MARK KIESLING: Van Til speaks out on office raid, sort of

2012-06-08T00:00:00Z MARK KIESLING: Van Til speaks out on office raid, sort of nwitimes.com
June 08, 2012 12:00 am

Well, this was news Lake County Surveyor George Van Til really didn't need just five months before an election.

FBI and Indiana State Police hit his office the other day and carted off computers, looking for something no one is saying anything about.

I asked Van Til on Thursday what he thought the officials were looking for.

"I don't know," he said. "It would not be productive for me to talk to you at this point. For many years, I've tried to be a good public servant, and I think most knowledgeable people would agree.

"It's hard to talk to me about something I don't know much about."

The whole raid has led to much speculation about what the feds and Indiana State Police were seeking, but speculation is not fact. I've heard some of it; maybe you have, too.

But until we have some hard evidence or at least a statement from either Van Til or the feds, it's reckless at best to print rumors.

One thing that is not a rumor, though is that Van Til faces Republican opposition in the fall election. BP mechanical engineer Eric Krieg wants the job, although I cannot figure out why.

I mean, surely he is making more than the $50,000 or so that our county elected office heads take in.

Does this raid give Krieg a foot in the door? Maybe. But it is always an uphill battle for a Republican to win a countywide office in predominantly Democratic Lake County.

Yeah, Van Til is carrying some extra baggage. A lot of us remember how he allowed his son to drive a county truck to high school, exposing the county to the potential of a lawsuit.

Fortunately, his son is apparently a good driver and did not run over anyone or hit another vehicle. But still.

Then there was the gasoline debacle where he filled up his private car at the county gas pumps behind the sheriff's department. Now, Van Til does have a gas card (or at least he did) legitimately and he was driving his private car on county business, if we take him at his word.

That's up to you. You might not buy it, but you can't prove otherwise is my guess.

I'm not carrying Van Til's water. I took him to the columnist woodshed on both occasions, and he will be the first to tell you I showed little mercy.

But he won renomination this spring over his closest challenger, engineering firm owner John Garcia, of Hammond, by a safe margin.

I asked him if he thought this latest incident would affect the fall election. "I don't know," he said. "I don't think so."

Frankly, I don't think so either. There has been a lot of noise made about Van Til and his controversies, but he keeps winning.

I don't know what the cops are looking for, and they are not saying. But this is Lake County, where an indictment (should such a thing happen) has little effect on the outcome of an election if you've got Democratic Party support.

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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