Chesterton Tribune



County Council to ask status of FBI investigations

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The Porter County Council on Tuesday tabled a request by County Commissioner John Evans, R-North, to be reimbursed $5,000 on legal fees he has incurred since the Federal Burau of Investigation has been looking at activities in Porter County Government.

The request appeared on the agenda as one in the series that the Commissioners submitted to the Council along with budget transfers for internet and telephone service fees, employee longevity and jail security payments.

Evans’ request specifically asks the Council’s approval to transfer $5,000 from salaries in the Commissioner’s General Fund budget to contractual services for legal fees.

Evans was not present during the meeting but had asked County Attorney Scott McClure to be there for the request. He told the Chesterton Tribune after the meeting that he earlier had contacted the Council’s attorney Harold Harper asking if he could make the request under Indiana Code 36-1-17-3.

Harper agreed that the law states that a public official “who is the target of a grand jury investigation may apply to the fiscal body of the unit or municipal corporation for reimbursement of reasonable and customarily charged expense incurred by the officer or employee resulting from the grand jury investigation, if the grand jury fails to indict the officer or employee and the acts investigated by grand jury within the scope of the official duties of the officer or employee.”

Evans said he had no further comment other than what is stated in the law.

Upon learning of the request, County Council President Dan Whitten, D-at large, asked that Harper see what role the Council has and contact the FBI to see if it is done investigating Evans.

“I think we need to know if the investigation is closed,” Whitten said and requested to table Evan’s request to the Council’s next regular meeting in January.

The FBI has made no recent indictments in Porter County Government. It did announce indictments last month for Portage Mayor James Snyder, as well as Lake County Sheriff John Buncich, on bribery charges and added that their investigations in Lake and Porter counties are continuing.

The Tribune has reported on several instances where the FBI has sought documents that are under the purview of the County Commissioners such as a wellness contract with Porter Health Systems signed in 2012 and other information regarding the County employee health care plan.

Observers also reported seeing FBI agents enter the Commissioners’ office one morning in June 2015 but no Commissioner would confirm or deny the reports.

Harper said he will attempt to get an answer from the FBI but wasn’t sure when it would respond.

McClure said he does not believe Evans has been reimbursed for any other legal fees. Any invoice would have to go through the County Auditor’s office, he said.

County Auditor Vicki Urbanik said the last reimbursement she knows of made to Evans was for lodging at a conference in 2013.

Evans will be ending his tenure as a county commissioner at the end of this month after not seeking reelection this year.

Rivas calls on mayor to resign

Meanwhile, Council member Jeremy Rivas, D-2nd, made a statement at the start of the Council’s regular meeting giving his opinion that Snyder should resign his office as the mayor of Portage.

Rivas represents Portage in his Council district and said it appears Snyder “has broken the public’s trust” after being indicted by the FBI on Nov. 17.

Snyder was charged with two violations of a federal bribery statute and a third charge alleging a scheme to obstruct Internal Revenue Laws. Rivas said he sympathizes with the residents of Portage who now have to endure “what could be a long, drawn-out trial.”

Having Snyder under indictment could make it difficult for him and other City officials to work on future projects with the County, Rivas said and gave various examples like remedying drainage issues on Willowcreek Rd., rebuilding the North County Complex and providing a place to bring animals with the new “no-kill” County Animal Shelter.

Snyder pled not guilty in federal court to all counts against him and has made statements to the press that he intends to fight the charges.


Posted 12/7/2016




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