CROWN POINT | Two factions of Lake County's Republican Party were sparring Tuesday while Democrats were not only sitting ringside for the event, but also playing referee.
Kim Krull, GOP chairwoman from 2009 until last year, stands accused before the Lake County elections board of failing to report spending and fundraising by the Lake County Republican Central Committee, as required by state election law.
Her opponent is Dan Dernulc, the current chairman who wrested power from Krull's wing of the party last year. She sees him behind the election complaint. He didn't attend the hearing, although his appointees to the elections board sit in judgment of her.
The dispute is rich in irony. Little more than a year ago, she was not only an election board member herself, but other Republicans on it also answered to her.
The stakes are much larger than a potential $200 fine for an untimely filing or who wins a duel of score-settling between Krull and her party opponents.
John Curley, who served as Republican chairman from 2003 until his death in 2009, reportedly loaned the party $18,525.40. His family wants the money returned, Krull said earlier this year.
She contends Dernulc is now responsible for that debt since he took over the party. However, Hammond attorney John Reed, speaking on behalf of Dernulc, said of the debt, "We don't want ownership of that."
Dernulc formed a new party leadership structure called "The Lake County Republican Central Committee," which he claims is separate from the committee that existed during Krull's time as chairwoman.
That committee was simply called, Lake County Republican Central Committee, without the introductory, capitalized "The" in the title.
Kevin Smith, chairman of the election board and a Democrat, wryly noted Tuesday, "The word "The" is very important."
Krull's attorney, Jeffrey Gunning, responded, "The isn't important. That's form over substance."
After lengthy argument, the elections board voted Tuesday to postpone a decision to give their attorneys more time to research the law on this matter.
Krull wants the complaint dismissed as technically flawed. David Wickland, the attorney advising Republican election board members, wants to ensure Dernulc isn't held responsible for the missing campaign finance report.
Gunning said Krull wants everyone to know, "We are not here to attack the Republican Party or its new leadership."
However, if the case goes forward, Republican Party leaders past and present could be required to testify and face cross-examination over whose version of the dispute wins.