It’s been seven months since Carmel City Councilor Bruce Kimball suffered a series of ministrokes, and it remains unclear if or when he will be able to return in his official capacity.
Emails sent to the Central District Republican councilor’s city address generate an automatic reply message stating that he is “on medical leave” and unable to respond at this time. Attempts to reach him and his family members through other methods have been unsuccessful.
Several city officials said they’ve heard little regarding his status during his absence and declined to provide additional details, citing privacy concerns.
“I do not know when he might be back. We’re all praying that happens,” said Jeff Worrell, an at-large member of the city council. “I have not had any information for probably the last two weeks.”
Worrell is one of three at-large city council members who have been fielding general questions and concerns from Central District residents since Kimball’s strokes.
“There has been activity (from Central District residents). I’m handling it just like I do the rest of the workload,” said Worrell, adding that it hasn’t been an overwhelming amount.
Kimball, 68, joined the council in 2016 and won reelection in 2019. There are still more than two years left in his term that runs through 2023. Although councilors hope he returns, some have been exploring options if he can’t.
Laura Campbell, chair of the Hamilton County Republican Party and a member of the Carmel City Council, said if Kimball or any other elected official were to resign, the party would hold a caucus to select a replacement.
If that doesn’t happen, but Kimball is unable or chooses not to return, state law allows city councils to declare a seat vacant if a councilor is unable to perform his or her duties, but it doesn’t provide direction on how to do that. Instead, the code states that a council may “adopt its own rules to govern proceedings,” although it requires at least two-thirds of the councilors to vote in favor of vacating the seat for it to occur.
Campbell said Carmel does not have an ordinance outlining procedures for vacating a seat, so the first step would be drafting a policy.
“Each city can determine that process, but it’s an extra step that has to be taken before you can do anything,” she said.
If the council voted to vacate a seat, a caucus would be called to select a replacement.
Carmel councilors have not yet taken official steps to implement their own policy to vacate a seat, but Tim Hannon, an at-large councilor who lives in the Central District, said he believes it is something the city should have in place.
“I definitely think we need to codify our procedures, because it was unclear to me, and I think it’s unclear to citizens, what the procedure is,” he said. “Should we do something (regarding Kimball) once a procedure is in place? I just need more information on his medical status.”
Worrell said it makes sense for the council to consider putting a policy in place.
“When is long enough? It’s probably now getting to be that time,” he said.