A complaint lodged
to the Indiana Public Access Counselor by a “Publius Valerius Publicola”
against Porter County Voter Registration may not hold up because of
anonymity, said County Election Board attorney Ethan Lowe.
At the board’s
meeting Friday, Lowe said the complaint was made during the last week of
June asking why the Voters Registration office has not posted Porter County
Superior Court Judge William Alexa’s campaign finance reports on the
County’s website as it has done with other candidates.
However, it is not
required by law for county election boards to make reports available online,
he said. The board by choice began making reports available this past years
on the County’s new website.
Adding to that,
Lowe said he found the complaint “difficult to read” and to make out what
the anonymous individual was griping about.
Lowe said the
public access counselor expects to issue an opinion on the complaint by July
Kozuszek said she
did not post Alexa’s report online because he had closed out his campaign.
Lowe said the
complaint surfaced days after a written request was submitted to Voters
Registration asking about campaign finance reports for Alexa, who ran as a
Democrat in 2012.
Lowe said the
request was forwarded to him by Voter Registration Democratic Director Kathy
Kozuszek who initially received the request. Kozuszek said she passed the
request on to Lowe because the person who submitted it is affiliated with
the Northwest Indiana Political Action Committee whose chairperson she has a
restraining order against. That case is in front of Judge Alexa, she said.
Lowe said he was
able to get Alexa’s reports to the requester.
Kozuszek said it is
the election board which is in charge of candidate reports, not Voters
Registration. The reports are however kept secure in the Voters Registration
comprised of Chairman and Republican member David Bengs, Democratic member
J.J. Stankiewicz and County Clerk Karen Martin, voted to keep its current
protocol of having complaints or inquiries about candidate reports addressed
to them and their attorney rather than employees of the Voters Registration
Lowe said he will
evaluate the complaints on a case-by-case basis. Martin said if Voters
Registration workers do receive requests or complaints, they need to report
them immediately to the board.
Registration Director Sundae Schoon said it is rare for anyone other than
candidates or the media to request the finance reports. Those who wish to
view the reports in the Voters Registration office must first sign their
In another matter,
the board took up further discussion on a complaint they heard from Porter
County Republican Party Executive Director Kenard Taylor in April, asserting
a few Democrat candidates were in violation of state law by not having the
words “elect” or “for” on their campaign signs, giving the false impression
they are the incumbent elected official.
One of the
candidates in question, David Reynolds, appeared with his attorney Mitch
Peters before the board saying they believe Reynolds’ sign is in compliance
with the law since it has “in fine print” at the bottom “Paid by the
Committee to Re-Elect David M. Reynolds Sheriff of Porter County.” The sign
otherwise has in large letters “Reynolds Sheriff” with a line in the middle
separating the two words.
"I suggest the sign
does not falsely represent anything,” Peters said, he asserted election year
politics are to blame. “I would suggest that what is going on here is
someone raising issues where there are none.”
holders like Reynolds, who served as Porter County Sheriff for two previous
terms before David Lain, often go by that title even after their time
holding that position has expired, and that can be said of Reynolds,
according to Peters.
Stankiewicz said he
could not find anywhere in the law that required the words “for” or “elect”
on signs and felt the board should not move forward on a decision since
Taylor was not present Friday to answer questions the board may have.
said he finds “some merit” in the complaint. “The idea is to make it as
clear as possible to what you are seeking.”
Martin said she
feels whether there was a violation depends on the intent of the candidate.
She recalled a time when members of the Democratic party made complaints
about the Republican signs.
“You can’t point
the finger and not expect it to be pointed back at you,” Martin said.
Bengs said the
meeting Friday was just for further discussion, not to make any formal
decisions. That would require a hearing where witnesses would be called, he
suggestion, all members voted to place the matter under advisement.
signs Taylor had questioned included Kozuszek’s who is running for County
Clerk, Scott Williams who is running for County Recorder, and Alta Neri who
is running for Portage Township Assessor.
State law says that
in order to declare a candidate in violation, it will need a unanimous vote
from the election board. The board may assess a civil penalty fee of up to
$500, according to the law.