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Porter County Election

Kathy Kozuszek, Karen Martin and J.J. Stankiewicz

VALPARAISO — Porter County Election Board President J.J. Stankiewicz has resigned.

His resignation follows calls from fellow Democrats and the state's highest election official to do so.

"In the end, I feel positive that the truth will eventually prevail and that the voters of this county will understand what is really going on with these recent public attacks," Stankiewicz wrote in a letter filed with the clerk's office Monday.

"But until that time arrives, I do realize I can no longer be effective. I therefore wish you good luck but choose to resign instanter and request the filing of this document in your official records pursuant to current election law."

Stankiewicz did not immediately return a telephone call for additional comment.

Stankiewicz had sent a similar version of the letter to media outlets, including The Times, last week. Monday, he added two sentences to the end of the letter announcing his resignation. In the letter, Stankiewicz defends his actions, saying, in part, "I am proud, rather than being apologetic, about my twenty years of service on the Election Board and what I personally accomplished for the 2018 election."

Stankiewicz said he initiated a court order to keep the polls opened.

Local Democrats called for his resignation Sunday after he got into a shouting match with newly elected Porter County Clerk Jessica Bailey prior to a March 8 Election Board meeting, yelling at her to "shut up," "listen to me" and "quit the crap."

The exchange was caught in a video made public last week.

"I would like to thank Mr. Stankiewicz for his service," Bailey said in a written statement Monday.

"He has been a valuable member of the election board for many years and his accomplishments encompass much more than these past few months. The county election board provides an essential service and the contributions of each member should be recognized."

Bailey said she has not received an apology from Stankiewicz.

In his letter, Stankiewicz said his "private argument" with Bailey was "secretly videotaped," was "over heated," but led to a civil meeting.

"We wish to express in no uncertain terms our dismay with the way your appointee treated Clerk Bailey," the politicians wrote in the letter to Porter County Democratic Chairman Jeff Chidester. "We find the comments made by Mr. Stankiewicz to be demeaning, unprofessional and woefully misguided and inaccurate. We cannot tolerate such behavior from any member of our county boards."

Chidester also did not immediately return a telephone call Monday.

Porter County Council President Dan Whitten said Monday he appreciated and agreed with Stankiewicz's decision to resign. Despite the controversy, Whitten added, he would be remiss not acknowledging Stankiewicz's 20 years of service and his work for the public good.

The letter follows calls by Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson and The Times editorial board for Stankiewicz and Democratic voter registration Director Kathy Kozuszek to resign after last fall's election debacle in which election results were three days late because of a number of snafus, including a shortage of poll workers, 12 polling places opening late and allegations of mishandled ballots. 

Kozuszek, contacted Monday morning, said she could not comment, citing a pending civil lawsuit in federal court in Hammond. Kozuszek filed the lawsuit last year against the Election Board, saying she was denied overtime and removed from her election-related duties in retaliation for her request for overtime pay.

Her attorney, Ivan Bodensteiner, said his comments would be made in court. He did, however, question whether the Secretary of State's investigation looked into the differences in elections with Kozuszek's involvement and those without.

"What suddenly changed in 2018?" Bodensteiner said, referring to Kozuszek's removal from the election process.

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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.