Chesterton Tribune

Election Board takes complaint against Burns Harbor marshal under advisement

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By JEFF SCHULTZ

Burn Harbor Clerk-Treasurer Jane Jordan’s accusation that her town’s police chief Jerry Price intentionally violated state election laws when he cast a ballot at the Burns Harbor Town Hall on Nov. 8 will be looked at further by the Porter County Election Board.

At its meeting on Friday afternoon serving as an informal hearing for election complaints, the board voted 3-0 to give an additional 30 days to consider arguments made by Jordan and Price, who were both present Friday.

In addition to her complaint filed shortly after the election, Jordan said Price is a serving member of the Burns Harbor Plan Commission and knows the town’s boundaries and the process of how the town assigns addresses. Jordan’s original argument claims Price resides at 764 State Road 149 in Portage Twp. Precinct 6 as his name appears on the property’s record card while the property records for 1184 Salt Creek Rd. in Westchester Twp. he has listed as his address indicate the property is vacant.

Jordan also suspects Price is breaching a separate law by acting as a Republican Precinct Committeeman for Westchester 11. State code regards fraudulent application for voter registration as a Class A misdemeanor while a precinct officer who knowingly allows a person to vote who is not entitled commits a Class D felony.

Price, who announced last week his intention to retire the Burns Harbor Town Marshal position after ten years, fired back saying there is no wrongdoing on his part since 1184 Salt Creek Rd. is his mailing address and he leases both lots with another lot in between. The road accessing the property is a Burns Harbor road, he said.

He stated his address is in fact 1184 Salt Creek Rd. and for evidence showed the board copies of his phone bill, insurance forms, driver’s license, voter’s registration card and his paycheck that Jordan herself cuts, all with the Burns Harbor address on it.

“There is no funny stuff going on here,” said Price, who also told the board that Jordan has made false accusations against him in the past.

The Portage property was said by Price to be in recession. The property also has a homestead exemption which was received when Price bought the property in 1976. Board president and Republican member Patrick Lyp suggested Price talk with the county’s auditor office to have the exemption removed.

Jordan said she witnessed Price enter and leave the polling place through a locked door on Election Day instead of waiting in line. Price said he did so to avoid standing in the rain.

Under a motion by Democratic representative J.J. Stankiewicz, the board voted to postpone the decision whether to give a recommendation to the county prosecutor for a formal hearing. A letter announcing its choice of action will be issued in a period of 30 days.

The board, however, voted 3-0 to dismiss a further complaint made by Jordan against her Republican opponent Beverly Sutton. Jordan said Sutton failed to provide a required disclaimer on her campaign signs or fliers and did not follow guidelines of reporting her campaign donations and expenses.

Sutton at the meeting said she was running for office for the first time and was not aware of what was required of candidates.

“I’m sorry I was not as up as Ms. Jordan was on the rules of the election,” Sutton told the board.

Sutton said as soon as she was made aware of the provision, she etched the disclaimer on her signs with black marker but the rain on Election Day washed it off. She said two other Burns Harbor candidates had made the same error and asked why Jordan did not accuse them.

The two unnamed candidates were contacted by Jordan about the error but Jordan admitted to not contacting Sutton. When asked why, Jordan simply responded, “I just didn’t.”

County Clerk Karen Martin, the board’s third member, told Jordan she wished Jordan had notified all candidates instead of “picking and choosing” certain ones.

Judging it an honest mistake on Sutton’s part, the board decided not to pursue further action on the matter.

Late fines?

Democratic director of the county’s voter office, Kathy Kozuszek, said it is not uncommon for first time candidates make mistakes but the office does give out a packet of information and manuals explaining the campaign rules.

The office also places calls to candidates reminding them of when they need to get their committee forms submitted.

The board held a small discussion on whether fines should be imposed on candidates who fail to turn in requested information by certain deadlines to preclude such occurrences. The discussion will be followed up at the board’s next meeting tentatively scheduled for Feb. 6.

Kozuszek said the year-end candidate financial reports for 2011 are due in the voters registration office on Jan. 18.

Ogden Dunes Party cleared

Lastly, the board voted 3-0 in favor of tossing out complaints made by Portage Twp. Republican Party secretary Anne M. Muntean against members of the Ogden Dunes Party which is a group that formed in the 2007 elections.

Muntean alleged the party should have filed to have a CFA-3 committee organization form assuming that money had been raised to hold a meeting at the Ogden Dunes Volunteer Fire Department.

Party member Eric Kurtz said the fire department did not charge the party since it was a town meeting and none of the candidates raised over $500.

Board attorney Clay Patton at the previous meeting said the state’s campaign finance manual says candidates who do not receive or spend more than $500 in a calendar year do not have to file any finance reports. Parties who do not raise over $100 are also exempt from filing the reports.

Duneland Early Voting Site

In a separate matter, the board will check with the Chesterton Town Hall and the Thomas Library in Chesterton to see if they have the resources available to set up a satellite location for early voting.

Duneland School Board member Ralph Ayres at the previous election board meeting requested the board consider a new location for the northeast portion of the county, which is experiencing the biggest population growth.

Ayres on Friday said the Chesterton Town Council voted at their Nov. 28 to allow the town hall to be a potential site while the Thomas Library said it may be eligible to conduct early voting there.

Although the Library’s service center would seem another likely choice, Ayres said the building has groups needing the space to hold meetings.

Over 17,000 voted early in Porter County for the 2008 presidential elections and Ayres said having a third voting site could reduce congestion at the county’s current sites, the county administration building in Valparaiso and the north courthouse in Portage.

“We really need an asset to the voters of Porter County,” Ayres said.

Factors for a voting site include parking and whether buildings are handicap accessible. A location may be confirmed in time for the election board’s February meeting.

 

 

Posted 12/19/2011