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Bennett Leaves Open Possibility of Appeal to U.S. Supreme Court

In a shift from his previous position, Terre Haute Mayor Duke Bennett now says depending on the outcome of his case in front of the Indiana Supreme Court, an appeal to the United States Supreme Court is something he’s considering.

Previously both he and former mayor Kevin Burke have said the state court’s decision would stand as the final word.

“I think we both believe that this is the final step in the process and we can get some resolution that we can end up living with,” Bennett said.

“It all depends from my perspective how they rule.”

What the Indiana Supreme Court ultimately decides could range from keeping Bennett in office, ordering a special election that may or may not include both men, ruling Burke as the rightful occupant of the office, or possibly, another outcome.

In a case that’s hung over Bennett’s entire term of office, Burke alleges Bennett was not eligible to run for office in 2007 because part of his salary was comprised of federal funds, which he says violates the Hatch Act.

Bennett says his recent change of position indicates he’s just trying to leave his options open.

“You never say never and we’ll have to see how they rule is really what it boils down to.  I’ve said all along that we hope this is the last step but depending on depending on how they rule and what happens, it’s a possibility [to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court],” Bennett said.

“I’ve had attorney’s offer their services to take it to another level.”

And it’s issues such as attorney’s fees will factor into his decision, Bennett says. He and Burke have already committed tens of thousands of dollars to the case.  Both have held fundraisers to help with costs.

If the state court upholds the appellate court’s decision ordering a special election and declaring the mayor’s office vacant, Bennett says he’d be inclined to accept that ruling.

“Not that we want to pay for it. I don’t think that’s a good use of taxpayer dollars. But if the Supreme Court upholds that that’s the solution that should be in place and everything else stays in place, then so be it,” he said.

Bennett says money for a special election, which would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, would come from the city’s rainy day fund.

Word from the Indiana Supreme Court isn’t expected for months.

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