Foyst candidacy case continues with evidence hearing


A lawsuit regarding the candidacy of a newly-elected city councilman will continue into December — and possibly the new year.

An evidentiary hearing was held Tuesday morning for Bartholomew County Democratic Party Chair Ross Thomas’ lawsuit against Republican Joseph Jay Foyst, who recently won the District 6 seat on Columbus City Council in the Nov. 7 election. Thomas seeks a declaratory judgment that Foyst was ineligible to appear as a candidate on the ballot.

Special Judge K. Mark Loyd said that, after receiving further information from both parties by early December, he will take the case under advisement starting on Dec. 8. He will then have up to 90 days to make a ruling, though he told The Republic that he does not intend to take the whole period to reach a decision.

“This is a fairly complex legal issue that we are dealing with, or set of issues, as it continues to develop,” he said during the hearing.

Foyst was initially selected as the Bartholomew County Republican Party’s nominee during a party caucus in July. The caucus was convened after no Republican filed to run for the office in the party’s May primary.

Thomas then filed a formal challenge against Foyst, arguing that his candidacy was invalid because the GOP had failed to file its notice for a party caucus with the clerk’s office by the required deadline.

The election board upheld the challenge in August, but the Republican Party decided to hold another caucus and selected Foyst once again to fill the vacancy, pointing to a section in the Indiana Code that allows parties to fill a vacancy within 30 days under certain circumstances.

Thomas attempted to challenge Foyst’s candidacy again, but his request was denied by Bartholomew County Clerk Shari Lentz because the deadline had passed to file a challenge. He then filed the lawsuit in early September.

Foyst won the race for District 6 with 454 votes (59.5% of the vote), with Munoz receiving 309 votes (40.5% of the vote).

Foyst’s attorney, George Hoffman, III, filed a motion to dismiss the suit on Monday, stating that Indiana Code 3-12-8-1, 3-12-8-2 and 3-12-8-5 provide the grounds under which an election can be contested. Among other things, these statutes state that a candidate who did not win an election — or the county chairman of his or her party — is allowed to contest the election of the winning candidate if certain circumstances are met.

Hoffman stated that neither Thomas nor Foyst’s opponent, Democrat Bryan Munoz, filed such a petition in time to meet the necessary deadlines.

“The procedure for contesting an election is purely statutory and strict compliance with the statute is required to invoke the subject matter jurisdiction of a Trial Court and the failure to comply with the requirements of the statute will result in dismissal,” he wrote.

Hoffman argued that the pending case should be dismissed because Thomas “failed to invoke the subject matter jurisdiction required for this Court to hear a challenge of the election of Joseph ‘Jay’ Foyst.”

During Tuesday’s hearing, Thomas said that he had only just received Hoffman’s motion to dismiss the night before and requested more time to respond.

He also said that he does not believe that the statutory procedure to contest election results would supersede the pending case, which he feels could have been decided prior to the election if not for delays.

Loyd granted Thomas’s request, giving him until Dec. 4 to respond to the motion. Hoffman will also have a chance to respond to Thomas’ rebuttal before the judge begins taking the case under advisement.