CROWN POINT — A special prosecutor is being called on to decide whether to charge a union leader with battering a county government employee last week at a Merrillville bar and restaurant.
Lake County Prosecutor Bernard Carter said Thursday afternoon he will request from a local judge the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate a complaint against Randolph "Randy" Palmateer, business manager of the Northwest Indiana Building and Trades Council.
Carter said he wants to avoid any appearance of a conflict of interest between himself and Palmateer, who has close ties to a number of county and municipal elected officials.
Merrillville Police Chief Joseph Petruch said Thursday his department is seeking a battery charge against Palmateer, 39, of Crown Point, following a complaint by Christopher Meyers, 46, of Crown Point.
Palmateer said The Times has over-reported his contacts with the law. He referred all questions to his attorney, Paul G. Stracci, a veteran trial attorney.
"This is nothing but sour grapes and a complete waste of time and taxpayer money," Stracci said in a statement Thursday night. "The complainant blamed Randy for the loss of several jobs and started an angry verbal altercation at the bar. Eventually, and from 6 to 8 feet from the complainant, Randy flipped a menu into the air.
"After having three days to reflect on the possible personal benefits to himself, the complainant made a police report alleging that Randy deliberately struck him in the face and somehow caused injuries that resulted in a black eye, a trip to the hospital and an eye patch. This 'victim' is attempting to make a mockery of the justice system by trying to turn a menu flip into a Class A Misdemeanor, which carries up to a year in the Lake County Jail and up to a $10,000 fine. We’re confident that once the facts are fully uncovered, they will merit no charges at all."
Merrillville police said Meyers called their department Monday and told Officer Pavle Popovich he had a confrontation with Palmateer April 6 at Gino's Steak House, 600 E. U.S. 30, Merrillville.
Meyers claimed Palmateer was intoxicated, began insulting and cursing him, and took a leather-bound menu off the bar and intentionally struck Meyers in the right eye with it, a police report said.
Meyers said he felt light-headed, sat down and left the restaurant on his own. Meyers said he felt enough pain in his right eye to drive himself to Franciscan Crown Point Health hospital, where he received treatment for a possible cut to his eye.
Popovich said Meyers appeared to have a black eye beneath a bandage he wore over his right eye, according to the report.
Meyers said he knows Palmateer through previous work connections, but never had an altercation like this with him previously. Meyers is a former planning director for the cities of Gary and Crown Point and currently is a billing clerk for the county auditor's office.
When reached for comment, Meyers said the attack was unprovoked and he hoped justice will be served.
Popovich reported he attempted to obtain surveillance video from the restaurant of the incident, but the owner said their surveillance system only saves images for about 24 hours.
Carter was criticized in 2016 when his office provided Palmateer with a plea bargain to a lesser charge of driving while intoxicated despite it being Palmateer's second such offense in five years.
Carter said his office was unaware of Palmateer's 2011 case, because the Lake Station City Court where Palmateer's 2011 case was heard failed to report it to a state database his office uses to determine a defendant's prior driving record.
Recent arrests booked into Lake County Jail