Lake County Recorder Michael B. Brown

Lake County Recorder Michael B. Brown

Taxpayers deserve to know if elected officials are showing up, literally, to do the jobs they were elected to perform.

It's why the Lake County Council is right to initiate an investigation and possible sanctions against Lake County Recorder Mike Brown.

Credible accounts from multiple county officials and employees indicate Brown hasn't shown up to his taxpayer-funded office in the Lake County Government Center in Crown Point more than a handful of times in the past two years.

By all accounts to Times reporters and Editor Marc Chase, who published a column on the topic Sunday, recorder's office employees and other county elected officials say Deputy Recorder Gina Pimentel has been running the office in that time period.

The timeline of Brown's absences coincides with a civil lawsuit he faced in 2017 for alleged sexual harassment of a subordinate in the recorder’s office.

While Brown argues he has shown up to work more than he's being given credit for, he also acknowledges he's been trying to stay "private" since the lawsuit was filed.

It’s untenable for anyone elected to a public leadership role — as a public official — to think they can fade into privacy, particularly where their taxpayer-funded paycheck is concerned.

That sexual harassment lawsuit already cost the county $185,000 in a legal settlement to the former employee.

Now it would appear Brown isn't earning the more than $62,000 per year recorder's salary. Meanwhile, Pimentel is running the office, and doing it well by most accounts, for $20,000 less per year.

This is unacceptable.

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On Tuesday, the Lake County Council voted to investigate the alleged chronic absences of Brown.

Councilman Charlie Brown proposed the probe "for the purpose of correcting deficiencies and ensuring adherence to the law and county policies and regulations."

Charlie Brown, D-Gary, and councilmen Dan Dernulc, R-Highland, and Christian Jorgensen, R-St. John, will form a committee to probe the matter.

Charlie Brown said while the council lacks authority to remove Mike Brown from office, the special committee could ask state lawmakers for a legislative reprimand, including impeachment.

It's a shame taxpayers have little recourse beyond what the council may attempt to do in the matter.

Mike Brown is nearing the end of his second term.

Thankfully, he won't be running again in 2020 because of state term limits.

But voters should remember Mike Brown's behavior should he ever seek public office again.

In the meantime, the Lake County Council is doing the right thing in attempting to investigate and bring any warranted sanctions.


Members of The Times Editorial Board are Publisher Christopher T. White, Editor Marc Chase, Deputy Editor Kerry Erickson, Assistant Local News Editor Crista Zivanovic and Regional News Editor Sharon Ross.