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(INDIANAPOLIS) – The Yorktown clerk-treasurer is fighting for her job at the Indiana Supreme Court.

Indiana law allows the state to sue to remove local elected officials for neglect of duty. State officials asked a judge last summer to remove Beth Neff, after a State Board of Accounts audit discovered she hadn’t performed the required monthly balancing of the town’s books for four years running. The audit found several accounts deep in the red, and the town spent $67,000 on an outside accounting firm to get everything sorted out.

But Neff attorney Jeffrey Heinzmann argues, and a lower court agreed, that neglect means not performing the job at all, and doing a bad job isn’t the same thing. 

The Indiana Court of Appeals reached the opposite conclusion, declaring the state doesn’t have to demonstrate she neglected every job responsibility. Deputy attorney general Tricia McMath says the clerk-treasurer has 12 statutory duties, and says Neff didn’t perform four of them — but says keeping the books balanced is so central that it affects multiple town operations.

Neff is serving her third term. Justice Christopher Goff echoed Heinzmann in saying he wants to be cautious about reversing the results of an election. Other justices wrestled with how to identify the point at which job performance crosses the line from substandard to negligent.

As always, there’s no firm date for the Supreme Court to rule.

(Photo: Brian A. Jackson/Thinkstock)