ST. JOHN — State police are investigating threats allegedly made by a frequent town critic against St. John Town Council members.
Several reports have been made to police regarding the “reckless and threatening behavior” of a St. John resident toward members of the Town Council, according to a letter addressed to the St. John Republican Committee from Chairman Christian Jorgensen.
In the letter, which was posted on the committee’s Facebook page, Jorgensen claims Edward Conn, previously known as Edward Moldenhauer, is “a potential threat to the Republican Party” in St. John.
Jorgensen, who openly has endorsed Mark Barenie, Libby Popovic and Rose Hejl, referenced a recent Town Council meeting where Conn questioned Hejl’s business, Superior Snacks, during public comment.
“This is not an isolated incident. I have been informed that several reports have been made against this man with the St. John police department as well as the State Police and FBI, all regarding his behavior during this primary election,” Jorgensen wrote. “Reckless and threatening behavior cannot be tolerated and is not part of civilized political discourse.”
In response, Conn commented back to the post and said claims against him were lies.
“My concerns that Rose Hejl refused to answer the claims of operating a business in St. John that isn’t permitted to operate. Instead, she jumped up and pointed her finger at me and asked if I was threatening her as I stepped back with my hands up not making threats! … They don’t tell you that (Police Chief James) Kveton raised his arms towards Rose to calm her down after she questioned my legal name. I wonder where that information came from?” Conn wrote.
“Once again, a private resident calling out a public figure. You signed up for this openness in public life, not me in private life.”
Jorgensen told The Times that since February, there have been multiple threatening comments made during public meetings and posted on social media about the incumbent council members that were disturbing enough for members to file complaints with the St. John Police Department.
In one incident, a letter was found in Councilman Mike Forbes' mailbox that reads, “Resign … or else.”
Forbes said receiving the letter has had a notable effect on him.
"I am still very upset that this occurred in the first place," he said. "My concerns about my family's safety are by far the most important. I am a little disappointed that this information was released. I was instructed not to discuss or release the letter and have not shared the letter or information since given that instruction."
The letter has been turned over to the FBI for investigation, "as it involves the mail and perhaps additional federal statutes," Jorgensen said.
Jorgensen also filed a complaint against Conn with the Lake County Board of Elections on April 23 regarding the “dump them all" signs, which were made and placed around town by Conn.
The signs do not contain a disclaimer that identified who paid for the political material and if any candidate approved of it, according to Jorgensen. Indiana election law requires political signs in favor of or against a "clearly identified" candidate to bear a statement showing who paid for them.
In his complaint, Jorgensen contends the phrase "dump them all" clearly refers to Barenie, Popovic and Hejl as "all are running for re-election and all are being challenged."
It was originally unknown who was creating and disseminating the signs until Conn filed a police report with St. John police April 9, alleging that the signs had been illegally removed and that he was the owner of the signs.
According to the police report, Conn stated that he placed the signs in numerous locations in the town of St. John, primarily near the signs of the Republican Party (Hejl, Popovic, Barenie). Conn told police he believed someone associated with the Republican Party was responsible for stealing the signs.
In the report, Conn identified the locations on which the signs were placed and then stole.
All of the identified locations were placed on private properties, Jorgensen said in the complaint.
In his letter, Jorgensen requested that the board conduct a public hearing to “uncover whether any of the candidates running against the four Republican St. John Town Council incumbents approved of authorized Edward Conn to create and place the offending signs.”
“He is advocating for certain Republicans in the primary and general elections. It’s troubling, and it’s troubling because there is no way they couldn’t know about these things Conn has been saying or doing,” Jorgensen told The Times. “These are not the ideals of our Republican Party. If the folks Conn is advocating for do not disassociate themselves with these people and type of behavior, I may seek to have them removed from the Republican Party. It is just that serious.”
Times staff writer Will Racke contributed to this report.
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