CROWN POINT | FBI and state police investigators removed a number of computers and containers full of official documents Tuesday afternoon from Lake County Surveyor George Van Til's office.
Lake County Attorney John Dull said law enforcement officials arrived about 10 a.m. Tuesday with a subpoena to confiscate material. He said they didn't give him a copy of the subpoena, which is a court order demanding the documents be surrendered.
Local officials said they were stunned by the large number of investigators who paraded out of the surveyor's office shortly before 2:30 p.m. carrying a laptop, desktop computers and printed material they had collected from the office, which contains millions of dollars in electronics supporting the county's state-of-the-art Geographic Information System. That system was built with public money for the purpose of pinpointing potential economic development sites.
Van Til issued a statement minutes later stating, "This is a total surprise to me, and I'm not really aware of exactly what's going on or what the authorities are looking for, or at.
"I can't answer any questions at this time. We will assess this situation later. It's important for everyone not to jump to any conclusions. This is not the first time the FBI has been in a governmental office here, nor will it be the last time, I'm sure. Sometimes, things have come from these visits; sometimes, not. Do not rush to any kind of judgment."
An anonymous county government employee said he had heard federal authorities are looking into allegations of campaigning with public property.
Van Til, who has been surveyor since his first election in 1992, just finished a bruising campaign to win renomination for a sixth four-year term in office. He defeated John Garcia on May 8 by fewer than 2,300 votes. He faces Republican Eric Krieg in the general election this fall.
Krieg issued a statement Tuesday: "While we cannot yet know why the FBI raided Mr. Van Til's office, they don't generally do it for innocent reasons. This is yet another stain on the record of Lake County, the kind of thing that hurts our reputation and makes it more difficult to recruit companies to relocate here. It is also in line with the other unethical behavior that Mr. Van Til has been guilty of in the past."
Van Til came under public scrutiny in 2007 for lending a new county pickup truck to his teenage son to drive to school and for ordering a county employee to pump county gasoline into one of Van Til's personal vehicles.
The surveyor's office oversees flood control projects in addition to being a repository of geographic information.