Chesterton Tribune



Board rejects LaFever challenge to Good Commissioner candidacy

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The Porter County Election Board decided 3-0 on Tuesday that Jeff Good made a harmless error when he wrote “Center” on his candidacy declaration form for what County Commissioner District he intends to run for.

Harmless enough to keep his name on the ballot for the May 6 primary elections, that is.

Good’s candidacy form was the basis for a challenge made by his primary election opponent William LaFever who argued that Good labeled his district incorrectly.

The correct method was to write it is as Commissioner District 2, LaFever said, just as he and incumbent Republican Nancy Adams did.

In supporting his claim, LaFever presented the board with copies of the election results from the 2012 primary and general elections that showed the Commissioner Districts that year were called District 1 South and District 3 South, copies of other counties’ election results that refer to their Commissioner district by number, a copy of the County’s Voter Registration webpage on the County’s website that named the race as County Commissioner District 2, copies of the County Democrats’ and County Republicans’ websites that also call it District 2 and a copy of a news article detailing Porter County Circuit Court Judge Mary Harper’s 2010 decision to remove a Union Twp. Trustee candidate from a ballot due to an error.

“It is the candidate’s job to file the paperwork correctly,” LaFever said.

He said that nowhere in the evidence provided does it refer to a Center District Commissioner.

“There is no Center District,” he said.

In his defense, Good said that on the Commissioners page on the Porter County website it identifies Nancy Adams as the Center District Commissioner. He said that in the County garage there is a parking space with a sign that said the spot is reserved for the Center District Commissioner.

Good said he also sees in local news reports, Commissioners are identified as representing the north, center and south districts.

“Maybe I’m guilty of reading the newspaper too much,” Good said.

Good said his forms were accepted by the Voters Registration Office and he was not informed of any errors. He said there should not be any confusion about what race he is running in since there is just one Commissioner race this year.

“There is no mystery here,” he said, calling LaFever’s challenge “petty.”

Good also tried to refute LaFever’s argument regarding Judge Harper’s ruling saying it was an irrelevant since it dealt with signing a candidate form in front of a notary. LaFever said it is relevant however because the issue is about paperwork that is not filled out in a proper and timely matter.

Board attorney Ethan Lowe said he found the challenge “unique” since challenges are usually made on the basis of party affiliation or residency.

From what research he did prior to the meeting, Lowe said he found several County documents that refer to the office as Center District Commissioner as well as District 2 Commissioner, such as on past ballots. He said it was up to the board as to whether Good committed a fatal or harmless error.

LaFever asked if Lowe found it anywhere in the County Code that refers to the establishment of three Commissioner districts.

“The real question is what is in the county ordinances. That’s what’s real and binding,” LaFever said.

Lowe said he did not have the ordinance with him.

Democratic Board member J.J. Stankiewicz said he was appreciative LaFever made the challenge because it forces the board to stay sharp. He said that he would vote against the challenge, however, because he didn’t feel Good’s form would cause an upheaval in the outcome of the election.

Board president and Republican member David Bengs said he did not see the error as being fatal, but an error nonetheless.

“If you want to call it sloppy, that’s accurate and that’s fine,” he said.

After the meeting, LaFever asked the board members to check the County ordinances to find what it says about a District 2 Commissioner. He said he is considering filing an appeal of the board’s decision with the added argument that the board met without giving the proper 48-hour notice.

He said the meeting agenda was revised last Friday and with the weekend and President’s Day being a holiday, the board should have met Wednesday.

All County Commissioner races, no matter what district, are voted for on a countywide basis.

Delinquent campaign committees

In other business, the board voted unanimously on administratively dissolving five campaign committees that have been inactive or delinquent for a number of years.

The board tabled the matter on Jan. 31 allowing the five committees more time to dissolve or sustain themselves.

None of the five made contact, Lowe said. An election board can dissolve the committees on two conditions Ð the committee must not currently be making expenditures or collecting donations and there must not be any amounts of cash on hand or debts reported of over $1,000.

The five committees dissolved were from Republicans Todd Martin, Lorri Wickberg, Joe Clinkenbeard, Gregg Frame and Democrat Kelly Teel.




Posted 2/19/2014