A political candidate. A blogger who held grudges. A bombing suspect. All of the above describe Eric Krieg, of Munster.
A year after being arrested and charged for mailing a device that caused an explosion at an East Chicago postal facility, Krieg gave himself another label: guilty.
Krieg, 46, of Munster entered a guilty plea to knowingly making an unregistered destructive device, mailing a destructive device, malicious use of explosive materials, and mailing a threatening communication, according to a news release from U.S. Attorney Thomas Kirsch on Tuesday.
The parties agreed on a sentencing of 29 years in prison and the plea hearing will go before U.S. District Court Senior Judge Joseph Van Bokkelen in the Hammond Federal Courthouse, according to the news release.
The explosion happened Sept. 6, 2017, at an East Chicago postal facility and Krieg was arrested in October 2017 and has remained in custody since.
Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott said if Krieg serves the minimum sentence of seven years, it would be a failing of the justice system. A family attorney of McDermott's was the first person targeted by Krieg, however the package exploded before it reached him.
"I'm going to be sitting in the courtroom with my fingers crossed," McDermott said. "If this guy gets out in a few years, I'll have to wonder, will I be next? Will he target my family or my staff? I'll have to look over my shoulder for the rest of my life. ...This man's a terrorist and he deserves to be sentenced like one."
A blogger who held grudges
In his plea agreement, Krieg stated he ran a blog and engaged in "a series of online postings and communications concerning other residents in Northwest Indiana," where the grudges that fueled his decision to create and mail the explosives stemmed.
Kreig, who had run for Lake County offices in the past, posted political blogs under the nickname "Buzzcut."
Krieg said the first victim was a Schererville attorney who represented a client who filed a lawsuit against him. Krieg was sued in 2013 because of statements he made on his blog about Aaron McDermott, Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr.'s brother, being arrested.
Krieg filed bankruptcy in response to the suit, however Aaron McDermott's attorney said the lawsuit could not be discharged with bankruptcy and Krieg agreed to settle the lawsuit by paying Aaron McDermott $45,000 and posting an apology on his blog.
“In retaliation for the filing and settling of this lawsuit and other grudges I held, I devised a plan to construct and mail a pipe bomb that I hoped and believed would kill or injure Victim 1,” Krieg's plea agreement said. “I constructed this pipe bomb and knew that it contained explosives and items that would produce shrapnel. The pipe bomb was constructed in the Northern District of Indiana. The pipe bomb was not registered in the National Firearms Registration and Transfer Record.”
However, the bomb exploded at an East Chicago post office and injured a pregnant woman.
“On September 6, 2017, I placed the pipe bomb in the mail by delivering it to the United States Post Office, 901 East Chicago Avenue, East Chicago, Indiana and ensuring it had the appropriate postage," Krieg's plea agreement stated. "I mailed the pipe bomb with the intention that it kill or injure Victim 1. I am aware the pipe bomb exploded before it was delivered to Victim 1 and instead injured Victim 2, a postal worker. I damaged the Post Office where the pipe bomb exploded. At the time of the explosion, the Post Office was used in interstate commerce or was used in an activity affecting interstate commerce."
Another person, labeled as “Victim 3” in the plea agreement, was targeted because Krieg stated he was upset and held a grudge against the Northwest Indiana resident whom he engaged with online.
According to the U.S. attorney's office, Krieg was charged with mailing the threatening letter received Sept. 29, 2017, by a Hammond city worker, which contained a bullet and a note that said, "The next one will be in the back of your head."
“On September 29, 2017, I mailed a threat to kill or injure Victim 3,” Krieg's plea agreement said. “I placed this threatening communication in the mail in the Northern District of Indiana and it was post marked to, and I am now aware later delivered to, Victim 3 in the Northern District of Indiana."
Who is Eric Krieg?
Criticism against the Lake County surveyor's handling of drainage projects and against the Hammond mayor's campaign spending has been among the political scuffles Krieg has been the center of over the years.
In 2012, Krieg butted heads with George Van Til for the position of Lake County surveyor as a Republican candidate and also ran for County Council a couple of times.
Kreig is also a a former BP Whiting Refinery engineer and the father of four children, according to The Times' archives.
In December 2017, Krieg pleaded not guilty to making and mailing the explosive devices and threatening note.
In April 2018, he requested a delay for his federal trial, in which he was originally set to tried in late May.
U.S. District Judge Joseph Van Bokkelen agreed to give Krieg and his defense attorney, Kevin Milner, several more months to prepare for a jury trial, which was scheduled to begin the week of Nov. 5.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Chang opposed the defense's request as an unreasonable delay, arguing that the injured postal worker was pregnant at the time and has undergone both emotional and physical distress.
Chang also argued the person who Krieg intended as the target of the bomb also has gone through months of stress and the victim's family had planned their schedules around the original May trial setting and wanted the trial to proceed speedily.
In October, the U.S. attorney's office announced that the jury trial had been reset for June 2019. Krieg asked in federal court for the trial to be delayed again to give his attorney time to prepare.
According to the U.S. attorney's office, Krieg's plea hearing will happen "in the near future."
Munster man's bomb trial reset for June after September 2017 explosion
HAMMOND — The trial for Eric Krieg, who was charged in connection with last year’s pipe bomb…
Krieg seeks third delay in bomb trial
HAMMOND — Eric Krieg, who was charged in connection with last year’s pipe bomb explosion at …
Who is Eric Krieg? The East Chicago post office bombing suspect in the pages of The Times
Republican attacks McDermott campaign pay
CROWN POINT | A Republican activist wants Lake County election officials to look into Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr.'s payments of campaign funds to his wife and friends.
Eric Krieg, of Munster, has filed a complaint with the Lake County elections board, questioning whether the mayor is complying with state law in terms of disclosing enough information about more than $300,000 in payments to the mayor's wife, Marissa McDermott, as a campaign consultant.
McDermott said those payments are legal and claimed Krieg is only attacking his family in retaliation for a defamation suit Aaron M. McDermott, the mayor's brother, recently filed against Krieg.
Krieg, who has run for county offices in recent years and has posted political blogs under the name Buzzcut, is taking aim at one of the more successful fundraisers in Lake County politics.
McDermott has regularly raised and distributed hundreds of thousands of dollars during his successful campaigns for mayor.
Campaign finance laws require McDermott to regularly disclose all donation and expenditures. McDermott said he pays his wife to account for that money and generate reports that run more than 150 pages.
Krieg contends McDermott's campaign isn't following a 2001 Indiana Election Commission Advisory Opinion requiring candidates paying family members to file a written contract, explaining what services are being paid, with the election board.
McDermott said there is nothing requiring him or other candidates to file campaign service contracts with the elections board.
Brad King, co-director of the bipartisan Indiana Election Division, said this week the advisory opinion Krieg cites wasn't mandatory but rather a guide to candidates in the event a law requiring such a disclosure was passed. King said no such law was passed.
McDermott said Krieg is motivated by revenge because Aaron McDermott's recent defamation lawsuit alleging Krieg made false claims in a Sept. 18 blog about the mayor's brother being arrested.
Schererville attorney David Westland, who represents Aaron McDermott, said there is no police record of his client being arrested by Munster police.
Michelle Fajman, county elections director, said the elections board will take up Krieg's complaint at its Dec. 17 meeting to decide whether it should be investigated.
Krieg also is demanding that Democratic members of the elections board appointed by McDermott not be allowed to sit in judgment of his complaint.
Election board dismisses all complaints against McDermott re-election campaign
CROWN POINT | The Lake County Board of Elections and Registration on Thursday dismissed all three allegations of election law violations filed by Munster Republican Eric Krieg against the re-election campaign of Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr.
That dismissal came after the board heard testimony presented by Schererville attorney David Westland, representing the Re-Elect McDermott campaign, and by Krieg, the former GOP candidate for Lake County Surveyor.
Board member Kevin Smith appointed Joe Allegretti as his proxy for the meeting. Smith is McDermott’s attorney.
In dismissing Krieg’s complaints, the election board negated any investigation of three issues he brought to the board Nov. 22. Krieg’s complaints hinged on the word “substantial” referring to election law violations contained in a 2001 Indiana Election Commission Advisory Opinion.
That opinion wasn’t made into law, said James Wieser, one of two election board attorneys.
Board member William Fine called the word “substantial” in the advisory opinion “a fairly onerous standard” and one that creates the need for “a balancing act.”
The three issues included the McDermott campaign committee’s payment of $334,000 to Kelly Consulting to produce the campaign financial report. Kelly Consulting is owned by McDermott’s wife, Marissa. Krieg alleged this constituted personal use of campaign funds.
The second complaint centered on the campaign’s payment of $6,000 to David Woerpel, a Democratic Party ally, to drive McDermott to various fundraising events.
In the third complaint, Krieg questioned the payment of $1,000 in rent the McDermott campaign paid two years ago for space in a building owned by Pyramid Development. Krieg alleged this rent was too low for a building valued at between $500,000 and $1 million and a property tax bill of more than $23,000.
Fine said this complaint had merit and voted against dismissal of the allegation.
“Mayor McDermott raises a lot of money,” Fine said. “I’m concerned there’s a lot of smoke there and may be fire. If we dismiss, that smoke will hang over this board for a long time.”
After the meeting Krieg said he was disappointed in the vote.
McDermott brands election complaint as empty speculation
CROWN POINT | Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. is asking Lake County elections officials to dismiss a complaint about campaign payments to his wife, Marissa McDermott.
David W. Westland, a lawyer for the mayor, argues Munster Republican Eric Krieg's objections to McDermott's campaign spending are nothing more than "pure speculation and innuendo."
The election board could hear the matter as early as Thursday's meeting.
Krieg, a past candidate for county surveyor, is demanding the county election board look into McDermott's payment of more than $300,000 to Marissa McDermott, as a campaign consultant, over the last decade.
Krieg alleges McDermott isn't following a 2001 Indiana Election Commission Advisory Opinion that candidates paying family members should publicly file a written contract describing the campaign services provided.
Westland said the advisory opinion on which Krieg relies only suggests, but doesn't demand, the candidate file such a contract with election officials.
Brad King, co-director of the bipartisan Indiana Election Division, said last week the opinion in question was only offered by state election officials as a guideline to legislators for a potential law on this matter, but no such law was ever passed.
Westland said the evidence will show Marissa McDermott is performing services for her husband's campaign. McDermott said last week she prepares campaign finance reports for him.
Westland also is demanding election officials dismiss Krieg's request they investigate a $6,000 payment McDermott's campaign made in 2009 to David Woerpel, a Democratic party ally, as well as a rent payment two years ago McDermott made for a campaign headquarters in Hammond.
Critics question surveyor's investigation of Dyer flooding
DYER | Republicans unleashed a torrent of criticism Wednesday on the handling of an investigation by the Lake County surveyor's office into a collapsed flood wall on Plum Creek in Dyer.
Surveyor George Van Til said Wednesday he thinks unstable soil caused a wall of metal wire baskets containing stone to slump off a steep-bank section of the drainage ditch during an April rainstorm.
He said the contractor who constructed the wall, Delta III of Hammond, has agreed to build a new, modified wall using less metal and stone to protect a church building and parking lot at the top of the creek's east bank. Delta III will complete the work for $33,000 less than the $160,143 the county had agreed to pay him before the collapse, he said.
Joe Hero and Eric Krieg, two Republican activists attending the drainage board meeting, complained the surveyor's explanation left too many questions unanswered about whether the accident was the result of poor planning, construction or oversight by the surveyor's office.
Hero was skeptical that Delta III would accept less money to complete the project.
Van Til said an engineering report indicated the soil, which Delta III obtained from Dyer, was unsuitable to be used as a foundation for the metal and stone wall and may not have been sufficiently compacted to withstand a heavy current of water that filled the creek during heavy rains in April, when the collapse took place.
He said the contractor "has taken responsibility" for potential deficiencies. Van Til said, unlike his critics, he isn't blaming the anyone — including Dyer for providing questionable soil.
Dyer Town Administrator Rick Eberly said Delta III apparently took soil that is available to any member of the public that has been excavated from other projects in a number of locations around town.
Van Til said the earlier retaining flood wall was more expensive because his office was trying to preserve more of the church's property, including a section of its parking lot, that will now be abandoned. That will make the creek bank less steep and less likely to be undermined by flood water.
The county also is preparing to shore up the opposite bank of Plum Creek. The work is expected to cost more than $179,000.
Full time on the public dime?
Lake County Surveyor George Van Til was so annoyed at his Republican challenger recently, he unleashed the worst insult he could think of.
"Eric Krieg will not commit to giving up his high paying, full-time, regular-hours job to work for the taxpayers," Van Til said. "This is an outrage because I love this job. I live and breath it night and day. Every night I take homework."
And Van Til isn't the only incumbent Lake County official who has criticized an opponent recently for planning to split public duties with private employment if elected.
The issue has created a debate in Lake County political circles centering on whether local elected officials should be full-time public servants or maintain jobs outside of the public sector.
Krieg, an engineer at the BP Whiting Refinery who has hammered Van Til for failing to properly oversee his office's drainage projects, said voters need not worry about his dedication to the surveyor's office should he be elected.
"Obviously, I can't say that I'm going to leave BP if elected ... but I can assure everyone that I will be a full-time surveyor and put the hours in that are necessary to do the job."
Krieg's answer wasn't good enough for Van Til. Nor would it be for several incumbent elected officials facing the voters in the Nov. 6 election who proclaim they are married to their public careers.
However, other area officials and candidates argue public service and private sector careers are not incompatible.
"I think the people by and large expect their officials to be full-time -- especially if they are paid a decent amount of money," said Rich James, a Region columnist for Howey Politics Indiana said. "I see nothing wrong with being a career politician."
Most Lake County elected officials are paid $56,000 a year -- a full-time salary by most standards.
Lake Coroner Merrilee Frey said she has been working weekdays and weekends since taking office last month and intends to continue doing so if elected to a full four-year term next month.
But her Republican opponent, Munster dentist Andy Koultourides, has no plans of giving up his full-time private gig if elected to public office.
"I'm not quitting dentistry, which I love," Koultourides said.
He said he already has successfully juggled his career with his public duties as a Munster town councilman for more than two years.
Lake Commissioner Gerry Scheub, D-Crown Point, running for re-election to his 2nd District seat, said he is either in his office full-time, at an official meeting or on a county government worksite from morning to evening.
Scheub said dismissively of his opponent, Republican Jerry Tippy, "He won't quit his (private sector) job."
Tippy is a general manager of a Lansing steel fabricator.
"I've got to win first," Tippy said. "Then I have a six-week window to make plans and adjustments. It's not something new to me. I'm currently a (Schererville) town councilman, so I'm wearing multiple hats right now."
Tippy said his private career, which includes having owned a steel fabricating business, would pay dividends for him and the public as a commissioner.
"The problem with career politicians is that they aren't experienced managers," Tippy said. "I see that with Gerry (Scheub) when he talks about him going out to every job. A good manager provides their people with the resources and freedom to work a job."
Tippy said he will be accessible by cellphone and in person outside of business hours.
Mark Leyva, the Republican candidate for 3rd District Lake County commissioner and a carpenter by trade, said, "The major issue is having the best person do the best job for the taxpayers. If a part-time person can do a better job, then so be it."
Leyva's Democratic opponent, Mike Repay, has managed a Hammond bar and real estate business while serving on the Lake County Council.
Repay said he will hand over active management of those businesses to others to devote more time to being a 3rd District commissioner if elected.
"I feel you need to be more available. You do a better job," Repay said.
Lake Commissioner Roosevelt Allen, whose office doesn't come up for election until 2014, has been owner of a Gary funeral home for decades and has been in public office almost 30 years.
"I don't think being an elected official should be your sole source of income," Allen said. "If you go back in history, many officials were also businessmen, and being an official was more or less a community service."
Allen concludes, "I understand there are many elected officials who went to college and majored in political fields, and I don't discount them. But you should not be penalized as a candidate because you are successful in private industry."
Surveyor candidates make more waves
CROWN POINT | The Lake County surveyor and his re-election challenger traded another flurry of accusations.
Surveyor George Van Til said Monday that his opponent, Republican Eric Krieg, if elected surveyor, would have a built-in conflict of interest if he had to deal with pipeline companies that transport petroleum products across Lake County.
Van Til said Krieg has refused to give up his job as an engineer at the BP Whiting Refinery if elected. Van Til said BP had two pipelines and competes against other pipeline firms, including Enbridge, Buckeye, Marathon, Explorer Wolverine and ANR.
Van Til, whose office oversees drainage waterways, states, "I serve unhampered by any outside business interests."
He said he recently worked with Enbridge Inc., a Canada-based energy company, to ensure the company provides more shut-off valves and a thicker pipe casing to ensure against oil spills, such as those that took place two years ago in Michigan and Illinois.
Van Til said he has been in a dispute with BP in his efforts to make the company install its pipelines beneath drainage ditches. He said the exposed BP pipelines over ditches currently can cause water flow blockages.
Krieg responded Monday that he once worked for a pipeline company, but doesn't work for BP's pipeline division, so he doesn't have a conflict. Krieg said Van Til insisted Krieg was sidestepping the issue.
"My professional engineer license requires me to put the health and safety of the public well before any financial considerations," Krieg said. "If I didn't, I could lose my license and livelihood."
Krieg said Van Til's insistence on more pipeline shut-off valves "could make it more likely that there would be a leak."
"Valves fail 10 to 100 times more frequently than the rest of the pipeline," he said.
Krieg said pipeline companies typically increase pipe thickness in sensitive areas, "so to me, Van Til is grandstanding a little bit."
Krieg said the more important issue is that Van Til has raised and spent little money since the end of the Democratic primary in May.
"This shows that Democrats who normally help Van Til have given up on his campaign, as has Van Til himself," Krieg said.
Van Til said most Democrats dial down their campaign fundraising and spending in the fall unless they candidates are in competitive general election races.
"That's not important. That's inside baseball," Van Til said.
GOP candidate vows to be full-time surveyor
CROWN POINT | The Republican candidate for Lake County surveyor announced Wednesday he will resign as an engineer for the BP Whiting refinery if elected in Tuesday's general election.
“I have always said that I will be a full-time surveyor," Eric Krieg said in a written press release. "Let me be as clear as possible and state in no uncertain terms that I will resign my position at BP and have no other employment other than as surveyor should the good voters of Lake County elect me.”
This comes after Democratic incumbent Surveyor George Van Til, who is seeking re-election, has attacked Krieg on grounds Krieg would keep his BP job and be only a part-time county official.
Van Til said that would be a potential conflict of interest since the energy giant has pipelines that cross numerous county waterways. The surveyor's office regulates such pipeline crossings.
"I want all the good voters of Lake County to have a choice for surveyor that they are totally comfortable with and for whom they can be proud to vote for,” Krieg stated.
The Democratic empire strikes back
CROWN POINT | The Lake County Democratic party reasserted its overwhelming influence on local government.
President Barack Obama, Sen.-elect Joe Donnelly, U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky and other Democrats in countywide races rolled up pluralities of between 48,000 and 74,000 votes.
Republicans delivered between 55,000 and 68,000 for their favorite candidates.
But the rest of the Democratic ticket enjoyed comfortable victory margins with the exception of two redrawn suburban legislative districts that Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott, the Democratic county chairman, declared were tailor-made for their Republican opponents.
Two years ago, Republicans made inroads into that traditional Democratic supremacy, including the first victory in a countywide race in 50 years by Hank Adams for county assessor.
Democrats stormed back on a wave of more than 205,000 votes, representing a 61 percent turnout, according to unofficial results.
That is well short of the 71 percent turnout of 2008, but more than enough to deliver a landslide victory to Lake County Surveyor George Van Til despite a campaign year that tested his patience and survival politically.
Van Til came within 2,300 votes of losing to a relatively unknown opponent within the Democratic party last spring, fell under public suspicion after federal authorities raided his office and subpoenaed his aides to testify before a grand jury, and then drew Republican challenger Eric Krieg whose robust attacks kept Van Til on the defensive for much of the summer and fall.
Van Til complained Tuesday in his written victory statement, "Irresponsibility and lack of civility or truthfulness has been more evident this year, more than ever before, and it is sad and a disservice to the people we try to serve."
Van Til said his sixth term in office will be his last — "unfettered by any thoughts of campaigns, fundraising, strategy, future runs or anything else that affect practically every political office, anywhere and everywhere from the courthouse to the Statehouse to the White House. I look forward to it."
Krieg, whose robust campaign won him more than 66,600 votes, second in Lake County only to Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, said he wasn't prepared for the headwind associated with the "Punch 10 phenomenon," a reference to the Democratic slogan to vote a straight Democratic party ticket.
"I worked the fairgrounds in Crown Point the whole day because the polling place is so large. I expected the Obama voters, but I was very surprised about how many people were angry about the Mourdock thing and the teacher who came out because of the Bennett thing," he said
Republican Senate candidate Richard Mourdock raised hackles last month when he said in a debate that pregnancies resulting from rape are something "God intended." Hoosier teachers were upset over Republican Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett's policies, including the nation's largest private school voucher program and linking teachers' pay to student test scores.
Mourdock and Bennett both lost.
Krieg said, "I was surprised at how many union guys didn't want to talk to anybody. They knew what they were going to do and they went in and did it. Republicans were willing to split their votes, but I guess Democrats don't split theirs."
Van Til unloads on his critics
CROWN POINT | An independent investigation has refuted claims of impropriety in the Lake County surveyor's office, Surveyor George Van Til said Friday.
Van Til said reports by an independent attorney and engineer conclude drainage work on the Spring Street Ditch in Munster and the Brown Levee in rural south county were being properly managed by his office and that the contractor, R.A. Oros, was complying with contract specifications and wasn't paid prematurely.
But Eric Krieg, Republican candidate for surveyor, rejected those reports as relying on questionable assurances by Van Til's staff. Krieg said Friday he is still convinced Van Til's office has helped to overpay for incomplete and unfinished work.
Van Til and Krieg are locked in one of the most acrimonious contests on the Nov. 6 ballot.
Van Til, who is seeking his sixth term, has more campaign money and can count on a secure block of voters casting Democratic ballots. Krieg has responded with high-profile attacks on Van Til, alleging a lack of quality management of drainage work by vendors that contribute to Van Til's campaign.
Van Til said Krieg is well known for "... pathetic, slanderous, irresponsible attacks on me and anyone else he's ever been up against. ... Krieg has no class. The truth is irrelevant to him."
Van Til said his office's management of stormwater has been admirable. He said he has refuted Krieg's claim of bid rigging in a dispute over the award of a contract for improvements to the Brown Levee. It was given to a contractor whose bid for the project was $1,260 higher than that of Chem Check, a Gary firm owned by Joe Jargella.
Van Til said Chem Check didn't get the contract because it's previous work on the Brown Levee was unsatisfactory, a claim Jargella denies.
Jargella and Krieg argue Van Til's office has singled out Chem Check for punitive treatment.
Van Til said he has administered 252 drainage projects since taking office.
"Only twice in 20 years has the lowest bidder not been found to be the most responsive bidder and win the contract. So anybody who knows that should totally dismiss what (Krieg) says," Van Til said.
Krieg and Jargella also have attacked the drainage work by Munster-based contractor R.A. Oros, who they claim is favored by Van Til because Emil Poppa, Oros' president, is related by marriage to Van Til's attorney.
Poppa defended his firm's county drainage work and said earlier this week he has been unfairly dragged into this dispute because he refused Jargella's demand to intercede for him with the surveyor's office. Jargella said Friday he met with Poppa but denies trying to intimidate him.
Lake surveyor and drainage officials berated by candidate
CROWN POINT | Accusations of bid-rigging, official negligence and political smear campaigns broke like a storm Wednesday morning over Lake County drainage board meetings.
Eric Krieg, the Republican candidate for county surveyor; Joe Hero, a St. John Republican activist; and Joe Jargella, of Chem Check Inc., of Gary, used Wednesday's public meetings to lash out at Surveyor George Van Til, a Democrat running for re-election, over allegations of misconduct involving flood control work on Spring Street Ditch in Munster and the Brown Levee Ditch southeast of Lowell.
Emil Poppa, president of R.A. Oras of Munster, the vendor that won contracts on both projects, and Van Til both defended their work and denounced the criticism as the product of political gamesmanship by Krieg and Hero and sour grapes by Jargella, a competitor of Oras.
Krieg repeated allegations he has made throughout his campaign that the county unfairly picked Oras for the Brown Levee work, even though Chem Check was the lower bidder, and paid Oras $185,000 last year for the Brown Levee and Spring Street although the work hadn't been completed on either.
Krieg said he found Oras failed to install silting control fences or remove sediment from sections of a ditch bottom, kill trees growing on a ditch bank or use the proper quality erosion control blanketing required by the county's contract. He demanded Oras refund the county tens of thousands more than he already had done.
When Krieg's complaints appeared to have no effect on the bipartisan, 11-member county drainage advisory committee, Krieg complained that Van Til had made them his rubber stamp.
"You are using this board to deflect charges of bid-rigging. You are making them accessories to your crime," Krieg said.
Van Til responded, "This is not the time for a political diatribe."
Advisory Committee Chairman Tom Silich gaveled Krieg out of order. "You got your point across," Silich said.
Hero berated county commissioners, who met after the advisory committee.
"A lot of irregularities have been uncovered. This is the tip of the iceberg," Hero said.
When Commissioner Fran DuPey, D-Hammond, challenged Hero's credibility, Hero responded, "What world are you living in?"
Commissioner Gerry Scheub, D-Crown Point, shot back at Hero, "You treat her like a lady." DuPey added, speaking to Hero, "Treat me like a commissioner."
Van Til released the results of an investigation of Krieg's complaints, written by Harold G. Hagberg, a Crown Point attorney. It concluded the payments to Oras were properly made for reimbursement of materials Oras needed to finish the job. It states Oras properly refunded $3,700 to the county for the lesser quality erosion control blankets, and no more money was required.
Poppa said his crews mistakenly laid down the wrong erosion materials, but he did install silt fences and dredged ditch channels as required.
County Attorney John Dull did clear Jargella on Wednesday of allegations by the surveyor's office that his Chem Check Inc. firm wasn't a responsible contractor. Van Til and Jargella had a dispute earlier over the quality of Chem Check's earlier work on another flood control project.
RICH JAMES: Krieg is Lake GOP's unofficial mud-thrower
Eric Krieg has every right to speak his mind. It would just be nice if he would get something right once in a while.
In case you don’t know Krieg – and you've been blessed if you don't – he is the unofficial mud-thrower of the Lake County Republican Party.
He also has run for office several times, only to get hammered at each outing. You’d think he would get the message.
But no, he just likes to attack Democrats – who often deserve it, unless Krieg is doing the name-calling because he’s always wrong.
Krieg has run for County Council a couple of times and county surveyor as well.
Most recently he has attacked Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr., who sometimes deserves it, but in this case doesn't.
Krieg wants the Lake County Election Board to investigate McDermott’s use of campaign funds to pay his wife and friends for work.
Krieg says McDermott’s in violation of state law for failing to file a written contract detailing the services for which the campaign was paying.
There is no need to do so, according to Brad King, co-director of the bipartisan Indiana Election Division.
I've dealt with King for decades. No one knows Indiana election law better than Brad. He must have written that chapter of statutes, I sometimes think.
The mayor contends Krieg is reacting to a defamation suit his brother, Aaron McDermott, filed against Krieg.
Krieg contends he is holier than thou and that Democrats invented public corruption.
When Krieg ran for county surveyor last year, he refused to say he would leave his job at BP if elected.
When Krieg felt the political heat for that ridiculous stand, he abruptly said he would quit BP. Yeah, sure.
He unfairly pounded Surveyor George Van Til during the campaign, calling for an investigation of drainage work on Plum Creek. County commissioners said all was fine.
Other absurd Krieg comments include his charge that county Councilman David Hamm shouldn't have been allowed to vote on the income tax because he was selected by committeemen to fill a vacancy, not elected by the voters.
And he said it was wrong for suburban police departments, like his hometown of Munster, to sometimes loan cops to the north county team designed to curtail crime in Hammond, Gary and East Chicago.
Krieg called them “failed Lake County cities,” and suggested they wallow in their own crime.
And when he ran for County Council, Krieg opposed anything that would benefit the county, including an income or food and beverage tax, the Regional Development Authority, bus service, expanded commuter rail and the Illiana Expressway.
Krieg’s problem is that he says what he thinks voters want to hear, rather than embracing the facts.
And Republicans wonder why they can’t make inroads in Lake County.
Krieg can exercise integrity by withdrawing remarks
On Oct. 31, Eric Krieg described Hammond and other communities as "failed North Lake County cities."
Failed cities? My office is next door to a church where volunteers help people in need.
Failed cities? This "failed city" prevented extensive damage during the flood.
Failed city? Most of Krieg's citizens once lived in one of these failed cities, and in this failed city integrity is a trait of character, not an advertisement in a political campaign.
Krieg can exercise that trait of character by withdrawing his failed remarks.
- William O'Connor, Attorney at Law, Hammond
GUEST COMMENTARY: Stop pushing regionalization, E-911 consolidation efforts
Times executive editor Bill Nangle, chief propagandist for the One Region organization, can't even make it through half his column in support of the E-911 fiasco without pulling the race card.
Short on facts, Nangle says, "The move to have suburban and urban call centers in Lake County is just added proof of the unproductive north-south split in the county. It is wrong. It smacks of elitism and racism."
As one who is against consolidation of E-911 at one location in Crown Point, I take great offense at being called a racist by Nangle.
What are the facts? That the current, "fragmented" 911 system costs only $7 million per year, and the proposed system will cost $36 million upfront and $11 million per year thereafter.
Also, Lake County politicians are pushing to "competitively bid" the purchase of the E-911 equipment rather than take advantage of pre-negotiated prices by the state of Indiana so they can manipulate the bid process to send contracts to politically connected contractors.
There is a split in Northwest Indiana, between those of us who are always asked to pay for the schemes of the politicians and those whom the politicians treat as children, always doing for them what they should be doing for themselves. The E-911 fiasco is no different, with suburban areas being asked to yet again bail out the failed north Lake County cities.
It is no different than the Stop Team using suburban officers to police the cities. Our resources are being used to fund services for someone else. It is taxation without representation.
Rather than accuse his fellow citizens of racism, Nangle should do his job. He works for a newspaper, after all. It is more important to report the truth than to push an agenda. Instead, Nangle pushes his agenda and unquestioningly supports the politicians who support his agenda. The citizens of Northwest Indiana are made poorer as a result.
What we really need is for The Times to get back to reporting the news, wherever it leads, and stop pushing One Region. Whether it be the Illiana tollway, or E-911, or the Stop Team, The Times is always behind any scheme that steamrolls the average citizen and gives more power to the politicians of Northwest Indiana. As the monopoly source of news in the region, The Times must do better.
GUEST COMMENTARY: Stop the STOP Team
The Times propaganda machine has come out in support of the “STOP Team," a scheme where suburban police officers are used to patrol north Lake County cities. I’d like to say stop, and let’s examine if the STOP Team is a good idea.
In the Schererville Crime Watch this week, there was a report from Schererville officers on a STOP Team patrol in Gary. At 10:30 p.m. on a Saturday night, the officers saw a van full of people blow a light right in front of them. They pulled the van over, and the driver was drunk. One of the many passengers said he had to go to the bathroom, and while doing so ran away. He ran because he had a gun.
Who is paying for this program? Who pays if a Schererville police officer is hurt in Gary, or, God forbid, killed? Who pays if a Schererville police officer makes a mistake and gets sued? If a Gary resident feels that his rights were violated by a suburban police officer, what recourse does he have?
These are all questions that are glossed over by The Times in their unthinking quest to “do something” about the spike in murders in Gary. But with the STOP Team doing nothing more than “stopping” trivial crimes (Thank God that guy with the warrant out for littering is off the street!) I question this rationale.
It is somewhat clear why there’s a spike in murders in Gary: Something is going on with the drug gangs. It is one gang member killing another. Gary residents know who committed these murders. If they informed the police, the murderers would be off the streets. But Gary residents refuse to help the police. Why should outsiders help those who don’t help themselves?
What about cost? Suburban resources are yet again being used to bail out the failed cities. It’s like the Lake County income tax, or E-911, which are massive money transfers from suburb to city. I didn’t vote for that, did you?
Policing must do more than assuage feelings of liberal guilt on The Times editorial board. The STOP Team must be stopped.
Candidates for surveyor spar over need for full-time hours, professional credentials
CROWN POINT | Veteran Lake County Surveyor George Van Til, a Democrat, says his job can't be done in the time proposed by Republican challenger Eric Krieg.
Krieg confirmed he does not anticipate leaving his position as a mechanical engineer at BP.
"I'm going to put in the hours the job requires, and that's the bottom line," Krieg said.
Van Til said that means taxpayers will be paying more for less service.
State law confirms Krieg's professional engineering license would boost the surveyor's base pay by 50 percent, from an annual $56,510 to $84,765 — something of which Krieg said he was not aware.
County officials familiar with the pay issue said because Van Til is not an engineer, the county is currently contracting out those services.
Van Til, 65, and Krieg, 40, have been locked in an ongoing public dispute regarding Van Til's handling of two stormwater drainage projects. Krieg has accused the 20-year veteran surveyor of bid rigging and other improprieties — claims Van Til refutes.
Van Til has labeled Krieg, of Munster, a political newcomer who has made accusations based on "his arrogance because he doesn't know the office."
Van Til, of Merrillville, said the key to his successful tenure is his accessibility.
But Krieg argued his professional license insures both the necessary expertise and years of experience to handle project management, which spans various disciplines.
Lake County surveyor, opponent debate engineering qualifications
CROWN POINT | Lake County Surveyor George Van Til is dismissing the latest attack on his administration as just another "political press release."
Eric Krieg, the Republican nominee for surveyor and an engineer, argues Van Til's office lacks the technical expertise needed to oversee big-ticket flood-control projects to which his office and the Lake County Board of Commissioners have committed public dollars.
State law requires a county surveyor either to be a licensed engineer or land surveyor or to hire one. Russell Dillon, a land surveyor on Van Til's payroll for nearly a decade, left earlier this month as a full-time employee but continues providing technical assistance as a part-time consultant.
Krieg said this new arrangement is inadequate, leaving no one with the proper credentials to inspect completed projects to ensure they meet engineering specifications.
Van Til and his office's legal adviser, Cliff Duggan, said Monday that using a consultant meets the requirements of the law.
Van Til said he, like half the county surveyors in the state, are not engineers themselves, but he has a qualified staff, which he personally supervises. He said employing engineers for every aspect of a project would drive up taxpayer costs by tens of thousands of dollars.
Last week Krieg criticized Van Til for accepting political contributions from employees and county vendors.
Van Til said Krieg's campaign is to grab headlines with irresponsible allegations.
Voters will choose between them in the Nov. 6 general election.
Van Til said Krieg has no training or experience in stormwater control.
"He is a mechanical engineer, which means nothing in this field. If he were elected, he, too, would have to hire a registered land surveyor," Van Til said.
Krieg responded, "My degrees are in mechanical engineering, not civil, that is true, but they are closely allied fields. More importantly, my competence and expertise at this stage in my career are really in project management and engineering management, fields that span the engineering disciplines. I've also been involved with a lot more construction over the last five years, and have supervised surveyors in the field."
GUEST COMMENTARY: Commission unfairly rejected my redistricting plan
The redistricting process usually is dominated by insiders for the benefit of incumbents. Incumbent politicians are able to redraw their districts, essentially picking their voters.
Lake County is different. In Lake County, anyone can submit a redistricting plan, and the Indiana Board of Elections votes on which plan to adopt.
This year, the Republican establishment (insiders) and Democrat machine (incumbents) each submitted their own plan.
But unlike past years, there was an additional submission by an ordinary citizen: The Fair and Balanced Redistricting Plan, created by me, Eric Krieg.
I submitted a plan because I am sick and tired of insider politics that benefit entrenched incumbents. I want districts that are simple, understandable and winnable by somebody who is not part of the Democratic machine or who doesn't have Republican Dan Dumezich's money behind him.
At the meeting to review the three plans, it was very clear that the other two plans were fatally flawed. The Democrats' plan did not follow case law regarding the variation in the size of the various districts. The Republican plan did not use the latest precinct maps, upon which all maps must be based, and split precincts between districts.
The commission instructed mapmakers to make compact districts, not to cut up communities, and to respect minority voters by not packing them into one district nor cut them up into multiple districts. The Fair and Balanced Plan best balanced all these sometimes conflicting requirements.
But the insiders and incumbents would not accept defeat at the hands of an outsider. At the end of the meeting, they got the board chairman to suggest that all three plans be thrown out, and that a new plan be submitted, this time with the insiders (Republicans) and incumbents (Democrats) working together.
This is an outrageous outcome. The commission already set a precedent that it will not accept late maps when it disallowed a map from another party that was submitted 10 minutes past the deadline.
Accepting another map is unacceptable. More important, the redistricting process must not benefit just the insiders and the incumbents, but it also must benefit everyone. Only the Fair and Balanced Plan does that.
Eric Krieg lives in Munster. The opinions are the writer's and not necessarily those of The Times.