MARC CHASE: Time to give tax-and-spend culprits the pink slip

2013-09-05T00:00:00Z MARC CHASE: Time to give tax-and-spend culprits the pink slipMarc Chase marc.chase@nwi.com, (219) 662-5330 nwitimes.com
September 05, 2013 12:00 am  • 

If you're an employer running a retail business and discover one of your cashiers mishandling the house take, you at least consider firing the employee, don't you?

Maybe the cashier is new and just hitting the wrong buttons, mischarging customers. And maybe you just decide to give the employee a stern warning of what happens if he or she doesn't shape up.

But if an employee is outright stealing — or if a more careless pattern occurs repeatedly despite your complaints and reprimands — wouldn't it be time for a pink slip? And how long do you wait to pull the trigger?

Lake County taxpayers should be asking this question of themselves right now as they watch how elected officials handle their tax money. Taxpayers' senses should be particularly heightened by the new 1.5 percent local option income tax that county leaders have voted to begin bleeding out of taxpayer paychecks.

There will come a time when the taxpayers themselves — the true employers of all elected officials — will need to make a judgment call about the performance of those officials in handling our tax dollars. These include dollars taken directly from your income or from your coffers based on the value of your property.

Either way, you earned it, and the institutions of county and municipal government collectively belong to you.

Unfortunately, the inmates have been running the asylum for a long time in Lake County as voters perpetually put the same people right back into office.

Some of these hiring choices flame out in embarrassment — like former Clerk and Coroner Tom Philpot, who is serving federal prison time for stealing from taxpayers, or former East Chicago Mayor George Pabey, who is serving time for doing a different version of the same thing.

The U.S. attorney provided the definitive pink slip for those two men, who had been hired by taxpayers at the polls.

But federal prosecutors have no jurisdiction to act when county officials overspend your tax dollars and then proceed to borrow more money — using you as collateral — while raising user fees and other costs.

U.S. Attorney David Capp and his predecessor, Joseph Van Bokkelen, have prolifically locked up elected Lake County thieves for years now. But they can't forcibly remove elected officials who merely exercise their power to raise your taxes, squander your money on patronage or no-bid contracts and then borrow when your money runs out.

No, we the taxpayers are the only ones who have that power by way of election ballots. Will we use it?

Keep a careful eye on your county and municipal officials, who likely already have spent the new 1.5 percent income tax before collecting a dime of it. Be even more watchful of those who voted in favor of the tax and are now considering more borrowing beyond the tax revenues.

Employers who perpetually let these kinds of things slide ultimately get what they deserve — lighter pockets, no profits to reinvest or eventual financial ruin.

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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