Yet another elected official in Northwest Indiana walked into the federal courthouse in Hammond wearing shackles Thursday. It is, sadly, a familiar story.
Dozens upon dozens of people connected with local government in Northwest Indiana have walked that same sidewalk.
This time, it was Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquist, along with his wife, Deborah, and his stepdaughter, Miranda Brakley. The Soderquists were indicted Wednesday on charges of improperly using money from his election campaign and from the city's food pantry. Brakley, a previous city employee, is accused of taking at least $5,000 in bond money from the city court. The Soderquists are also charged with knowing about that $5,000 and helping Brakley avoid apprehension.
It is up to the judge to determine whether they are guilty. All three entered not guilty pleas.
But it's up to the Lake Station City Council and others in Northwest Indiana to learn from this situation.
First, there should be a wave of anti-nepotism policies adopted across the entire region.
Deborah Soderquist is her husband's administrative assistant. She belongs by her husband's side throughout their marriage, but not in the mayor's office.
Local government should not be a family business. There should be no instance in which an employee reports directly to a member of the immediate family. It is also worth looking at whether family members even belong in the same unit of government -- and if so, under what circumstances.
There should be checks and balances in government, and banning nepotism is one of those necessary steps.
Joining the Shared Ethics Advisory Commission is a step in the right direction.
Second, the Lake Station City Council needs to take immediate action to protect the city's finances. This is a city, remember, that had the State Board of Accounts wondering about its ability to remain a viable entity.
Third, the mayor's federal indictment has not only further eroded public trust in local government but also now will raise skepticism about any decision made in Lake Station while he remains in office.
Soderquist should now resign to restore trust in the mayor's office and focus on the legal challenges facing him and his family.