Some folks assume critics of the established machines in our county's political system wear white hats and ride in on pale-colored steeds, hell-bent on saving the day for the common taxpayer.

But what happens when the guy who purports to be wearing the white hat is a federally convicted felon once accused by prosecutors of threatening to kill the judge who sentenced him to prison?

Nowhere is this fairytale of white hats more untenable than in Hammond political races this year, particularly in the case of an outspoken critic of incumbent Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr.'s campaign practices.

East Chicago resident and towing company owner John "Lefty" Nauracy has been railing against McDermott's campaign spending to anyone who will listen, including the Lake County elections board.

Nauracy filed a complaint stating McDermott's campaign spent $13,795 for renting recreational vehicles between 2007 and 2014 and suggesting a connection with a 2013 McDermott family vacation to Wisconsin.

Nauracy also is demanding an investigation into McDermott's paying as much as $353,000 from 2006 through 2014 to Kelly Consulting, which is owned by McDermott's wife, Marissa.

McDermott, of course, denies the RVs were used for his private vacation and contends the payments made to his wife's company were for legitimate political consulting. In any case, the campaign money spent was not tax dollars, so the mayor has more latitude in how he spends it.

The elections board must look into the matter and render a ruling. A hearing is scheduled for April 6 at the Lake County Government Center in Crown Point.

What many of you may not know in all of this rhetoric is the supposed corrector of wrongs, Nauracy, has a past that casts a dark shadow on his supposed white hat.

In the mid-1990s, Nauracy was sentenced to about four years in federal prison after pleading guilty in Chicago federal court to mail fraud. The charge stemmed from allegations he was making false insurance claims on supposedly stolen vehicles, according to federal court records.

During the course of Nauracy's case, and after he already had pleaded guilty, federal prosecutors also alleged that at some point, the defendant threatened to kill the federal judge who had sentenced him to 51 months in prison, court records allege.

Nauracy denies he ever made such threats, and he was never charged with intimidation or any other such crime — just the mail fraud for which he pleaded guilty.

Despite his status as a convicted felon, Nauracy holds towing contracts with East Chicago and the Lake County Sheriff's Department. This should make us all question the process by which vendors are vetted before being issued contracts by our local governments.

Nauracy also claims he has a beef with Hammond for calling in other towing vendors during county police stops in the city rather than allowing him to take the jobs.

Therein probably lies Nauracy's motivation. He has no towing contract in Hammond and would probably like to seek one under a future Hammond mayor whose name isn't McDermott.

In the meantime, a federally convicted felon wants us all to believe he's wearing the white hat.

Investigative Editor Marc Chase can be reached at (219) 662-5330 or marc.chase@nwi.com. The opinions are the writer's.

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Editorial Page Editor/South Lake County Editor

Marc is a veteran investigative reporter and editor of more than 15 years, including 10 years at The Times, where he is the investigative editor. He is also the founder of the Calumet Region Civil War Preservation Project.