CROWN POINT | A majority of Lake County Council members has signed up for ethics training, but has yet to pay the tuition.
Calvin Bellamy, president of the Shared Ethics Advisory Commission, invited candidates across Northwest Indiana to promise, if elected, to offer ethics training to all local government employees and officeholders.
He said many have done so, and he is giving the rest of the candidates in the May 6 primary a little more time to take the pledge before he makes the results public.
But he did confirm he has signed pledges from Lake County Council members Ted Bilski, D-Hobart; Dan Dernulc, R-Highland; David Hamm, D-Hammond; Jerome Prince, D-Gary; and Eldon Strong, R-Crown Point. Prince signed as a candidate for county assessor. The other four are running for re-election to the County Council.
Bellamy notes with irony he has come away empty-handed when he previously asked the County Council to appropriate the money to his commission for charges for training. The commission charges a one-time $5,000 entry fee and a range of smaller annual fees afterward.
The decade-old commission, which has no permanent staff or salaries, hosts training in ethical decision making for department managers, government boards and commissions by volunteers based on case studies and participant dialogue.
Crown Point, Dyer, East Chicago, Gary, Highland, Hobart, Lowell, Munster, Schererville, Whiting and LaPorte County already are dues-paying members. The Porter County Board of Commissioners announced last month they, too, would like to join.
Not all Lake County council members consider the ethics pledge a promissory note to Bellamy's organization.
Strong said to him the pledge means he will hold himself to the highest standard. "Signing seemed kind of silly. I learned ethics from my parents when I was 5 years old. I've been an elected official for 12 years. If I haven't gotten it by now, signing a pledge isn't going to do it," Strong said.
Bilski said the county has developed its own in-house training program through the commissioner human resources director, Thomas Dabertin.
Dabertin, who said he has taught business ethics in the past, gives once-a-year ethics seminars with the goal that each of county government's 1,600 full-time employee will attend.
"We have had as many as 300 come through it. It focus on standards developed by the federal government's Office of Ethical Standards as well as training from state government for the last two years. It lasts about two hours to three hours. We have 14 principles of ethical conduct. We talk about whistle-blowing, ethical conflicts," he said.
Hamm said he recognizes other council members have resisted signing on to Bellamy's ethics training program. "I didn't want to embarrass my colleagues whether they are Republicans or Democrats, so I previously left it alone."
But Hamm said he would like to have the matter put on a future agenda. "And I'll carry the matter," Hamm said, adding he thinks the state Legislature should write ethical training into law.
Bellamy said candidates trying to break on to the County Council and challenge the incumbents have signed the ethics pledge.
They include Bryan Ciers, a Republican for the 1st District seat; Eugene Rhymer, a Republican, and Andrew Ledbetter, a Democrat, for the 2nd District seat; Ron Matlock and Jamal Washington, Democrats for the 3rd District; Katy Dowling, a Democrat for the 4th District; and Alberto "Beto" Ohoa, a Democrat for the 5th District seat.