Indiana Supreme Court rules Democratic mayor-appointed Planning Commission candidate can continue to serve despite local Republicans naming their own candidate in 2020

The Monroe County Republican party in 2020 named Andrew Guenther, then a Republican, as a member of the City of Bloomington Plan Commission, however, Bloomington Mayor John Hamilton, a Democrat, named local real estate businessman Chris Cockerham onto the board. The conflict resulted in a lawsuit.

The City of Bloomington sent the following press release Thursday.


October 13, 2022

For more information, please contact:

Beth Cate, Corporation Counsel, Legal Department

[email protected] or 812-349-3426

Andrew Krebbs, Communications Director, Office of the Mayor

[email protected] or 812-349-3406

Indiana Supreme Court Hands Bloomington Legal Victory in City of Bloomington v. Guenther

Bloomington, Ind. – This past May, the Indiana Court of Appeals issued a ruling in Bloomington v. Guenther and agreed with the City that under state law (a) otherwise qualified residents need not affiliate with a political party to serve on the Bloomington Plan Commission, reflecting all residents’ shared interest in the City’s development, and (b) Mayor John Hamilton was the only person empowered in this case to fill the vacant plan commission seat.

Late yesterday, the Indiana Supreme Court denied a petition asking the state’s high court to overturn the Court of Appeals’ decision in favor of Bloomington. By declining to reconsider the case, the Supreme Court allowed the Court of Appeals’ unanimous ruling to stand. 

The case originated in early 2020 after a politically unaffiliated plan commission member vacated his seat. Following the vacancy, Mayor Hamilton and then-chair of the local Republican Party, William Ellis, each named an appointment to fill the vacancy. 

The Court’s ruling brings several years of litigation over the seat to an end and allows the Mayor’s appointee, Chris Cockerham, to continue to serve on the Commission, as he has done since his initial appointment more than two years ago. 


The Republican Party sent the following in 2020:


April 16, 2020 [email protected]



BLOOMINGTON, IN — Monroe County Republican Party Chairman William Ellis appointed
Andrew J. Guenther Jr. to the Bloomington Plan Commission today, utilizing authority granted
to him under Indiana Code 36-1-8-10. Under this section of Indiana Code, a board with minority
political party appointments must fill vacancies in said appointed seats within 90-days, or else
the minority political party appointing power will defer to the chairman of the minority political

Mr. Nicholas Kappas, the previous appointee to the seat in question, served on the
Bloomington Plan Commission until January 13 th , 2020, one week after his term officially
expired on January 6 th , 2020. These dates were obtained by the Monroe County Republican
Party in a phone call on April 16 th , 2020 to the Bloomington City Clerk’s Office. These dates
mean that Mayor John Hamilton had until April 13 th , 2020 to make an appointment filling Mr.
Kappas’ vacated seat. Mayor Hamilton did not do so as of the date of this press release.

“We are very excited to have another committed Republican voice on the Bloomington Plan
Commission,” said Chairman Ellis. “Decisions before the Plan Commission affect so many of our
citizens here in Bloomington and having an ideologically diverse body to make these decisions is
important. I am positive that Andrew’s experiences in local government and the private sector
will enable him to serve with integrity and capability.” The other minority political appointment
to the Bloomington Plan Commission is former Republican City Councilman Brad Wisler.

Andrew Guenther is a former Republican candidate for Bloomington City Council, as well as the
current Chair of the Bloomington Environmental Commission. Previously, Guenther served as
Vice President of the Monroe County Environmental Commission, as well as Vice Chair of the
Bloomington Board of Housing Quality Appeals. He has worked in local property management
for several years, currently working as a Bookkeeper for Horn Properties, and is a graduate of
the former School of Public & Environmental Affairs at Indiana University – Bloomington.

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