The big news today is that four people in Lake County -- including a current officeholder -- have been indicted on public corruption charges. It is, sadly, a familiar story.
This time, the U.S. attorney's news conference was a doubleheader. Not only was one case discussed, but a second unrelated case was discussed as well.
In the first, Lake County Coroner Tom Philpot faces charges of mail fraud, theft and misappropriation of funds related to his term as county clerk. He is accused of misappropriating a little less than $25,000 from the county's IV-D child support program. The federal government sent money to select counties as a bonus for performing well on child support collections.
"These funds provide for incentive payments to elected officials upon approval of the council and employees for reaching performance guidelines in collecting delinquent support," Philpot wrote in a March 15, 2010, column in The Times.
A personal gift from Uncle Sam for a job well done? Not so, according to the indictment.
The second case involves three Lake County police officers -- Sgt. Joseph Kumstar and Officers Ronald Slusser and Edward Kabella -- alleged to have used their positions in the sheriff's department to purchase machine guns and laser sights, and then sold them on the Internet for profit.
U.S. Attorney David Capp said all three of the officers have agreed to plead guilty to all counts and will be making statements soon. That has fueled speculation they are cooperating with federal authorities in a wider public corruption probe.
That wouldn't be surprising. There is a lengthy list of public officials and others affiliated with one unit of government or another in Lake County who have been indicted and found guilty over the years on public corruption charges. Weeding out corruption is healthy. Pulling weeds is necessary to yield a good crop of public officials.
The focus on good, ethical government must continue. The public should strongly urge their communities to join the Shared Ethics Advisory Committee to put a spotlight on ethical behavior. That effort is urgently needed.
Philpot and the three officers -- even with the announcement that the three police officers plan to enter guilty pleas -- should be presumed innocent until found guilty in a court of law. However, the public corruption charges against Philpot and three Lake County Sheriff's Department officers are another sign the U.S. attorney's office is targeting public corruption in northern Indiana.
It should not be taken as a sign that their work in this regard is done. The federal investigations, and tips from the public and insiders, must continue in order to provide the ethical government the citizens deserve.