VALPARAISO | The Porter County Election Board has a new member, a new attorney and a new controversy.
Lawyer David Bengs was named by county Republican Party Chairman Mike Simpson to fill the vacancy of Patrick Lyp, who resigned after being appointed economic development director for Valparaiso. The other board members then elected Bengs president of the board.
The first order of business for the new board was to name Ethan Lowe its lawyer, replacing Clay Patton, who held the position for six years. Lowe said the contract is the same as the one the board had with Patton except for some hourly charges.
J.J. Stankiewicz, the Democratic member of the board, voted against the change while Bengs and Porter County Clerk Karen Martin supported it.
Lowe's first assignment will be to unravel whether the MSD of Boone Township can hold a new referendum in the May primary or will have to wait until the November general election.
Stankiewicz provided the board with a letter sent by school district lawyer Tara Tauber asking the board to overrule the decision by Kathy Kozuszek, the Democratic director of the election board, that the district would have to wait because the primary is May 6, which falls one day short of one year the law states must pass before it can be resubmitted.
Tauber also provided a letter from Leslie Barnes, co-counsel for the Indiana Election Division, stating the law defines a year as being one calendar year "unless otherwise specified." Stankieeicz said that could mean the county election board could allow the school issue back on the ballot in May.
The measure lost by only four votes last May. Lowe said he would have to consult with Tauber and Barnes before giving the board an opinion on the matter. He said he would try to do so quickly.