Chesterton Tribune

Election board hears complaints on Ogden Dunes Party and Burns Harbor marshal

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By JEFF SCHULTZ

The Porter County Election Board will hold a meeting for a yet-to-be-determined date in December to deliberate concerns and complaints made following the 2011 county municipal elections.

A total of three complaints have been made so far.

Portage Twp. Republican Party secretary Anne Muntean directed a complaint to the board surrounding the candidates calling themselves the Ogden Dunes Party. Muntean alleges several state election laws were not followed collectively and individually by the group as well as Democratic candidate for the town’s third ward Paul Panther and independent candidate for Clerk-Treasurer Jean Manna.

Muntean maintains that Manna should have filed a CFA-1 candidate statement of organization form ten days after filing her candidacy according to the state’s election laws and that the Ogden Dunes Party needed to have a CFA-3 committee organization form filed with the county election board assuming the party has contributions and expenditures over $100 from direct or in-kind donations.

One law says that a political committee becomes a regular party committee when it raises or spends $100. Board attorney Clay Patton said during the board’s meeting last Friday the state’s campaign finance manual does say a candidate running for local office for which the compensation is less than $5,000 per year and the candidate does not receive or spend more than $500 in a calendar year does not have to file any campaign reports.

Muntaen purports that the party may have also breached the law by sending out more campaign fliers without disclaimers than what the state permits. She said there are more than 635 mailing addresses in Ogden Dunes while the state says distributing more than 100 pieces of campaign advocacy without disclaimers, or printed disclosures of who paid for the ad, can be classified as a Class A misdemeanor.

Board President and Republican representative Patrick Lyp said the board will look at the complaint again at its next meeting when it gathers more facts about the case, such as whether or not candidates amassed $500 and what their compensation is for being on the board.

“We’re not barring ourselves from the matter. All we are saying is we don’t have enough information at this time,” Lyp said.

State Senator Karen Tallian, D-Ogden Dunes, a precinct committee person for the town, spoke to the board about her knowledge of the party. She consulted with party members on how to organize themselves for the election at their request and was not sure if she was sought due to her status as a state official or an attorney.

Tallian told the Chesterton Tribune the Ogden Dunes Party is a “collection of independents” who did not want to succumb to party politics. The party first emerged during the previous town elections in 2007.

Tallian said that the candidates did not collect or spend more than $500.

As Muntean assumed the party needed to report the $200 it would have paid to hold its June 12 meeting at the Ogden Dunes Volunteer Fire Department, Tallian said the party was not charged because it was a public meeting. (Meeting Room Reservation Use Fees at the fire department are otherwise regularly charged at $200 for residents.)

Clerk-Treasurer blows whistle on town marshal, opponent

Burns Harbor Clerk-Treasurer Jane Jordan submitted two separate complaints to the election board regarding her town’s race.

Jordan questions if Burns Harbor Police Chief Jerry Price violated one or more statutes of the state’s election laws when he cast his vote at the Burns Harbor Town Hall on Election Day. She said Price resides on a parcel in a Portage voting district and provided the board with documentation from the county’s GIS website to back up her claim.

In her letter of complaint, Jordan said county records indicate the mailing address that Price uses for his voter registration is a vacant lot in the Westchester voting district.

Price was not available for comment this week but had made comments to the media earlier saying that he had committed no wrongdoing explaining that he leases and maintains the Westchester lot which is contiguous to the parcel where he resides.

Jordan said she was suspicious to see Price’s name on a list of voters in the Westchester Twp. district knowing that he was a Portage resident. A few days later, she spoke out feeling it was her lawful duty as an elected official.

“It was always there, kind of bothering me a bit,” said Jordan. “I’ve been in politics long enough to know you can’t vote where you don’t reside.”

The complaint also says Price may have violated another law as he is listed as Burns Harbor’s Republican Precinct Committeeman. A state law says any precinct officer who allows ineligible voters to cast a ballot commits a Class D felony.

Another complaint by Jordan involved her Republican opponent Beverly Sutton, who Jordan said did not attach a disclosure to her campaign sign.

Those mentioned in the complaints will be notified by the election board to attend the meeting in December which Lyp said will be a public discussion and not a formal hearing. It will take place tentatively a week before the Christmas holiday.

Lyp said the board does not have authority to impose punitive actions but instead can make recommendations to the county prosecutor’s office.

 

 

Posted 11/22/2011