County councilman wants to introduce ‘bylaws’ for the council

Greg Duke

COLUMBUS, Ind. — Bartholomew County Councilman Greg Duke is planning to introduce “county council bylaws” at the council’s next meeting, although county and state officials are skeptical about the legality of the move.

“I will be forwarding to you some proposals for the possible adoption of county council bylaws,” Duke informed the council during a Nov. 9 meeting.

Although the seven-member council has the ultimate decision-making power regarding fiscal affairs in county government, it is the Indiana General Assembly that determines their authority, according to county and state officials.

Bylaws are defined in the dictionary as “a rule made by a company or society to control the actions of its members.”

“I wasn’t aware that county councils had bylaws,” said Leslie Wells of the Indiana University Public Policy Institute. “They certainly can’t change procedures that are part of state law.”

Up until 1980, local units of government, including counties, were entirely dependent on the actions of the General Assembly for their authority, the Association for Indiana Counties states on its website.

When counties were granted specific home rule powers in 1980, it is the three county commissioners rather than the county council who were named custodians of those powers. The only exceptions were Lake, Marion and St. Joseph counties, according to the association.

After discussing the matter with legal experts, Wells said the only potential bylaw change allows county councils to create their own version of Roberts Rules of Order. These rules serves as a parliamentary guide for conducting meetings and making decisions as a group.

For more on this story, see Wednesday’s Republic.