NEW PALESTINE — Clerk-Treasurer Tonii Pyle may have resigned last week, but town officials say they’re now stuck with numerous issues relating to her departure.

Principally, those issues center on missing records: Town ordinances and resolutions; claims and other financial records; and personal payroll information on town employees have disappeared. Town council members think Pyle took documents with her when she left. They also point to evidence that some records have been destroyed.

A police investigation is ongoing.

“We are very much in damage control,” council member Bill Niemier said. “Our documents were shredded and files were deleted….”

Town officials found a large bag of shredded documents inside New Palestine Town Hall, but they don’t know what records were destroyed. An examination of an office computer also showed town financial information had been downloaded onto a jump drive.

After officials asked Pyle late last week to return the records, a jump drive was brought Monday, Sept. 14, to town hall. It was in the possession of Kathy Book, Pyle’s mother in-law and the widow of former town manager Dave Book, who was fired by the council in March. Book died in July.

“How and why she is allowed to have access to private town information is beyond me,” council member Angie Fahrnow said. “We fired her husband, so there is no way she should have access to important town documents.”

Town officials planned to have a technology expert inspect the drive before connecting it to a town computer.

In the meantime, officials have begun reconstructing some key records: Late last week, they asked the town’s 12 full-time employees to resubmit all their financial information so they could pass it on to a payroll management contractor the town hired so employees could be paid.

“We’ve had to sort of piece things together using the last few pay stubs we do have,” Fahrnow said.

While town officials are starting to get a handle on the larger picture of what was going on in the clerk-treasurer’s office, fully understanding the impact will take some time.

“We’ve been locked out of our files since February, and all the records requests we submitted were never answered,” Fahrnow said. “We’re also missing our backup information.”

As for a 2021 town budget Pyle submitted to the state without the council’s knowledge or approval, town officials have since been able to have the proposal purged by the Indiana Department of Local Government Finance.

The Indiana State Police already were investigating the office and allegations Pyle violated election law during her campaign for the office in 2019. Niemier suggested that the latest actions should become part of that probe as well.

Prosecutor Brent Eaton would not comment on the case, noting only there is an active investigation surrounding Pyle as well as one involving Dave Book, her late father-in-law. Book was fired by the council after members criticized his job performance and after they learned he was running his own wastewater treatment operation on town property without council knowledge.

Following the completion of the state police investigations, it will be up to Eaton’s office to decide whether to file charges.

In the meantime, town officials have posted information seeking candidates to apply for the open clerk-treasurer’s position. Anyone interested in doing the work should submit a letter of interest and resume to town manager Jim Robinson.

The replacement will be selected by the council.

If the council cannot find a qualified replacement, it may contract the work with an accounting firm to fill the remainder of the term. Either way, the council must find a replacement within 30 days, council president Brandee Bastin noted.

Pyle did not return a call from the Daily Reporter seeking comment.
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