CROWN POINT | An independent investigation has refuted claims of impropriety in the Lake County surveyor's office, Surveyor George Van Til said Friday.
Van Til said reports by an independent attorney and engineer conclude drainage work on the Spring Street Ditch in Munster and the Brown Levee in rural south county were being properly managed by his office and that the contractor, R.A. Oros, was complying with contract specifications and wasn't paid prematurely.
But Eric Krieg, Republican candidate for surveyor, rejected those reports as relying on questionable assurances by Van Til's staff. Krieg said Friday he is still convinced Van Til's office has helped to overpay for incomplete and unfinished work.
Van Til and Krieg are locked in one of the most acrimonious contests on the Nov. 6 ballot.
Van Til, who is seeking his sixth term, has more campaign money and can count on a secure block of voters casting Democratic ballots. Krieg has responded with high-profile attacks on Van Til, alleging a lack of quality management of drainage work by vendors that contribute to Van Til's campaign.
Van Til said Krieg is well known for "... pathetic, slanderous, irresponsible attacks on me and anyone else he's ever been up against. ... Krieg has no class. The truth is irrelevant to him."
Van Til said his office's management of stormwater has been admirable. He said he has refuted Krieg's claim of bid rigging in a dispute over the award of a contract for improvements to the Brown Levee. It was given to a contractor whose bid for the project was $1,260 higher than that of Chem Check, a Gary firm owned by Joe Jargella.
Van Til said Chem Check didn't get the contract because it's previous work on the Brown Levee was unsatisfactory, a claim Jargella denies.
Jargella and Krieg argue Van Til's office has singled out Chem Check for punitive treatment.
Van Til said he has administered 252 drainage projects since taking office.
"Only twice in 20 years has the lowest bidder not been found to be the most responsive bidder and win the contract. So anybody who knows that should totally dismiss what (Krieg) says," Van Til said.
Krieg and Jargella also have attacked the drainage work by Munster-based contractor R.A. Oros, who they claim is favored by Van Til because Emil Poppa, Oros' president, is related by marriage to Van Til's attorney.
Poppa defended his firm's county drainage work and said earlier this week he has been unfairly dragged into this dispute because he refused Jargella's demand to intercede for him with the surveyor's office. Jargella said Friday he met with Poppa but denies trying to intimidate him.