CROWN POINT | The business of Lake County's flood control is going on for the first time in 21 years without George Van Til at the helm.
The Lake County Drainage Board and its citizen advisory board met Wednesday without taking any official notice of the former surveyor's absence.
Van Til, who resigned Dec. 5 after pleading guilty in federal court to six counts of fraud alleging he assigned political work to his public employees, was there in spirit, however.
His former employees delivered one-page letters from Van Til to the advisory board. In them, Van Til, who gave himself the title of "Surveyor Emeritus," praised the work of 11 advisers representing county property owners with his office.
"For me it is so strange and sad, but I hope to visit with you in the future. ... I am sorry that my actions outside of our stormwater drainage improvement efforts made it necessary for me to leave," he wrote.
Gregory Sanchez, who has been second-in-command of the surveyor's office for 17 months, took Van Til's accustomed seat at the front table, where surveyor's staff members advise board members of work planned, underway and completed on the county's 600 miles of drainage ditches.
Sanchez asked for and received permission to do emergency work on a collapsing drainage pipe that was causing a sinkhole on Kennedy Avenue in Schererville and to repair collapsing banks on the Brown Levee in Eagle Creek Township, southeast of Lowell.
Sanchez talked about future work he hoped to oversee if selected Jan. 4 by a caucus of Democratic precinct committeeman at the Hammond Civic Center to complete the remaining three years of Van Til's current term.
No sentencing date for Van Til has been scheduled.
John Garcia, owner of Garcia Consulting Engineers in Hammond, and Bill Emerson Jr., a Merrillville attorney and civil engineer, also have announced their interest in the job.