Chesterton Tribune



Kozuszek vs. Martin: Ballot room keys turned over to maintenance head

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Immediately after a particularly contentious meeting of the Porter County Election Board adjourned Friday, Democrat Director of the Voters Registration Office Kathy Kozuszek incited a group of audience members to demand that County Clerk Karen Martin relinquish the keys to the room that houses the County’s election equipment.

Martin, a Republican, is facing an election challenge from Kozuszek in this year’s race for County Clerk.

Kozuszek, who remained quiet during the meeting portion as the board members discussed proposals for an early voting site, got up and said she would like the public to know that Martin is the only person that has a set of keys, giving her access to the ballots. She said Martin needed to give them to an impartial party now because absentee ballots have arrived and are to be mailed out to overseas and military voters.

“As voters in this county, stand up and tell (Martin) to turn over the keys!” Kozuszek said to those in the audience.

Nearly a dozen in attendance acted on Kozuszek’s request, shouting in unison several times for Martin to “turn over the keys.”

Martin then said she was handing the keys over to Kenard Taylor who filling in for Election Board Republican member David Bengs, but Kozuszek advised it “has to be an impartial party.”

Martin called over Heidi Childers, director of maintenance for the County Administration Building, and gave her the keys to hold on to. Childers told the Chesterton Tribune she is not sure if she ultimately can hold the keys but said she will keep them “for as long as I have to.”

Martin, in her defense, claimed that she saw documentation from the state saying the Clerk is to have the keys in an email from Kozuszek.

Keys to various locks in the Voters Registration office have been the subject of recent political bickering between Kozuszek and Martin.

Two weeks ago, Martin said she had the locks to the front doors changed for security reasons after she heard from secondary sources that Kozuszek reported items were missing from her desk. The new locks require both a Republican and a Democrat employee to open the door.

Martin temporarily let the employees in herself until the workers got their individual keys.

Kozuszek on Friday said that there wasn’t any theft but it was a matter of things on her desk “being tampered with” by persons unknown. She said she had set up a deer camera to monitor her office area.

Members of the public sitting in on Friday’s board meeting asked Martin why she changed the locks to which she replied there was a theft in the office and she was told by the County Commissioners at a previous time that was the procedure follow.

Martin denies accusations that her actions were a political power play.

Kozuszek, on the other hand, contended that Martin’s actions were “100 percent political” and against the law because she “locked people out of their jobs” in a federal election year.

Kozuszek also accused Martin of political intimidation and other improprieties. She said she will have further documentation at the next election board meeting to support her claims.

Meanwhile, Bengs sent word to his fellow board members saying it is his directive that neither Kozuszek nor Martin shall have direct contact with the ballots at any time during absentee voting, early voting or Election Day voting in the May primary elections and the November general elections.



Posted 3/24/2014




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