Porter County Clerk
Karen Martin confirmed to the Chesterton Tribune that she had the
locks changed on the entry doors of the Voters Registration office on Monday
morning “for the security of the office,” due to a suspected case of theft
Director in Voters Registration, Kathy Kozuszek, maintains for her part that
the action is purely a political stunt on Martin’s part.
Kozuszek and Martin
are set to square off in the County Clerk race in the November general
Kozuszek said that,
after several personal items on her desk went missing, she set up a web
camera to monitor her office space. The camera, she said, is turned on
nights and weekends when the office is closed and is separate from the one
in the side room of the office which provides surveillance when the ballots
Martin--after hearing about the potential thefts from County Commissioner
President John Evans, R-North, and County Attorney Betty Knight--said that
she asked Kozuszek in a memo to report to her and the other two members of
the Election Board by the end of the day last Thursday on what items were
When Kozuszek did
not respond by the deadline, Martin said that she felt the need to step in
because county clerks, she said, are responsible for elections.
“There were a
couple of red flags I thought needed to be taken care of,” Martin said. “I’m
hoping this resolves the issues.”
Only the entry door
locks were changed, Martin said. Three keys will go to Republican workers
and three keys to Democrat workers. Martin has been letting workers into the
office in the morning. Deadbolts were installed Wednesday on the door and
one must be opened with a Republican key and the other by a Democrat key.
The only others who
have keys to get into the office are the Commissioners and the maintenance
Martin said that
she also has a key to the room where the election equipment is stored
because that is property of the County Clerk.
Kozuszek, who was
not in the office at the time the locks were changed, said that Martin’s
actions were “one hundred percent political,” questioning why she is taking
such charge this year when she has been “disengaged” in past elections.
Kozuszek said that Martin has never taught a poll worker class, even though
it’s her responsibility as Clerk, and has been absent on more than one
occasion when the Election Board has certified a vote.
Kozuszek also asked
what Martin would need to secure because the ballots for the primary
election have not yet been delivered.
One question the
two disagree on is whether Voters Registration is an office of the County
“My office is not
(Martin’s) office,” Kozuszek said. “It’s the Voters Registration Office. She
added that the directors are appointed by the party chairpersons, not the
On the contrary,
Martin said, under state law the circuit court clerk is the officer for a
county’s voter registration, and that all the forms associated with the
election indicate they are to be filed with the clerk of the circuit court.
As for the camera,
Kozuszek claims that, under the Porter County Employee Handbook, employees
may do what they can to protect their property. She said she did not respond
to Martin’s letter because she only needs to report to her party chair. “I
followed what was the letter of the law and in the County handbook,”
Laura Blaney, D-South, said that Martin should not have changed the locks
because she did not consult the Commissioners ahead of time. She said that
goes for any department head or employee who wants to make a physical change
in the County Administration Center. “I don’t think it’s okay to change
locks without first notifying the Commissioners,” Blaney said. “It’s the
public’s building but it’s our responsibility.”
Martin said she got
permission from the Commissioners to change locks at a previous time when
she had a theft in the Clerk’s office and was told it was the procedure to
follow so she did the same for the Voters Registration office.
Martin said her
actions were not political because for the primary elections both she and
Kozuszek are running unopposed. She said she wants to clear up problems now
so they do not become issues in November’s race.
Evans said that he
felt the new locks are appropriate because they require a Democrat and
Republican to open them.
Evans said he wants
to prevent the appearance of electioneering--when a candidate or supporter
tries to influence a voter--while early voting is going on in the Voters
Registration Office. Indiana law bans electioneering within 50 feet of a
voting area, he said.
The Election Board
reviewed the concern last week and will meet on Friday to continue the
discussion on where it will place early voting locations.