Election officials dismiss 2011 Lake Central referendum complaint

2013-01-15T14:30:00Z 2013-01-16T01:10:12Z Election officials dismiss 2011 Lake Central referendum complaintBill Dolan bill.dolan@nwi.com, (219) 662-5328 nwitimes.com
January 15, 2013 2:30 pm  • 

CROWN POINT | The Lake County elections board voted Tuesday to dismiss the final complaint that a successful 2011 campaign to raise taxes for new Lake Central school construction violated state election laws.

The five bipartisan board members said there was no evidence Friends of Lake Central Schools, a political action committee, used school employees working on the public's time to persuade voters to approve a referendum authorizing $160 million in taxes for a major renovation of the high school in St. John and a new Protsman Elementary School in Dyer.

Joe Hero, a St. John Republican activist, and Richard Hucker, of Dyer, filed a series of complaints between November 2011 and May 2012 and questioned officials of the political action committee last fall at an elections board hearing about whether they failed to report personal services by school employees as a so-called in-kind contribution.

The committee officials denied the accusations last fall, testifying they only knew of some Lake Central teachers working for them after school hours on their own time.

Tuesday's vote appears to end a 14-month process.

Hero said Tuesday he doesn't plan to appeal the dismissal in Lake Circuit Court, but criticized the election board's investigation as biased and incomplete. Hero said he doesn't believe voters were aware the referendum will pay for a multimillion-dollar new football stadium.

The elections board also voted to investigate whether a Democratic Party election day inspector in Gary Precinct 2-18 left the polling place for several hours during the Nov. 6 general election. State law requires inspectors to be present continuously during polling.

James Wieser, an attorney for the election board, reported the city of Whiting will be eliminating two of its seven City Council seats in future elections, saving taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars.

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