Lake County Clerk Mike Brown's failure to obtain a a surety bond has left the county in a very tough spot for liability.
Being uninsured has left him as well as the county unprotected. It is a problem that must be addressed immediately, in his case, but long-term solutions must be considered as well.
The ability to obtain a bond would seem to be a basic qualification for the county clerk's job. However, Indiana law doesn't set any such qualifications for clerk. Just about anybody can run for that office.
To be elected county assessor, candidates must already hold level II certification when filing for office.
Brown's problem could easily have been avoided if the Indiana General Assembly had heeded the advice from the Indiana Commission on Local Government Reform and brought about sweeping, sensible changes to county government.
Clerk and assessor are two positions for which Hoosier voters do the hiring. However, it doesn't make sense to have the voters fill positions that don't set policy, but rather implement it.
The Kernan-Shepard commission's report said, "Too many roles that should require professional qualifications and standards -- such as assessor, sheriff and coroner -- are in face elected positions, with few if any requirements for technical or professional expertise. We recommend removing these positions from the ballot and making elected officials responsible for appointing professionals to these roles."
Add the job of county clerk to that list, too. The Kernan-Shepard recommendation is to split that job in two, transferring the courts responsibilities to the courts staff and the election responsibilities to the election board. Absent that reform, however, the clerk's job should be an appointed position.
The difficulty Brown is facing in obtaining a surety bond would not be an issue if only Indiana would reorganize county government to make administrative, rather than policy-setting, positions be filled by appointment rather than by election. If that were the case, only people who could easily obtain this liability insurance would be hired.
The public needs to pressure the Indiana General Assembly to finally implement these important reforms.