CROWN POINT — A challenger to Lake County Sheriff Oscar Martinez Jr.'s election campaign complains he is violating state election laws.

Betty Dominguez, one of eight Democrats running for sheriff in the May 8 primary, is asking the county elections board to sanction Martinez and his political action committee. The board next meets March 20.

She claims Martinez improperly calls himself an incumbent running for re-election.

Martinez ran unsuccessfully for sheriff in the 2010 and 2014 Democratic primary elections. He became sheriff Sept. 16 when a majority of 400 Democratic precinct committee members chose him to serve the remaining 13 months of the unexpired term of former Sheriff John Buncich, who was removed from office after a U.S. District Court jury found Buncich guilty of bribery and fraud.

Dominguez wants the election board to order Martinez and his political action committee to stop using the word "re-elect" on his campaign materials.

Dominguez claims Martinez is improperly promoting his election with taxpayer money through a March 4 advertisement in The Times of Northwest Indiana seeking sheriff's department job applicants and a recent WJOB radio show and video, that the sheriff's department pays for, featuring an "Oscar Martinez for Lake County Sheriff" political logo.

Sheriff disputes complaint

When contacted Wednesday evening, Martinez disputed the complaint point-by-point. 

Concerning the WJOB radio show where video displayed his campaign logo, Martinez said neither he or anyone associated with his staff or campaign asked that logo appear.

"I was not happy about that myself," Martinez said. 

Martinez didn't appear on that show and when he found out the logo appeared he asked Emiliano Perez, his chief of staff, how the logo wound up on the video.

He said after discussing the issue with WJOB, the sheriff's department wouldn't be charged for the segment.

WJOB owner Jim Dedelow said Wednesday night the graphic appearing was an error on the station's part.

Martinez noted that the sheriff's department has a longstanding relationship with the radio station and the radio show is something "the sheriff's department has always done."

"Nobody was campaigning for me on the show," Martinez said. 

Perez and Deputy Police Chief Edward Jenkins appeared on the show. 

As for calling himself an incumbent, Martinez said, as the current sheriff, by definition he is an incumbent. 

Concerning the allegation of using public money to promote himself through a job fair advertisement in The Times, Martinez said his department is short 22 corrections officers and he's trying to fill those positions, not trying to campaign.

"We recruit. We advertise. There are photos of me on literature because I'm the Lake County Sheriff and proud to be the Lake County Sheriff and I wear this uniform every day,"  Martinez said. "And I think people should know who their sheriff is."