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Political sniping heats up

PORTAGE: Republicans challenge assessor's qualification; state says assessor meets requirements

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PORTAGE | With less than three weeks before the Nov. 7 elections, sniping between the two political parties in Porter County seems to be heating up.

Portage Township Republicans called a press conference Wednesday morning in front of the North Porter County Government Complex issuing a statement that they believed Portage Township Assessor John Scott is serving in the office illegally.

Portage Township Republican Chairman James Snyder and Barry Pruett, an attorney and candidate for Portage Township Board, contend that since Scott has never been certified as Level 1 assessor by the state, he is in violation of a law they say dates back to 1999. They also cited a new law requiring assessors to attain certification within a year of taking office. Pruett filed complaints with both the Indiana attorney general's office and the Indiana Department of Local Government Finance, asking them to investigate the issue.

Scott said he has not violated state law, that he has met state requirements by employing certified Level 2 assessors in his office during his four terms. Scott, who is also running for Porter County assessor against Republican Bill Sexton, said he took the test once, but did not pass; has taken classes and will take the test and become certified if elected to the county office.

The DLGF, which oversees assessor education requirements, agreed with Scott's interpretation of the law. Spokesperson Mitch Frazier confirmed that Scott meets the educational requirements to hold the township assessor position and is not violating the law.

Porter County Democrat Chairman Leon West said Wednesday afternoon the press conference was part of a "smear tour of Porter County" launched by Porter County Republican Chairman Chuck Williams.

"Sources close to Mr. Williams have indicated that he is going to continue this smear tour throughout Porter County up to the Nov. 7 election in an attempt to divert attention from the issues that most concern Porter County residents," West wrote in a press release.

West called for Williams to "keep the local campaigns at a civil level."

Williams denied the accusations were part of a smear campaign. He said the bottom line is that Scott has never achieved certification at any level in the 16 years he has held the township office.

"The law is very clear going back to 1990 that he needs to be certified," said Williams, adding, if there is a smear campaign going on, it was started by the Democrats.

"The Democrats are trying to run against the governor and the governor is not on the ticket. We are keeping it civil, but sometimes the truth is hard to swallow," he said.

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