CROWN POINT — Lake County Councilman Jamal Washington returned to his public duties, which became further removed from public safety in the wake of his newest domestic violence arrest.
Washington, D-Merrillville, attended the council's January meeting Tuesday. He missed the Dec. 12 meeting because he was incarcerated in Lake County Jail on charges he battered a female cousin living with him last month. He denies wrongdoing, and she has recanted her accusations. A special prosecutor still is pursuing efforts to prosecute Washington.
Washington engaged in a number of debates with fellow council members and inquired about whether Lake County Jail corrections officers are underpaid. Lake Sheriff Oscar Martinez Jr. gave curt answers to Washington's questions.
Council members voted with him on dozens of measures, but also continued Tuesday removing him from the council's committees that oversee the criminal justice system in which his case now is pending.
The council voted to replace Washington on its committee over the Lake County Jail budget. Washington withdrew his name from consideration to be appointed to the Lake Criminal Court Public Defenders Board. Washington was assigned to committees overseeing veterans affairs and the data processing board.
The council named Councilman David Hamm, D-Hammond, as its 2018 president. He follows Councilman Ted Bilski, D-Hobart, who had served as council president since 2013.
The council approved 3-percent raises for the 220 corrections officers who guard inmates at the county jail. They were supposed to receive the same 3-percent across-the-board raise other county employees got earlier, but were inadvertently left out.
Councilwoman Christine Cid, D-East Chicago, voted against the timing of the raise, saying it should wait until the council and the corrections officers agree to a new contract. "I'm not against the correction officers getting this increase," she said.
The council deferred a vote on continuing its hiring freeze, which creates payroll savings by delaying hiring until after the council's approval to fill the job vacancy. Washington said the council is working on an ordinance to accomplish the savings without the need of the council micromanaging each county office.
The council voted 6-1 to approve two weeks paid leave for county employees who are new fathers and mothers. Councilman Eldon Strong, R-Crown Point, cast the lone dissenting vote against giving paid leave to men.