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Lake County Government Center

Lake County Government Center

When deadbeats won't voluntarily remove themselves from a situation, they must forcibly be shown the door.

Unfortunately, Region taxpayers are left with little or no recourse — other than waiting for the next election — to remove bad actors from public office.

A sensible argument could be made for the ballot box being the greatest tool citizens have for showing bad public officials the road.

But there should be a tool at citizens' fingertips for removing public officials from office who either clearly aren't doing the work or have brought such disrepute and distraction to the office that all confidence in their abilities is lost.

It's why the Lake County Council should be pushing our Region's legislative delegation, and other state lawmakers, for a law that would allow citizen recall of popularly elected officials.

The bar should absolutely be high for such circumstances to come into play.

But one case in Lake County appears to vaulting over what most people would consider a reasonable threshold for failed public leadership.

By all known accounts, elected Lake County Recorder Mike Brown hasn't shown up to work at his government center office in Crown Point more than a handful of times over the past two years.

It seems his attendance took a dive when a subordinate in the office accused and then sued him for sexual harassment, with allegations that included a quid pro quo sexual relationship for possible career advancement and sexual activities that allegedly occurred in Brown's government center office itself.

A settlement of the lawsuit already cost taxpayers $180,000.

And now, by numerous accounts of recorder office employees and other public officials in the government center, Brown doesn't show up to work anymore and isn't leading the office, despite collecting a $62,000-per-year salary from taxpayers.

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Brown has more than a year left on his second elected term, and taxpayers deserve better.

Several members of the Lake County Council — the legislative and fiscal branch of county government — agree with that sentiment.

Lake County Council members Charlie Brown, D-Gary; Christian Jorgensen, R-St. John; and Dan Dernulc, R-Highland, have formed a committee to investigate Recorder Mike Brown's alleged chronic absenteeism and to explore possible modes of recourse.

Charlie Brown, a recently retired state legislator, said the council may be turning to the Indiana General Assembly for help.

That is where attention should be placed in this matter.

If a public official refuses to be present and accounted for in the job they sought, and won, from voters, they shouldn't be able to ride out a publicly funded salary by not fulfilling the core obligations.

Similar laws for the removal of some elected officeholders already are on the books in Indiana.

State law allows elected members of legislative bodies, such as city councils, to be removed by 2-to-3 vote of the members. The East Chicago City Council used this clause in 2016 to remove disgraced East Chicago City Councilman Robert Battle, who sat in jail awaiting trial on a murder charge and clearly wasn't serving his constituents.

But the law offers no such clause for other elected offices, such as county recorder positions, that aren't part of or beholden to a legislative body.

Citizens throughout the state deserve the ability to recall any elected official who doesn't fulfill a basic contract of showing up to work.

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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.