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Gary City Councilwoman Mary Brown

Gary City Councilwoman Mary Brown

Gary City Councilwoman Mary M. Brown will quit her job at the Gary Sanitary District rather than give up her 3rd District Council seat, following a court decision.

Lake Superior Court Civil Division Judge John M. Sedia ruled Monday to uphold a state law against double dipping, ruling in favor of Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill and Indiana State Examiner Paul Joyce, who defended the ethics law.

Brown couldn't be reached for comment Monday afternoon either at City Hall, where she has represented the Gary's 3rd District – on the city's southwest side – on the City Council since 2000 or at the Gary Sanitary District where she has been continuously employed since 1995.

Her attorney, Clorius Lay, said Monday evening she will submit a letter of resignation immediately to the district where she earned $73,109 a year as a sanitary district customer service manager. She intends to remain on the council, a position in which she earns nearly $29,000 a year. 

Assistant Indiana Attorney General Jefferson S. Garn, who represented the state, said Monday afternoon they hadn't yet seen the order and declined comment.

Lay said Brown sued two years ago to get a judge to clarify conflicting legal advice she had previously received on the matter.

A recent State Board of Accounts audit filed by Joyce stated that under the ethics law Brown should have resigned her sanitary district job and she may be personally liable to reimburse any salary she received after Oct. 14, 2016.

City Council Attorney Rinzer Williams III defended Brown even before the lawsuit in a letter to the State Board of Accounts stating Brown's two jobs don't represent an ethical conflict because the city of Gary and the Gary Sanitary District are two separate government units.

The judge's order on Monday states the Gary Sanitary District was established under a state law making it part of the City Hall's executive branch, not a separate entity.

The order states, "There being no just reason for delay, a final and appealable judgement is enter in favor of the (the state) and against the plaintiff Mary Brown." Lay said she accepted the judge's decision and doesn't plan to appeal.

The state used the same law two years ago to force other municipal public officials out of office.

Susan Pelfrey gave up her seat on the New Chicago City Council to remain the town's water department manager. Michael Opinker resigned as a Hammond councilman to remain a Hammond city firefighter.

Juda Parks resigned as an East Chicago councilman to remain a city police officer, and Matthew D. Claussen left the Hobart City Council and remained a city police officer.

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Lake County Reporter

Bill has reported in Lake County since 1972 after graduating from Indiana University. He has worked for The Times since 1997, covering the courts and local government during much of his tenure. Born and raised in New Albany, Ind., he is a native Hoosier.