John Buncich arrives for sentencing

Former Lake County Sheriff John Buncich, right, and attorney Bryan Truitt approach the U.S. courthouse and federal building on Tuesday before Buncich's sentencing.

Kale Wilk, The Times

It's a powerful example we hope sends the desired shivers down the spines of any Region public officials even mildly considering the illegal use of their offices for personal enrichment.

Former Lake County Sheriff John Buncich was led from a Hammond federal courtroom in handcuffs similar to ones he would have worn on his belt as an officer of the law.

For the better part of the next 188 months — more than 15 1/2 years — Buncich will be incarcerated in a federal prison facility yet to be determined.

Buncich is paying a steep price for his felonious acceptance of tens of thousands of dollars in bribes for steering towing work. He did this while wearing the badge of the highest law enforcement official in the county.

So the price is appropriately high and should help send a message to others that this won't be tolerated.

Buncich likely will spend the next several weeks in a federal corrections lockup in Chicago while it's determined where he will call home for the next decade-plus.

Considering Buncich is 72 years old, and that federal inmates serve at least 85 percent of their prescribed prison sentences, the former sheriff is looking at quite possibly spending the rest of his life in prison.

The gravity of Buncich's sentence should give great pause to a Region that has seen dozens of elected officials or their politically connected contractors sentenced to federal prison since the 1980s.

A county away, Portage Mayor James Snyder faces similar felony bribery charges, also related to towing work, as well as alleged federal tax violations.

Buncich's sentence should serve as a reminder for Snyder to resign his office, sparing his constituents from the extended embarrassment Buncich dragged Lake County through until the former sheriff's eventual conviction last year.

In a greater sense, we all learned the potentially high price attached to the violation of public trust by those who were elected and took oaths to preserve it.

We hope all elected leaders maintain moral benevolence for doing right by their constituents. For those not inclined to that morality in their public offices, the Buncich sentence should compel an era of more honest government in Northwest Indiana.

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Members of The Times Editorial Board are Publisher Christopher T. White, Local News Editor Marc Chase, Lake County Editor Crista Zivanovic, Porter/LaPorte County Editor Doug Ross and Deputy Local Editor Erin Orr.