MARK KIESLING: Being an official means never having to say you quit

2012-05-04T00:00:00Z MARK KIESLING: Being an official means never having to say you quit nwitimes.com
May 04, 2012 12:00 am

I am kind of wondering what it takes to remove a public official from his or her position.

Let's look at three instances in Lake County just within the past month. That's a lot, but again I am talking Lake County.

You've got your Lake Station City Councilman Harry Pedroza Jr., who has been removed from his duties as a county sheriff's police officer.

He is alleged to have rather brutally attacked his girlfriend March 20 while "highly intoxicated," according to a Lake Station police report.

He is said to have slammed her head into the floor several times and has been charged with battery. Sheriff John Buncich has taken his badge and gun away from him.

But Mayor Keith Soderquist said Pedroza can't be removed from office unless he is convicted of a felony. And he is correct.

Then we have Hammond City Councilman Al Salinas, D-2nd, who was canned from his job as a foreman in the Street Department by Mayor Tom McDermott Jr.

Salinas, in his fifth term as a councilman, was fired for "conducted unbecoming of a city employee," said McDermott.

Exactly what that was has not been made public record or the subject of a police report.

But if his conduct was unbecoming of a city employee, is he really a guy you want to represent you if you live in the North Hammond 2nd District?

Is Pedroza a guy you want representing you if you live in Lake Station's 4th District?

My answer in both cases would be no. But you're going to have to allow the law to move slowly but surely through its paces.

And if there is no felony charge, they can continue to thumb their noses at their constituents.

We can wrap this up by talking about Tramel Raggs, the Lake County commissioners' special assistant (what's that anyway?) and a recent appointment to the Gary/Chicago International Airport Authority.

He was busted by Gary police after allegedly pulling a gun while driving after another motorist gave him what was described discreetly as an "obscene finger gesture."

Don't think it was the pinky unless they did not care to send their very best.

Commissioner Gerry Scheub, D-Crown Point, initially wanted him suspended for five days without pay, but fellow commissioners Roosevelt Allen, D-Gary, and Fran DuPey, D-Hammond, demurred.

Raggs, the son of Gary City Clerk Suzette Raggs (big shock there!), has not been charged with any crime.

Raggs' hiring as a $59,312-a-year assistant last year raised controversy among commissioners.

Allen and Scheub supported Raggs' hiring, but DuPey said the job was unnecessary and other county employees never were given a chance for the position.

What does it take for public officials accused of crimes to be ousted?

Your vote.

The opinions are solely those of the writer. He can be reached at mark.kiesling@nwi.com or (219) 933-4170.

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