Election board raps school referendum critics

2012-08-28T18:30:00Z Election board raps school referendum criticsBill Dolan bill.dolan@nwi.com, (219) 662-5328 nwitimes.com
August 28, 2012 6:30 pm  • 

CROWN POINT | Election officials have dismissed more complaints against a political action committee that won last year's Lake Central School Corp. referendum.

The Lake County election board unanimously rejected allegations by Richard J. Hucker, of Dyer, and Joe Hero, of St. John, that Friends of Lake Central Schools violated state election laws by failing to report its use of school property and equipment as so-called in-kind contributions.

Friends of Lake Central Schools, a political action committee, campaigned successfully last year to win voters' approval in St. John Township to raise $160 million in taxes for a major renovation of the high school in St. John and a new Protsman Elementary School in Dyer.

State law requires political action committees to publicly disclose the amounts and sources of money they raise and where they spend it.

Jeffrey Gunning, an attorney for the bipartisan five-member board, said his research shows state law exempts Friends committees from having to report they used school buildings, phones, computers and utilities.

Board members said they will further investigate next month allegations by Hucker and Hero that school employees campaigned for the referendum on public time.

Hero told board members Tuesday they must bring in the county prosecutor's office to investigate whether the committee and school employees committed ghost employment or converted public property to an improper purpose.

Election board Chairman Kevin Smith suggested Hero go the prosecutor's office and request an investigation himself.

Scott Yahne, an attorney for the Friends committee, said Hero's accusations were, "unfair and incorrect." He said committee members were unpaid volunteers, not public employees being paid by the school district to campaign for the referendum.

Earlier this summer election board members dismissed similar complaints by Hero and Hucker against the school district on grounds its role in the referendum battle didn't violate state law.

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