Some of the poorest residents in our Region and state have been treated shamefully by the people elected to provide aid in their most desperate of times.

The trend appears to have continued with confirmation last week Calumet Township Trustee Kimberly Robinson took a taxpayer-funded trip to Aruba for a conference on how to properly treat people of color.

She would have done better to consider how she was treating some of the state's poorest taxpayers when she compelled them to fund a Caribbean junket for herself and her government chief of staff.

It's not as much the cost as the appearance, though both should be particularly unpalatable given the population for whom Robinson's office provides emergency poor relief.

Robinson told me Thursday she and her chief deputy billed the township for a collective $2,868.44 trip to the four-day Aruba conference in late November.

On Friday, we formally requested all bills and related receipts from the trip to verify those numbers. That request is pending.

The price tag of the trip sounds like a drop in the bucket of an annual budget that's ranged between $5 million and $6 million in recent years.

But not when one considers the prime directive, under law, of a township trustee to provide emergency poor relief for needy residents who've fallen on hard times.

Calumet Township includes all of Gary, Griffith and related unincorporated areas.

Gary, in particular, is one of the most impoverished cities in our country. Census estimates show more than 37 percent of Gary residents live in poverty.

Residents there have an average median household annual income of $28,020, nearly $26,000 less than the national average.

Meanwhile, Robinson earned $95,000 in compensation as trustee in 2016, according to Indiana employee compensation records.

The chief deputy who joined her on the trip, Sherita Smith, earned $75,000 last year, the same records show.

Using any funds associated with her office for a tropical conference getaway — one that apparently had nothing topically to do with administering poor relief — is unconscionable.

Robinson declined to speak with me further about the matter, other than to confirm what Calumet Township taxpayers spent on the trip.

Her silence is not surprising, given the lack of defensible reasoning for such a decision.

The matter is all the more disheartening when considering the supposed white horse upon which Robinson rode when first elected trustee in 2014.

At that time, the Calumet Township Trustee's office was languishing in the scandal of a federal criminal raid and probe of then-Trustee Mary Elgin.

Controversy surrounding the federal probe ultimately helped Robinson defeat incumbent Elgin in the primary election.

Elgin eventually would be indicted by a federal grand jury and pleaded guilty earlier this year to charges she shook down her government employees into contributing to her political campaign as a condition of their employment.

Elgin also was embroiled in spending scandals and mismanagement that prompted a still-pending effort by Griffith to secede from the township and join another.

Robinson promised a new generation of fiscal stewardship and public trust. She made these pledges on the campaign trail and during interviews with this columnist.

At one point, many of us gave her the benefit of the doubt that she intended positive change.

Saddling her constituents with a bill for a tropical getaway casts serious doubt on the earnestness of her past promises.

First, she should be ashamed of herself. Then she should repay the township for these unjustifiable expenses.

Then taxpayers should turn their ire toward getting answers from Robinson, and the Calumet Township board, for seeking or approving such expenses.

And any of the political opponents to Griffith's long-running attempts at breaking away from the township should have a newfound respect for their effort.

There is no white horse of positive change riding into Calumet Township. It's merely the steed of another unscrupulous government leader taking advantage of those who can least afford it.

This shameful behavior should be ridden out of town on a rail.

Editorial Page Editor Marc Chase can be reached at (219) 662-5330 or Follow him on Facebook at or Twitter @nwi_MarcChase. The opinions are the writer's.


Marc is a veteran investigative reporter and editor of more than 15 years, including 10 years at The Times, where he is the investigative editor. He is also the founder of the Calumet Region Civil War Preservation Project.