Some Lake County Republican officials are crying foul over the cancellation of last week's solid waste district meeting, dubbing it a possible political ploy to push a discussion past the general election.
Thursday's Lake County Solid Waste Management District Board meeting was canceled because a 14-member quorum of the board's 27 members could not be reached, said board Chairman Rick Niemeyer, a Republican.
Some county Democrats attribute the lack of quorum to a Thursday evening party event that drew members away from the solid waste district meeting.
Niemeyer declined to divulge his thoughts as to why enough Democratic members of the board reported they could not attend the meeting.
But Vice Chairman George Jerome, also a Republican, had no problem weighing in.
Jerome noted the lack of quorum — causing the only canceled meeting of 2012 thus far — pushed any further action or public debate on the controversial trash-to-ethanol issue safely past the Nov. 6 general election.
Solid waste district board member and Lake County Commissioner Gerry Scheub faces re-election Nov. 6 and has been the biggest political backer of a contract brokered between the district and a private developer to build a trash-to-ethanol plant in Schneider.
The project has faced stumbling blocks since the contract was ratified nearly four years ago, including a failure of developers to secure financing, a collapsed land deal and the reported pending exodus of the original developer.
"The meeting cancellation at this point is very suspicious," said Jerome, who serves as Griffith's clerk-treasurer. "When this happens about two weeks before the election — and with everything that has happened with this project — it makes it seem very suspicious that this was done to get the issue past the election."
Board member and Griffith Councilman Rick Ryfa, also a Republican, agreed.
"I think the general public perception ends up being bad on this," Ryfa said. "We had 100 percent quorum for all of 2012 until now."
Scheub did not return calls placed by The Times seeking comment.
However, Lake County Democratic Party officials confirmed the local party had its annual Unity Dinner, a fundraiser, on Thursday night.
Both Jerome and Niemeyer said they heard a Democratic event was planned at the same time as the solid waste district meeting Thursday and may have contributed to the lack of quorum.
"But that's a disservice to citizens if we're putting these kinds of functions over the people's business," Jerome said. "I was blowing off a fundraiser to be there (at Thursday's scheduled meeting)."
Scheub's GOP opponent for the commissioner's office, Schererville Councilman Jerry Tippy, also criticized the meeting cancellation, saying the time has come to kill the trash-to-ethanol contract.
"It is convenient for some that this meeting has been canceled, but I believe they are only postponing the inevitable," Tippy said in a prepared statement. "I think it’s time to start over. Let’s open up the bidding process again and see if any new ideas have been developed over the past four years."