VALPARAISO | Some members of the Porter County Council are crying foul over a letter mailed out by a couple of their peers to county employees involving the recent battle over the 2013 budget.
The letter, signed by Democrat council members Dan Whitten, at large, and Laura Blaney, at large, point out they supported a failed budget that included a flat $500 raise for all county employees and enough funding to cover health insurance costs.
The budget that won approval does not include raises and under funds insurance by $2.7 million, according to the letter.
"You deserve raises, your funded benefits, and our appreciation," the letter says. "Because of your hard work, the county can afford it."
Councilman Jim Biggs, R-1st, who sided with council members Sylvia Graham, D-at large, Jeremy Rivas, D-2nd, and Jim Polarek, R-4th, on the successful budget in question, said the group would have loved to pass along pay raises.
"The fact is, we cannot afford it," he said.
Polarek questioned how Whitten obtained the employee addresses.
"Using county employees as campaign workers is not ethical and there have been officials in Lake County criminally charged for doing this," he said.
Whitten said no county resources were used in the letter.
Whitten said he gathered the employee addresses on his own and used his own money to fund all costs associated with the letter. He said he did use an image from the county's website at the top of the letter.
"I thought it would be nice for them to think Porter County appreciates the hard work they're doing," he said.
Blaney, who also said no county resources were used in the letter, said she felt it important to both thank the employees for their hard work and clear up misunderstandings about next year's employee compensation.
"We are getting a lot of questions," she said. "They want to know."
Graham, who promised to yet seek employee raises if the Board of Commissioners and council agree to use local income tax revenue to fund needs at the jail, was overcome by emotion when discussing the letter.
"I just think it's sad," she said.
Whitten and Graham are seeking re-election next week and are in the running for three seats against Republicans Mark Hoffman, Ralph Neff and Joe Wszolek, and Democrat Bob Poparad.
Blaney is running for the South District County Commissioner seat against Republican Mike Heinold.