DOUG ROSS: Prison isn't only place where guard changes

2013-02-22T00:00:00Z DOUG ROSS: Prison isn't only place where guard changes nwitimes.com
February 22, 2013 12:00 am  • 

So Tom Philpot is going to prison. I can hear rejoicing and see heads shaking as Philpot becomes political history in Lake County.

Philpot's sentencing Thursday by U.S. District Court Judge James Moody will no doubt be seen by Lake County Republicans as yet more proof of the need to oust Democrats from office. Democrats will no doubt see it as erasing a stain on their party's reputation.

I see it as more evidence of a changing of the guard, of an older generation of "gimme" politicians being put out to pasture, one way or another.

Indiana Democratic Party Chairman Dan Parker was in our office Thursday, a few hours after Philpot's sentencing. We put him on the spot during our nwi.com Political Roundtable segment.

He assured viewers — correctly — there are many Democrats in office in Lake County who are unfairly viewed as corrupt because of convictions against people like Philpot.

Philpot was sentenced to 18 months for pocketing thousands in child support money from the federal government sent to Lake County between 2004 and 2009 as a bonus for doing such a good job of collecting payments from parents. Philpot, who was county clerk at the time, maintained his attorney advised him that was Philpot's bonus, rather than the county's money.

Philpot was a serial office holder. At one point, he was serving as county clerk, waiting to take office as coroner, while running for sheriff. That's not just convoluted, it's also revolting.

No wonder the voters backed away from him in the primary election in the sheriff's race that year.

Philpot had a temper while in office, as anyone who knows him could attest.

Just Wednesday night, I ran across a photo of my wife and me at an event in Hammond several years ago. Our smiling faces don't reflect Philpot's shouted rant about how The Times — and he used my name, among a few others — were out to get him.

No, we weren't out to get Philpot. That was just his paranoia talking — or rather shouting. The only emotion I felt toward him that night was pity, that he would have embarrassed himself in that way.

I talked to Philpot many other times, trying to reassure him that no one at The Times had a vendetta against him. That remains true.

So now Philpot will have time to reflect on his misdeeds, serving time at a federal prison camp in Pekin, Ill., beginning April 3.

That's not the only place where the guards change, though.

The U.S. attorney's office has helped bring about a changing of the guard in Lake County politics. Savvy politicians will, we must all hope, decide the old ways are over.

It's up to the voters to make sure this changing of the guard is completed.

Editorial Page Editor Doug Ross can be reached at (219) 548-4360 or (219) 933-3357 or Doug.Ross@nwi.com. Follow him at www.facebook.com/doug.ross1 and on Twitter @nwi_DougRoss. The opinion expressed in this column is the writer's and not necessarily that of The Times.

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