Republican candidate for Monroe County assessor, William Ellis, has called upon a special prosecutor to investigate the circumstances.
In a press conference Tuesday evening at the Monroe County Courthouse, Ellis accused Sharp of failing to disclose a possible conflict of interest involving Chief Deputy Lisa Surface and a consulting firm where Surface’s husband, Ken, is ?employed.
Ken Surface is the senior vice president of Nexus Group, a property tax consulting firm based in Zionsville. Nexus was hired by Monroe County to help value property for taxation purposes. Nexus collects information on properties in Monroe County and provides that information to the assessor’s office for ?evaluation.
“Although the conflict is between Lisa Surface, Judy Sharp’s chief deputy and Nexus Group, Judy Sharp advertises for bids, recommends the acceptance of bids to the commissioners, and Judy Sharp signs the contract,” Ellis said in a prepared statement. “Judy Sharp knows that a renewal of contract is a new contract and when a conflict of interest arises, it needs to be addressed.”
The Monroe County assessor is responsible for valuing property in the county for property taxation purposes. Ellis is accusing Sharp of having too close of a relationship with Ken Surface of Nexus Group, a company that handles some of Monroe County’s property assessments.
“It’s totally ridiculous,” Sharp said. “There is no conflict — this has been vetted for the past 10 or 11 years ever since Ken has worked for Nexus.”
Sharp said a conflict of interest form is not required because there is no conflict of interest. Sharp said Ken Surface is a contract employee at Nexus group and has no invested stake in the company.
In addition, Ellis said campaign contributions Sharp received from Lisa Surface result in a conflict ?of interest.
According a report that discloses Sharp’s campaign contributions, Sharp received $5,198.05 from Lisa Surface, $5,070 that came in the form of a loan.
The remaining $128 and 5 cents came in the form of an in-kind contribution.
Under Indiana Code 35-44.1-1.4, conflict of interest is defined as, “A public servant who knowingly or intentionally has a pecuniary interest in or derives a profit from a contract or purchase connected with an action by the governmental entity served by the public servant commits conflict of interest.”
If a public servant does not disclose a conflict of interest, it is considered a felony, according to Indiana law.
Sharp has served as Monroe County assessor since 1991 and is facing a challenger for her seat for the first time in a decade. The midterm election is Nov. 4.