INDIANAPOLIS — The East Chicago City Council has begun the process of removing from office jailed Councilman Robert Battle, but the Indiana General Assembly may still give the council the option of temporarily replacing the alleged murderer.
The House Judiciary Committee, including state Reps. Donna Harris, D-East Chicago, and Vernon Smith, D-Gary, voted 12-0 Monday to revise Senate Bill 146 and advance it to the full chamber.
The legislation authorizes a council majority to declare a member "disabled" due to incarceration lasting more than 90 days. The proposal also was expanded to include disability due to physical or mental incapacitation.
Under the plan, the disability finding triggers a meeting of precinct committeemen who appoint a replacement councilman who serves until the original member says he or she is capable of returning — and a council majority agrees.
Battle, 42, has been held without bond in Porter County Jail since Nov. 17 after pleading not guilty to federal drug and homicide charges tied to the killing of Reimundo Camarillo Jr., 31, on Oct. 12 in East Chicago. His trial is scheduled for late summer.
The City Council initially declined to use its power to expel Battle by a two-thirds vote and asked state lawmakers for another option.
However, the council on Thursday approved an expulsion process that eventually could lead to Battle's removal.