of Porter County Voter Registration Kathy Kozuszek told the Chesterton
Tribune today that she has filed a report with the Valparaiso Police
Department alleging that a signature on the Voter Registration office’s 2018
budget, purportedly hers, was in fact placed on the document by her
Republican co-director, Sundae Schoon.
Kozuszek said she
discovered the false signature in April, as she was hoping to hire part-time
workers to help answer calls from voters during the 2018 primary and general
elections, and was told that the line item from which she wanted to pull
funds was empty.
Tribune obtained an email exchange suggesting that four County officials
were notified in April of Kozuszek’s claim that the signature wasn’t hers.
Kozuszek told the
Chesterton Tribune that a line item in the budget was zeroed-out
without her knowledge after she and Schoon had discussed and supposedly
finalized the budget together in August 2017. The version of the budget
without that funding was presented to the County Council at a Sept. 26, 2017
budget hearing by Schoon, who appeared alone, as can be seen in a public
video of the meeting on the Porter County Government YouTube account.
Kozuszek said the
move ended up being a blow to her resources in the midst of the most hectic
midterm election she’s seen in her 18 years as an employee at Voter
Registration and is symptomatic of an election process tainted by party
“When I started
here, it was Democrats only talk to Democrats and Republicans only talk to
Republicans,” Kozuszek said of Voter Registration. “I always told myself if
I ever came into a position of authority, that would end because we were
paid for by all taxpayers of this county.”
Kozuszek went on to
say that she makes this allegation in spite of fearing for her job. “I am a
loyal, 18-year employee of this county,” she said. “I punched a clock long
before it was fashionable because nobody would ever accuse me or my girls of
cheating the County a dime.”
Kozuszek said that
in addition to Schoon, County Council President Andy Bozak, R-1st, has
curtailed her resources by way of refusing to consider a request for an
additional appropriation from the general fund to fund the part-time
workers. “Here’s a man that wants to sit on the County Council and make
decisions, good decisions, on behalf of the voters, and he shortchanged them
by refusing to hear my request for money to service them on election day,”
In an April email
exchange between Kozuszek and Bozak, Bozak wrote that he would not entertain
a request for funds if Schoon and Kozuszek didn’t agree on the need for
funds and make the request jointly. In an April 9 email, Kozuszek informed
Bozak that he had already entertained a request from Schoon without
Kozuszek’s input because the signature on Voter Registration’s 2018 budget
that appeared to be hers was not in fact hers.
Kozuszek was clear
in the email that she suspected Schoon of signing her name, and said it
wouldn’t be the first time Schoon had altered a document.
Vice-President Jeremy Rivas, D-2nd, County Council Attorney Harold Harper,
and Commissioner Jeff Good, R-Center, were CCed on that email.
Kozuszek said none
of them responded to her claim that her signature had been forged.
denying it,” Schoon told the Chesterton Tribune this morning.
“There’s really not much else to say.”
Kozuszek’s reference to her past stems from an incident where she notarized
a form she shouldn’t have notarized shortly after starting her job in Voter
Registration. Schoon said it was a simple mistake when she was new to the
job, and though the snafu prompted an election board hearing with Judge Mary
Harper, “I was not brought up on charges. I was not sanctioned or anything
the lack of response and lack of action to Republican leadership protecting
their own. “You got a Republican party in control, then you’ve got a
Republican employee. They wouldn’t tolerate that from anyone else,” she
charged Bozak with playing by party lines for not acknowledging her
allegation against Schoon in April.
Bozak countered in
a phone call this morning that Kozuszek didn’t request that the Council
respond to or investigate her claims in the April 9 email, and that if she
had, he would have referred that matter to the Prosecutor. “We’re the fiscal
body. We take the budget at face value. We’re not checking signatures,” he
Bozak said his
impression of the allegation at the time was that Kozuszek was “Trying to
throw stuff at the wall to see what sticks,” and it was part of a lot of
allegations that were flying around in a department where “There’s just a
lot of drama.” He now questions why she didn’t go to the Prosecutor right
Bozak offered, “It
was never my intent to ignore something she brought to me.”
Kozuszek said that
she debated making a public allegation for some time and felt that now was
her last chance to be taken seriously. “I want to come forward with
everything now, all the collusion, because after the election, they’ll say
it’s just sour grapes, but it’s not sour grapes. It’s well documented.” She
said the reason she didn’t take this matter to the Prosecutor, Republican
Brian Gensel, was because she feared he would look out for his own party.
As for what’s
documented, Republican County Clerk Karen Martin was handed elections duties
earlier this year in a 2-1 decision of the Republican majority Election
Board, where lone Democrat member J.J. Stankiewicz objected. Stankiewicz
objected to Martin running the election due to her being on the ballot for
County Auditor this election cycle.
the primary election, called for the Election Board to hold a public forum
to hear and address complaints from voters and poll workers so any issues
that occurred in May could be resolved before the general election. The
Board at that time agreed to hold a public forum but never followed through.
Both Kozuszek and
Stankiewicz have maintained since the switch that party politics are playing
a major role in how the election duties are being handled on Martin’s watch.
118 and 122 votes were mishandled due to poll worker error at the Portage
early voting siteÑerrors that Kozuszek claims could have been avoided with
better poll worker training. Kozuszek has collected dozens of complaints
from early voters and poll workers so far, and Democratic candidate for
Secretary of State Jim Harper held a press conference at the Porter County
Administration Center on Oct. 25 where he said he’s heard from many voters
who haven’t received absentee ballots in a timely manner.
Kozuszek said that
the complaints she’s received are divided almost equally by party, and she
doesn’t think voters from either party are being singled-out.
The issue on
Saturday was that two poll workers didn’t initial the back of the ballots,
as required by law for the vote to count.
voters must refuse to be turned away at the polls. At least four volunteers
will be on hand on election day helping her answer calls from voters and
poll workers. Anyone with questions can call the following four numbers to
speak with someone in Voter Registration: (219)465-3484, (219)465-3488,
(219)465-3594, and (219)465-3486. Kozuszek urged voters to come to her
office on election day if they have an urgent issue and can’t get through on