Salinas plea may lead Hammond Council vacancy

2013-04-21T00:00:00Z 2013-05-13T17:13:06Z Salinas plea may lead Hammond Council vacancyChelsea Schneider Kirk, (219) 933-3241

HAMMOND | The Hammond City Council may soon have a vacancy as beleaguered Councilman Al Salinas agreed to plead guilty last week to two federal charges.

The development in Salinas' case comes six months after he was indicted on charges surrounding the acceptance of money from the owner of a local tree-trimming service in exchange to routing $310,000 of his district's gaming revenue to the company.

Salinas' plea agreement also came the same week as Marilyn Krusas resigned from the Gary City Council, effective Wednesday, before formally pleading guilty in federal court to tax evasion.

In the agreement, Salinas admits to accepting a bribe from Dave's Tree Service and failing to file a federal tax return, federal court records show.

“I accepted the money from Dave's Tree Service for the purpose of giving more contracts and work to Dave's Tree Service,” Salinas' plea agreement states.

No change of plea hearing had been set for Salinas, who originally pleaded not guilty to the charges, as of Friday. His case had been set to go before a jury in May.

A sentencing hearing for David Johnson, owner of Dave's Tree Service, is set for May 8. Johnson has formally pleaded guilty to bribing Salinas.

When asked if he planned to step down from the City Council, Salinas declined comment. He's serving his fifth term on the City Council representing Hammond's 2nd District.

Salinas' lawyer, Mark Psimos, declined comment on the plea agreement.

Hammond Mayor and Lake County Democratic Chairman Thomas McDermott Jr. said Salinas can stay in office until he's actually convicted of a felony. He said Salinas had not resigned from the council as of Friday.

According to the Indiana Secretary of State's office, Salinas would need to step down “when the judge announces the guilty verdict.”

“It's not a happy day in Hammond,” McDermott said. “Al is admitting he was bribed basically, so that's not good. That's concerning for me as mayor and I know it's concerning for the rest of the council obviously. It's hard to deal with.”

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