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HAMMOND — Mediation could be an option in the settlement of a lawsuit involving last year's election mess in Porter County.

A preliminary pretrial conference has been set for March 14 in the federal lawsuit brought by Kathy Kozuszek, the Democrat representative in the Porter County Voter Registration Office against the Porter County Election Board, former Porter County Clerk Karen Martin and election board chairman David Bengs.

According to a court filing this week, mediation, along with various forms of alternative dispute resolution, will be discussed during the conference along with a proposed discovery plan.

Kozuszek filed the lawsuit in late November claiming her fight for overtime pay led to the voter registration office being stripped of its responsibilities to run elections in Porter County and placed in the hands of the county clerk.

"As a result of the retaliatory transfer to the Porter County Clerk, the November 2018 election in Porter County was a well-publicized embarrassment, with several Porter County officials attributing the mismanagement of the election to defendant Martin and her lack of experience in conducting an election," reads the initial filing.

Kozuszek contends the Porter County Election Board, "with encouragement from members of the Porter County Council, took retaliatory action" by transferring election-related duties from her office to that of Martin.

The Nov. 6 Porter County election was plagued with issues, including a lack of poll workers, which caused some polls to open late. A court order opened the polls for the full 12-hour voting period, but that and other issues resulted in vote totals not being released until three days after the election.

Kosuszek is seeking compensation for overtime she worked and future overtime, compensatory damages, liquidated damages and punitive damages and costs, including attorney fees. She has also asked for a jury trial.

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Porter County Reporter

Joyce has been a reporter for nearly 40 years, including 23 years with The Times. She's a native of Merrillville, but has lived in Portage for 39 years. She covers municipal and school government in Porter County.