HAMMOND | The Lake County sheriff is making public a private rebuke Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. hurled at him for arresting one of the mayor's allies.
The mayor accused Sheriff Rogelio "Roy" Dominguez, his second-in-command and Lake County Prosecutor Bernard Carter of "playing politics" following the Sept. 10 arrest by county sheriff's police of David Woerpel, 5th District Democratic precinct captain, and a close associate of the mayor, along with three other Woerpel family members on charges they were growing marijuana plants in their backyard.
Dominguez released a voice message he said McDermott Jr., left the following Saturday morning on the sheriff's cell phone.
McDermott now is criticizing the sheriff for the disclosure.
"I didn't think the sheriff was going to make this conversation public. That's the kind of guy he is," McDermott said.
The sheriff said he did it, because "I have never been intimidated by political threats."
The mayor's message to the sheriff stated: "As you probably know ... I'm sure you do know that Dave Woerpel was arrested, his wife was arrested, his two sons were arrested. They were swept up, because there was five tiny pot plants growing in their backyard. ... Nonetheless, they were swept up in a warrant. Tina was arrested in front of her employees in the (city) recycling center. You would think they were growing pounds and pounds of marijuana in the backyard, but it turns out they were growing five small, little plants, which leads me to believe that somebody is playing politics, and it's got to be either you or (Lake County Police Chief) Marco (Kuyachich) or (Lake County Prosecutor) Bernie (Carter). So I'm calling all three of you, and I'm going to let you know that I'm definitely getting involved in the sheriff's race, and I'm pissed off. Roy, this is completely, completely uncalled for. Dave Woerpel is the captain of the 5th District, captain in the city of Hammond ... very, very powerful, very, very political, and you guys arrested him and he had nothing to do with it. Nothing. Roy, that's the dirtiest trick I've ever seen. Have a nice day."
McDermott denied this week he was trying to intimidate or in any way influence the court proceedings against the Woerpels.
"I'm not excusing the conduct of Dave Woerpel at all or his family. Obviously, there was marijuana in his backyard. But I've practiced law for years, and I've seen a lot of cases like this. And this one is unique.
"Typically, it isn't the family that gets arrested. What they would do is narrow it down and find out whose responsibility this was and then arrest that person. I felt it could have been handled a lot better. I think time will prove I'm speaking the truth on this."
The sheriff said he had nothing to do with the state police investigation and hadn't heard of Woerpel before. He said his officers serve thousands of arrest warrants all over the county.
State Police spokeswoman Sgt. Ann Wojas said the charges against the Woerpels began as a routine aerial survey by Trooper Jason E. Sample in a police helicopter.
Sample alleged in court papers he saw marijuana growing behind a shed on the family's lot, drove to Woerpel's house and questioned family members who said they knew about the pot.
"David (Woerpel) stated that he knew about the marijuana plants, but that they were not running a drug cartel," Sample alleged in his court affidavit.
The dispute involves two men who have often been at odds and may be rivals for governor in 2012.
Dominguez, who cannot run for re-election as sheriff because of term limits, supports Kuyachich as the next sheriff. McDermott said in April he will support County Clerk Thomas Philpot for sheriff.