2 Hammond council members scrutinize city board choices

2013-03-02T20:07:00Z 2013-03-02T23:00:05Z 2 Hammond council members scrutinize city board choicesChelsea Schneider Kirk chelsea.schneider@nwi.com, (219) 933-3241 nwitimes.com

HAMMOND | Appointments to the Hammond Human Relations Commission were scrutinized by two City Council members last week as the council moved to fill numerous vacancies on the board.

Councilman Bob Markovich, D-at large, argued city employee LeAnne Munoz shouldn't serve on the board because it may create the perception of conflict of interest.

Markovich said he's sat on many boards with city employees and their votes can be swayed.

“It's just the way it happens,” Markovich said. “When you have a boss that oversees you and determines whether you are still going to have a job or not, you are going to end up voting a certain way, and I've seen it time and time again on several of these boards.”

City attorney Kris Kantar said Munoz serving on the board while being employed as a building manager for the Hammond Parks and Recreation Department is not a conflict of interest because Munoz isn't an elected official.

Markovich also took issue with Munoz's age, saying she was too young to serve and may not know how to handle the human relations issues that come before the board, which is charged with ensuring equal opportunity in education, business and housing.

That claim was rebuffed by Councilman Bill Emerson, D-4th, who sponsored Munoz's appointment.

“It's not an old folks relations commission,” Emerson told council members when they discussed the appointments in caucus. “It's a human relations commission.”

Responding to Markovich's criticism, Munoz said she was disappointed to hear her ethics had been called into question.

“Of course that would disappoint anyone,” Munoz said, “but I think unfortunately there is a stigma with a lot of people who work in the city that they either have a popular name or know somebody or are related to somebody.

"I'm probably a little bit unusual. I just started working in the city through College Bound, and I just worked really hard and was noticed and recommended.”

Munoz also contended serving on the commission at the age of 24 isn't a factor.

“Obviously, I've met many people who are very mature for their age and people in their 40s who are the exact opposite,” Munoz said. “It depends on the person and their character and the type of experiences they've had in the past. I've always felt I was a little mature for my age.”

Separately, Councilman Anthony Higgs, D-3rd, said he could not support Anne Herbert's appointment to the commission. Herbert is vice president of the Citywide Crime Watch and an American Red Cross volunteer, but Higgs alleged Herbert had been disrespectful to his mother at a campaign event.

Herbert declined to comment on Higgs' claims after the meeting.

The City Council voted, 7-1, to place Herbert on the board and 6-2 to appoint Munoz.

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