EDITORIAL: East Chicago library gets scrubbing

2011-03-28T00:00:00Z EDITORIAL: East Chicago library gets scrubbing nwitimes.com
March 28, 2011 12:00 am

It's good that East Chicago Public Library operations are getting a thorough cleaning by officials downstate.

The Indiana State Library, the State Board of Accounts and Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller all have become involved in trying to straighten up the mess at that library. It's the political equivalent of trying to clean up a toxic waste dump.

Current and former Library Board members began receiving letters this week from the State Board of Accounts asking for reimbursement of insurance premiums paid on behalf of board members for health, vision and dental coverage. Those amounts, which vary according to length of service on the board, range from $600 to $52,000.

The board members who improperly had the library pay their insurance need to refund that money. Under Indiana law, library board members are to serve without compensation.

Then there's the situation surrounding former library Director Manny Montalvo, who was fired March 16. The attorney general's office filed a lawsuit to freeze Montalvo's assets while the State Board of Accounts continues to examine more than $12,000 in questionable travel and other expenses. 

The Lake County Circuit Court granted a temporary restraining order to freeze those assets. A hearing is set for Wednesday on the state's further efforts to ensure Montalvo doesn't liquidate assets before the state pursues civil action against him.

The investigation into Montalvo's actions, including the State Board of Accounts audit, must go forward.

In announcing the action against Montalvo, Zoeller noted the push in Northwest Indiana for promoting ethics in government.

"I recently participated in an Ethics in Government conference in Lake County where it was made abundantly clear that municipal officials must stop using public offices for their personal use," Zoeller said. "It is somewhat encouraging there is now interest by local governments in joining a Shared Ethics Advisory Commission, which would train officials on what is appropriate."

Cleaning up government, as is happening at the East Chicago Public Library, requires everyone's support because we see too often what happens when ethics takes a back seat.

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