Senior staff writer
The Southport City Council handed down a vote of no confidence against Shara Hostetler and removed her as council president by separate 3-2 votes Monday during a heated meeting.
The action flared from publicity earlier that day over a federal lawsuit that Hostetler had filed against the city, alleging that her constitutional rights had been violated by Southport police in searching her home in 2015 when she was a candidate for city clerk-treasurer.
Police confiscated a .22 calibre revolver that was later returned to her. She was not arrested. She claims that the entire incident was politically motivated and is suing the city for defamation of character and for violation of her rights.
Hostetler lost her challenge to incumbent Diana Bossingham by 34 votes in the Republican primary. However, she was appointed August 2016 by the Marion County Republican Party last year to fill the at-large council vacancy.
Councilor James Cooney introduced each motion, and he, Kenny Winslow and Joe Haley voted for the motions while Hostetler and Larry Tungent voted against.
Hostetler can continue to serve on the council but not as president.
She labeled the council’s actions as “nothing but retaliation” over her lawsuit against the city – not for any of her actions as council president.
Cooney contended that Hostetler had missed a budget meeting, cast several abstaining votes and displayed reckless behavior as president.
“The lawsuit made me sick,” said Cooney. “Public officials are held to a higher standard. The president of the City Council must be responsible.”
Haley said, “I have a problem with a member of the City Council suing the city; she is suing her own people. … We have division. I’m hurt by what I have read.”
Afterward, a puzzled Hostetler said she had filed a tort claim against the city in October 2015 and contended councilors knew of any pending legal action. Her lawsuit was filed March 8 this year in the Indiana Southern District Court in Indianapolis.
-Hostetler emphasized the council reacted wrongfully to a story about the lawsuit that appeared in that day’s edition of The Indianapolis Star. She denied allegations by Police Chief Thomas Vaughn at the meeting that she had contacted The Star.
“I find it hard to stomach,” Vaughn said. “The timing was a little odd. We had lost an officer (Lt. Aaron Allen), and the city is still trying to heal.”
Tungent explained why the council should not have acted against her. “This is an incident that is between a citizen and the Police Department. She has a right. I don’t want to argue this situation when it is between the attorneys and the police.”
The council is expected to elect a new president at its next meeting Oct. 16 at 7 p.m.