Attempt to clear up Porter County budget woes hits a wall

2013-03-07T17:15:00Z 2013-03-08T13:20:10Z Attempt to clear up Porter County budget woes hits a wallBob Kasarda bob.kasarda@nwi.com, (219) 548-4345 nwitimes.com

VALPARAISO | An attempt by the Porter County Council to straighten up its budget woes has itself become a problem.

A dispute has developed over the effort to fill the newly created, full-time position of budget and finance specialist, which pays $40,000 a year and includes access to the county's health insurance plan.

The council had advertised the post both at the county administration center and on the county website, and held an executive executive session late last month to interview the five applicants.

Council Vice President James Polarek, R-4th, said it was his impression there was a consensus among the group in favor of one of the candidates.

Yet a couple of days later, a four-member, bipartisan majority on the council came forward with a new applicant. The move reopened the hiring process with a closed-door interview at 5 p.m. Monday, followed by a public meeting at 5:30 p.m.

"It's not fair to the other applicants to open it back up for just one person," Polarek said.

Councilwoman Karen Conover, R-3rd, disagreed, saying the latest applicant had been considered for this type of post in past years by the council and should be granted an interview.

The names of the applicants are considered confidential under the law and thus the county would not officially confirm the identities of the individuals.

Conover said she is frustrated by the dispute, considering the large amount of hospital sale proceeds the county could be putting to work for economic growth.

"But we can spend hours on end frustrating ourselves on something that should be positive," she said.

Councilman Jim Biggs, R-1st, who opposes reopening the hiring process, is also frustrated, but blames it on politics that the members had initially agreed to leave out of the process.

"It would be a shame if we let politics in any way come in between what we do and what we should do," he said.

Biggs said he can't understand why the latest candidate did not apply earlier considering she has two jobs with the county — one paid position and one contract. The applicant also ran for office and is affiliated with a political party, which is not true of the others, he said.

Councilman Bob Poparad, D-at large, said he believes the latest applicant is the most qualified, which is what he considers most important.

"Until we vote, it's not closed," he said of the debate over the hiring process.

Council President Jeremy Rivas, D-2nd, said he has made a failed plea to reopen the hiring process to everyone and not just this latest applicant.

"I don't believe what we're doing is right," he said.

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