GOP challenger accuses Van Til of pay for play

2012-07-23T18:30:00Z 2012-07-25T00:31:15Z GOP challenger accuses Van Til of pay for playBy Bill Dolan bill.dolan@nwi.com, (219) 662-5328 nwitimes.com

CROWN POINT | Lake County Surveyor George Van Til is under attack by his Republican opponent for accepting re-election campaign contributions from vendors enriched by his office.

"The bottom line is that pay-to-play has got to stop," Eric Krieg said Monday after releasing scores of records from Lake County government's accounts payable system and Van Til's campaign.

Van Til said Krieg's analysis is nothing more than politics devoid of facts about Indiana's campaign laws and local government contracting methods.

"He's a newcomer to this area, and everything he is saying is irresponsible," Van Til said.

Krieg made public scores of public documents identifying contractors and consultants who have made more than 60 donations totaling $17,200 to Van Til's political war chest since 2005 and who have received hundreds of thousands of dollars in contracts for public works projects over the last three years.

They include Clifford Duggan, longtime attorney for the surveyor's office as well as general contractors: Delta III; DLZ; RA Oras; Christopher Burke; and V-Mad.

Krieg said they have received no-bid contracts awarded by the Lake County Board of Commissioners at the urging of Van Til's office.

Van Til said Krieg is confusing large-scale multiyear contracts that don't have to be rebid year after year.

Krieg said one of the no-bid contracts was $531,400 awarded last December to R.A. Oras by county commissioners for work to shore up the slumping banks of Hart Ditch, a waterway draining Dyer and Munster.

Van Til said payment was just one of $4 million paid to Oras and other contractors selected through a competitive bidding process to work on a large project over the last 13 years. He said Oras did the work this year for the same rate as in previous years -- a savings to taxpayers, Van Til said.

Krieg said he began his research after the FBI raided Van Til's office last month and removed paper and electronic documents.

Krieg said he isn't accusing the vendors of any wrongdoing concerning the performance of their work for the county, but he said it is ethically improper for Van Til to be accepting money from them.

 "I think that it is over the line of ethical behavior. We have to get to the point where politicians are not fundraising from the people that benefit from Lake County contracts," Krieg said.

Van Til said he rarely accepts a contribution of more than $1,000 from any individual donor. Most of the contributions made by vendors range from $100 to $1,000.

Krieg chides Cal Bellamy, president of the Lake County Shared Ethics Advisory Commission, for making contributions to Van Til and his former bank, Bank Calumet, accepting $50,000 in deposits from Van Til's campaign. Bellamy no longer works for the bank, now part of First Midwest Bank.

"Self-styled ethics guru Cal Bellamy, a former executive of Calumet Bank, benefited from the campaign of largess of George Van Til," Krieg said.

Bellamy said he contributed to Van Til before the deposits were made and is still contributing to Van Til six years after he left the bank. Bank Calumet was sold to First Midwest in late 2005.

Van Til said he he keeps money in the same bank to this day. He said Krieg's attack on a man of Bellamy's honesty and stature is irresponsible and typical of Krieg, who has been rashly critical of many local leaders over the years under the Internet blog name, Buzzcut.

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