Sarah Loeschand Jon Webb,
Evansville Courier & Press


BOONVILLE – Even though all three Warrick County Commissioners were arrested and charged with felonies on Thursday, that doesn't mean they have to leave office.

Terry Phillippe, Dan Saylor and Robert Johnson were all briefly taken into custody Thursday in the increasingly long shadow of an investigation into Warrick County Animal Control.

Phillippe was charged with perjury and official misconduct, both Level 6 felonies, as well as a Class A misdemeanor count of false informing. Saylor and Johnson were each hit with counts of official misconduct and false informing.

In Indiana, any official accused of a crime while holding public office doesn't have to forfeit their seat automatically. All three could choose to continue in their positions as the executives of Warrick County as the cases play out in court. Or they could resign.

They would only be forced out if convicted.

All three are Republicans. Warrick County GOP chairman Mike Griffin declined to comment Thursday afternoon.

In a news release sent around 4 p.m. Thursday, the commissioners said they were unaware of the "specific nature of the charges."

“The Commissioners do not believe they did anything incorrectly during this investigation, and worked diligently to address problems at Animal Control," commissioners attorney Anthony Long said. "They are anxious to review the probable cause affidavit and they look forward to having light shed on this situation. Terry Phillipe, Robert Johnson and Dan Saylor are dedicated public servants who work tirelessly to improve life for citizens in Warrick County, and we look forward to and expect their complete exoneration.”

Who are the Warrick County Commissioners?

Two of the commissioners are running re-election campaigns ahead of the May 7 primary. Saylor, who has been in his position since 2016, is facing a Republican primary challenger. No Democrat had filed for the seat as of Thursday afternoon.

Johnson, who took office the same year as Saylor, also faces a primary opponent in Republican Steve Spinks. Tony Curtis, a Democrat has also filed.

Phillippe, meanwhile, is in the middle of his second four-year term.

According to biographical information posted on the Warrick County Republican Party's website, Phillippe is described as a "conservative, lifelong Republican." He is president of Boonville Now, an organization launched in 2011 to eliminate blight. Its mission has since expanded and morphed into "promoting Downtown Boonville," its website states.

In his bio, Phillippe claims to have played a role in work at Johnson Park and the Harold Gunn Pavilion.

Saylor ran a photography and publishing business "that took thousands of students' photos," his bio states. He's also worked in home construction and served as a reserve deputy for the Warrick County Sheriff's Office for 19 years.

His commissioner role allowed him to stretch into multiple arms of county government, including Warrick County Economic Development Board and the solid waste and recycle center board. He's also a board member with Evansville Regional Economic Partnership – the re-branded Southwest Indiana Chamber now helmed by former Evansville Mayor Lloyd Winnecke, his bio states.

Johnson has lived in Warrick County for 14 years, according to his bio on the Warrick County Republican Party website.

A U.S. Army veteran, Johnson worked for 30 years in manufacturing and management positions, the site states.

"He is a proven leader who works hard for the citizens of Warrick County. We have seen vast improvement to our roads, a much needed courthouse renovation," the website states. "Friedman Park is complete with a new event center for our citizens to use. The wellness trails is expanding. We continue to encourage new businesses to our county. We are growing."

The investigation into Warrick animal control

The arrests of all three commissioners stem from an investigation following the arrest of Danielle Barnes, former head of the Warrick County Animal Control.

According to state police, all three said they had no knowledge of a nonprofit ran by Barnes while she was supervisor at animal control. The non-profit is the center of ISP's investigation into Barnes.

The investigation revealed the commissioners accepted a donation of a mobile trailer from Barnes' nonprofit Jan. 9, ISP claimed.

"On February 1, 2024, Warrick County Commissioners released a timeline of events during a public news conference, which stated between December 1-4, 2023," the release states. "The commissioners received limited documentation from the health department regarding Barnes’ conduct. Detectives later learned the commissioners had allegedly been investigating Barnes for months."

In 2023, a swimming pool and multiple restaurants in Warrick County were closed after failing health inspections.

"Warrick County Commissioners allegedly instructed the health department to open the pool and restaurants," the release states. "The owners of the pool and restaurants were allegedly friends and business associates of the commissioners."

According to the release from state police, the health department supervisor was fired, allegedly for not reopening the locations and for cooperating with an ISP investigation pertaining to misappropriated funds at the Warrick County animal shelter.

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