded there was insufficient evidence to charge Taggart with the Class D felony he faced.
In April, the Jennings County Election Board asked Indiana State Police to investigate Taggart’s handling of ballots belonging to Don and Betty Johnson.
At the time, Taggart was seeking the Republican nomination for Jennings County sheriff.
Taggart maintained he was merely trying to assist the Johnsons.
Betty Johnson told the election board that she and her husband requested Democratic ballots and began completing them before realizing that Taggart, whom they wanted to support, was on the Republican ballot.
The couple considered burning their ballots and not participating in the election, but Taggart convinced them to return the ballots to the election office.
Johnson was recovering from a broken leg and could not make the trip to the courthouse. So, with the couple’s permission, Taggart voided the ballots and took them to the election office on their behalf.
The election board, comprised of two Democrats and a Republican, voted along party lines to have Taggart’s actions investigated.
Democrat board members Ron Bloemer and Shaun Louden believed they lacked the authority to decide if Taggart violated parts of Indiana Code 3-14-2-16, which deals with examination, receipt, possession, completion or delivery of absentee ballots.
Instead, they turned the case over to ISP.
Taggart said on Wednesday, the board should have involved the state attorney general, not ISP.
He also believes some or all members of the election board should have recused themselves from the case over what he called conflicts of interest.
“I’m very happy that it turned out the way I thought it was going to turn out,” Taggart said.
“I think they (Taggart’s wife and children) just took it a lot harder than I did, I had faith in the system …. I’m kind of used to being the target.”
Asked if he had any plans to again run for sheriff, Taggart said it’s far too early to say.
For now, he’s content raising dogs and cattle at his rural Jennings County home and serving on the Jennings County School Board.
“I really enjoy that,” he said.
“I hold no hard feelings toward anyone, but I am particular about who I drink coffee with,” Taggart joked.