Election Board seeks legal advice on Biggs complaint

2013-04-19T17:30:00Z 2013-04-19T18:56:06Z Election Board seeks legal advice on Biggs complaintPhil Wieland phil.wieland@nwi.com, (219) 548-4352 nwitimes.com

VALPARAISO | The Porter County Election Board wants more information before deciding how to deal with the anonymous complaints filed about county Councilman Jim Biggs's campaign finance reports.

At their meeting Friday, board members were critical of the person or persons who filed the complaint for doing so anonymously, depriving Biggs of the opportunity to face his accuser and forcing the board to make the case against Biggs and serve as prosecutor.

"Without specifics, what questions are we to ask?" County Clerk Karen Martin said. "This person wants an audit, but where do we start?"

"All of it is supposition and innuendo," Board President Patrick Lyp said. "As a general rule, I'm not a big fan of anonymous complaints, but we need to take complaints seriously. If they raise issues, we have an obligation to see if there is a basis to move forward with a formal hearing."

Lyp said Biggs called him Thursday, and Lyp suggested he come to Friday's meeting. At that time, Biggs had not read the complaint letters, one filed on March 14 and the second dated April 11 after Biggs filed his latest campaign finance report.

Biggs, who did not attend the meeting, said he read the complaint after talking to Lyp and was surprised, based on the attention they have attracted, that they contained nothing more than technical violations, many of them incorrect.

"Had someone pointed these out when I filed, I would have been more than happy to make changes," Biggs said, calling the whole thing "odd" and "very suspicious." "No one reached out to me or asked me about them. This is what happens when that ball gets dropped. If there is an indictment, make it and I will react accordingly."

Lyp said, "The election board does not review or audit these reports. We simply receive them and put them in a file and anyone can review them."

Martin said, after receiving the complaints, she pulled all the campaign finance reports for the 2012 primary and found that at least 75 percent of them had errors. While saying she thought a couple of the issues brought up by the Biggs complaint should be looked at, if the board does that, it should review all the reports.

Board Member J. J. Stankiewicz said, "We should have no hearing until the person has the courage or veracity to appear before us and document what they are charging and why, and Biggs can appear."

Lyp said the board in the past has always given a person the opportunity to correct errors. The board agreed to have its attorney Clay Patton review the complaint and Biggs's reports to see if there are issues the board should address further, and Biggs should be given the chance to respond in writing.

If the board needs to hold another meeting on the complaint, Biggs would be formally invited to attend. The board also agreed to the recommendation of Kathy Kozuszek, Democratic director for the board, to have all the finance reports posted on the county's Web site.

Kozuszek said the county thinks it knows the identity of the anonymous complainer based on who sought copies of the reports. Meanwhile, Patton quipped Biggs ought to hire the anonymous complainer to check his campaign reports in the future before filing them.

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