Tempers flare during Lake Station City Council meeting to discuss City Court

2013-01-11T00:00:00Z 2013-10-08T14:31:07Z Tempers flare during Lake Station City Council meeting to discuss City CourtBy Deborah Laverty deborah.laverty@nwi.com, (219) 762-1397, ext. 2223 nwitimes.com

LAKE STATION | Officials found little common ground during a special City Council meeting held Thursday to discuss revenue generated by the city courts.

Shouting matches, heated exchanges and allegations between officials characterized the nearly two hour meeting held in the mayor's conference room.

City Attorney Ray Szarmach at one point got up to leave following a heated exchange between City Judge Chris Anderson and Mayor Keith Soderquist during which Anderson implied Soderquist was a liar.

"I feel guilty charging the city for being here today because I don't think we're making any headway," Szarmach said.

Szarmach suggested the City Council appoint a committee of three to meet and discuss the issue with Anderson and court clerk Kim Frizzell.

City Council Todd Lara agreed and named to the committee council members John McDaniel, Garry Szostek and Todd Rogers.

"I'm fine with that," Anderson said.

Issues with what officials termed as  falling revenue being generated by the City Court came  to a head  last month when the City Council considered abolishing the City Court by Jan. 1, 2014.

That decision was abandoned by the City Council and was applauded by a standing-room-only crowd that came to City Hall to support Anderson.

The council agreed to instead meet with Anderson at the first of the year to work out any issues involving the court.

The issue of falling revenues in the court was debated at length on Thursday with Frizzell presenting figures showing the court had made money during the last four years.

Court revenue dipped in 2011 which was in sync with fewer court cases, Frizzell said.

Lara and Anderson debated at length on whether court deferral money should be included in the total revenue.

"Why not count it (deferral money) since it brought in revenue for the city?" Anderson asked.

Anderson also loudly denied accusations that he had waived any court fees during his tenure.

'I don't waive fees. Is it up to me? No I don't think it's appropriate for me to get involved," Anderson said.

Anderson suggested that during any future meetings that city officials have in attendance a member of the Lake County Data Board who could verify court financial figures. 

Anderson has maintained that the issues with the court surfaced when on June 7 he fired the mayor's stepdaughter who had been a clerk under his supervision.

"There were no issues before that date," Anderson said.

Soderquist has continued to deny that allegation.

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