CROWN POINT — The Lake County Council passed a bond ordinance Tuesday that, if approved by the Board of Commissioners, will raise more than $4 million to pay out settlements to people who have sued the county for alleged wrongdoing in recent years.
The ordinance authorizes the county to sell bonds, payable over a 10-year period, to fund at least 28 settlements reached in 2018 and 2019.
Known as a judgment bond, the loan is needed because the county has about $700,000 in its self-insurance fund — well below the roughly $4 million it owes to plaintiffs as a result of the settlements.
At $4.4 million, the judgment bond approved by the council would cover the settlements, plus associated legal fees, according to John Dull, an attorney for the Board of Commissioners. Dull originally had proposed a bond issue of $5 million, but he revised that figure down after wrapping up negotiations with a final plaintiff earlier this month.
“I shot high, then we came back to where we’re at,” Dull said.
Lake County has issued bonds to pay for legal settlements several times in the recent past, but the latest proposed judgment bond is significantly smaller than the previous two. Lawmakers approved a $7 million judgment bond in 2015, followed by a $7.5 million bond in 2017.
Because the County Council passed the bond ordinance on a second reading, the proposal now moves to the Board of Commissioners, which will take it up at a special session Wednesday. Commissioners are expected to approve the ordinance language and separate findings that justify the bond amount, according to Dull.
If county commissioners pass the proposal, it then will go to the Indiana Department of Local Government Finance for final authorization.