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CROWN POINT | Lake Commissioners will try again to bring county government into the Shared Ethics Advisory Commission's fold.

The Board of Commissioners unanimously passed a resolution Wednesday restating its wish to join the organization formed a decade ago to train Northwest Indiana elected officials and their employees in the standards needed ensure public integrity.

Commission President Roosevelt Allen said he wants county government to adopt a code of ethics already endorsed by LaPorte and Porter counties, Chesterton, Hebron and Ogden Dunes, Crown Point, Dyer, East Chicago, Gary, Highland, Lowell, Munster, Schererville and Whiting.

But he must first convince county government's legislative body, the seven-member County Council, which has refused to pass an ordinance requiring county government's nearly 1,600 employees to be bound by the ethics code.

"This resolution is a message. We are interested in being a part of this," Allen said.

Calvin Bellamy, president of the Shared Ethics Advisory Commission, said he had appeared three times before the council unsuccessfully requesting its approval of the training. "That has been the roadblock," he said.

Commissioners passed a similar resolution in 2012, but the council deferred action after arguments that the code of ethics is too vague to become the basis of a detailed code of conduct and that ethics is taught in elementary school.

Since then, former county clerk Thomas Philpot and former county surveyor George Van Til have been convicted of public corruption and removed from office. Philpot finished an 18-month sentence last year. Van Til is scheduled to begin an 18-month sentence April 30.

Bellamy said he met last week with Allen and other county officials who wanted to make a new push to join the Shared Ethics Advisory Commission.

"I thought we had a meeting of the minds. We always seek new members, but we need the government bodies to be enthusiastically in favor of ethics and ethics training."

Council President Ted Bilski, D-Hobart, said Wednesday afternoon, "If the commissioners want to go for it and it's placed on the agenda and the attorneys have discussed it, then I don't think anyone will object to it. I see no problem with it passing the council."

The commissioners and County Council did act in concert on two other issues.

Commissioners joined the council in opposing a bill in the General Assembly to eliminate the common construction wage for public projects.

Commissioners and the council also oppose the construction of a nuclear waste depository proposed on the banks of Lake Huron. Allen said the county is joining other governments in the Great Lakes Basin who want to prevent possible contamination of the world's largest freshwater bodies, on which local residents depend for drinking water.

Commissioners voted to designate the Room 4 Lake Superior Courtroom in the Gary county courthouse as the Gerald N. Svetanoff courtroom.

It is being named after the late Judge Svetanoff, who served 33 years as a civil division jurist. He died in 2014. Judge Bruce Parent was named to replace him last fall.


Lake County Reporter

Bill has reported in Lake County since 1972 after graduating from Indiana University. He has worked for The Times since 1997, covering the courts and local government during much of his tenure. Born and raised in New Albany, Ind., he is a native Hoosier.