VALPARAISO | Four Democratic candidates seeking seats on the Porter County Council or Board of commissioners are crying foul over a flier mailed out this week holding them and their party responsible for the formerly late tax bills.
The football-themed flier, which was paid for by the Porter County GOP, refers to South District Commissioner candidate Laura Blaney, and County Council candidates Dan Whitten, Bob Poparad and Sylvia Graham as "The Fumbling Four" and accuse them and the Democrat Party of costing taxpayers millions.
"Getting tax bills out is not the responsibility of the council or commissioners," said Blaney, who is wrapping up four years on the council after having served during 2005 and 2006 as well.
She said the council provided the assessor, auditor and treasurer's offices with enough funding to accomplish their responsibility of getting tax bills out on time.
"We're part of the team now and bills have been on time for three years," she said.
Michael Simpson, vice chairman of the Porter County GOP, said the flier targets the four former or current council members for failing to work as a team with fellow Democrats to more quickly address the tax billing problem.
He acknowledged there were Republican office holders in the mix, but said none are currently running for office.
"They were in the majority," he said of the Democrats.
Poparad, who served on the County council from 2003 to 2010, said the flier is not portraying history accurately.
"We inherited the problem from the Republicans," he said, sharing memories of late tax bills when he was still serving on the Burns Harbor Town Council. "The Democrats got it back on track."
Poparad said as a county councilman he helped lead weekly meetings with various county officials until the billing problems were corrected.
County tax bills went out on time in 2010 for the first time in at least three years.
Democrats were in control of the county council and county commissioners, and headed up the county treasurer, assessor and auditor's offices in 2010. Republicans took control of the commissioners, and auditor and assessor's offices the following year.
Council President Whitten, who called the claims on the flier lies and mudslinging, said he had the department heads responsible for the tax bills appear at council meetings during the period in question.
"We went the extra mile to try to get them going," he said.
Graham said when she took office in 2009, she worked to secure a state-certified tax software system, which the county did not have in place.
She said she also worked to replace the Democratic auditor at the time with another candidate from her party.