MARC CHASE: Schererville political appointment needed pause button

2014-01-16T00:00:00Z MARC CHASE: Schererville political appointment needed pause buttonMarc Chase marc.chase@nwi.com, (219) 662-5330 nwitimes.com
January 16, 2014 12:00 am  • 

What if state excise police conducted a gambling raid at a business in your town within the past year, that gambling case remained pending, and the same business sued your town within the past two years regarding a separate contract dispute? Would you expect the business owner would be named to a town commission seat?

If you answered yes, you're all-too familiar with Lake County's political landscape.

Two lone Republicans on the Schererville Town Council said they recently balked at the appointment, by the council's Democratic majority, of local business owner David "Spike" Jaroszewski to the town's Plan Commission. The town confirmed he will earn $2,400 for the year, or $100 per meeting for the 24 scheduled meetings.

In general, small-business owners make good appointments to such municipal commissions, particularly ones that help shape economic development. Jaroszewski also works as a bailiff in Schererville Town Court, helping fulfill a requirement that at least three of seven Plan Commission members come from the ranks of town employees.

But GOP Councilmen Kevin Connelly and Jerry Tippy were right to question Jaroszewski's appointment, given recent history.

Those in Schererville unfamiliar with Jaroszewski's name are more likely familiar with his mainstay downtown bar and restaurant, Spike's Lakeside Inn 2.

Aside from running the business, which is a popular hangout for a number of Lake County politicos, Jaroszewski, by his own admission, is very active in the local Democratic Party. He lost a Town Council bid in 2010, and Jaroszewski said he has helped run multiple campaigns for local political offices.

His business also was the site of a 2013 gambling raid by state excise police, who alleged an illegal Super Bowl gambling pool involving more than $200,000. That case has not yet been resolved.

And in a separate case in 2012, Jaroszewski sued the town in Lake County civil court, alleging its Park Board had improperly discarded a contract he had to run a festival beer garden. That case was settled out of court, with the town paying Jaroszewski $9,000.

Alone, the civil case probably shouldn't keep Jaroszewski off the commission. But with the gambling case pending, I question the judgment of naming him to a municipal government board.

When I spoke to Jaroszewski this week, he argued the excise raid was over a Super Bowl gambling pool — something common in offices and other businesses. But he conceded it was gambling and said he takes responsibility. I credit him for that.

He also said his longtime business history in Schererville makes him a qualified appointment to a board holding sway over future development in town.

I can't argue with that. But I question the council appointing Jaroszewski to a town board while we await a final resolution in the gambling case.

Late last year, the gambling issue was enough to prompt Schererville's Fraternal Order of Police to cancel a turkey raffle scheduled at the business. It should have been enough to hit the pause button on Jaroszewski's appointment.

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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