Chesterton Tribune



FBI seeks records on commercial property assessment appeals

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Porter County Assessor Attorney Christopher Buckley confirmed with the Chesterton Tribune and other media Tuesday that agents from the FBI’s Merrillville offices came to the Assessor’s office that morning and asked for documents regarding appeals of commercial properties between 2012 and 2013.

In a statement, Buckley said that agents asked to speak with the Assessor’s Director of Commercial Operations for the information but “were not equipped with subpoenas from the U.S. Attorney’s office, and therefore, did not retrieve or review any individual appeal records.”

The agents did not specifically state what information they were interested in, Buckley said.

Buckley told the Tribune on Wednesday that the appeals in question were exclusively for commercial properties and were settled by the Assessor’s office before they would have been assigned to the Property Tax Assessment Board of Appeals.

Included in appeal cases is non-disclosure information that would require a subpoena in order to be obtained, Buckley said he told the agents. The agents then left the building, and it’s possible they may return, he said.

Buckley said it was about 10 a.m. when the agents arrived at the Assessor’s Office inside the County Administration Building in Valparaiso and they left at approximately 11:30 a.m.

County Assessor Jon Snyder declined to comment on the matter.

The investigation so far

This is the second time in the past two months the Tribune has received reports of the FBI seeking to investigate Porter County Government offices. Witnesses reported seeing agents enter the County Commissioners’ office in June, but no one from the Commissioners’ office would make comments regarding the visit.

The FBI in November 2013 took documents related to the December 2012 contract between the County Commissioners and Porter Regional Hospital concerning the employee wellness plan. Since then the agency has also acquired conflict of interest disclosure statements from 2007 to 2013, payroll information for the County Expo Center from 2013, bid proposals related to 2010 and 2011 contracts with the County Highway Department, and building permits for Porter Regional Hospital and its adjacent medical center.

In July 2014, agents began looking into Portage Mayor James Snyder’s campaign finance reports and the Citizens for Snyder political action committee finance report from 2011.

Last September, agents entered the Porter County Auditor’s Office and obtained copies of two sales disclosures related to the Valparaiso Promenade development involving the City of Valparaiso’s Redevelopment Commission.

The FBI has not yet made public any results or indictments.


Posted 8/5/2015




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