Lake Station abandons plans to abolish City Court by Jan. 1, 2014

2012-12-06T22:30:00Z 2013-05-13T16:17:08Z Lake Station abandons plans to abolish City Court by Jan. 1, 2014Deborah Laverty deborah.laverty@nwi.com, (219) 762-1397, ext. 2223 nwitimes.com

LAKE STATION | The City Council on Thursday unanimously agreed to abandon plans to abolish its City Court by Jan. 1, 2014.

That decision was applauded by the majority of a standing-room-only crowd that came to City Hall to support City Judge Chris Anderson.

"We all know the truth," one of Anderson's supporters shouted from the crowd.

City Councilman John McDaniel, D-1st, asked that an ordinance drafted with the purpose of abolishing the City Court be removed from the agenda.

The council agreed, as part of McDaniel's motion, to instead meet with Anderson at the first of the year to work out any issues involving the court.

City Attorney Ray Szarmach said earlier this week that he had been directed by the City Council to draft an ordinance abolishing the court.

The main reason for considering abolishing the City Court is because of falling revenues, said City Council President Garry Szostek.

Before McDaniel's motion to remove the ordinance from the agenda, the City Council heard a report from Damon Tsouklis, of Cender and Co. of Merrillville.

Tsouklis, who had audited the City Court's financial books between 2009 and the present, said his findings showed there had been a substantial loss of revenue each year.

City Councilman Rick Long, D-5th, said he estimated the loss to be close to $300,000 over the four years.

"We can't continue to operate year after year at a loss. ... Something has to change, and the sooner the better," Long said.

Several residents who came to defend Anderson and the City Court said they doubted the figures collected by Tsouklis.

One of those doubting the accuracy of the information was City Court Clerk Kim Frizzell.

"I don't know where those totals (from the audit) came from," Frizzell said.

Resident John Bastin Sr. told council members they should step down because of what they had been attempting to do.

"What we want you to do is to leave our judge alone," Bastin said.

Anderson, who was the last of several residents to speak, said he was unbelievably disappointed.

"One-hundred-and-ten percent of everything that happened is retaliation of what took place on June 7. There were no issues until that date," Anderson said.

Anderson said it was on June 7 that he fired Mayor Keith Soderquist's stepdaughter from his court.

The City Council later removed Anderson's supervision of two clerks, which led to him suing the city and winning to have the positions returned.

Soderquist denies the claim.

Anderson said he is willing to work with the City Council to resolve issues surrounding the court.

However, Anderson said he'll fight, and take legal action if needed, to prevent any future efforts by the City Council to abolish his court.

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