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Councilors move to dismiss Gaston town marshal despite public push back

GASTON, Ind. – Tensions boiled over in a small Delaware County town Tuesday night as the Gaston town council moved to dismiss its town marshal.

The move comes after state police said they were asked by the prosecutor's office to conduct an investigation in Gaston. An attorney for Town Marshal Carl Barber Jr. said part of the investigation is related to a complaint without merit against the town marshal and other town issues.

Tuesday, a town board meeting in front of a packed room centered on Barber's job. Amid shouting, yelling, name calling, questions and a demand for answers from citizens, the three member council moved to remove Barber from his position, despite opposition from one board member.

A letter Barber's attorney said was sent to him immediately after the meeting notified him the town council determined Barber should be dismissed from the police department and was on administrative suspension with pay immediately. The letter said Barber had five days from the receipt of the letter to request a hearing contesting his dismissal.

The letter stated, "The basis for your dismissal is insubordination, neglect of duty, violation of rules, and conduct unbecoming an officer. Additional charges may be added prior to the hearing, if one is requested."

"No matter the size of your town, city you still have to follow basic concepts of due process, you still have to follow the law," Barber's attorney, Brian Pierce, said before the meeting.

Pierce said last week, Barber was given a five day suspension without explanation. Before the meeting, he sent a letter to town council members. In it, Pierce claims procedures that must be followed to suspend or terminate an officer were not.

"I also outlined what I see as meritless complaints and also an attempt by two board members to solicit complaints and attempt to influence folks to make complaints that would otherwise be untrue," Pierce said.

When asked about the town marshal's dismissal and the allegations in his attorney's letter, a board member said “no comment.”

Delaware County Sheriff Ray Dudley did have a comment, however. He said his department would take over security duties.

"There's definitely civil unrest with the community and the town board and I felt there was no confidence on either way, anything going on," Sheriff Dudley said.

State police have not said what their investigation is about, but did say it is near completion and expected to be turned over to the Delaware County Prosecutor's Office for review sometime Wednesday.