Chesterton Tribune



Election Board president resigns after shouting match caught on camera

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J.J. Stankiewicz has resigned from his appointed position on the Porter County Election Board after a video of him shouting at Porter County Clerk Jessica Bailey went public.

Stankiewicz and Bailey, both Democrats, were recorded embroiled in a shouting match minutes before the Board began an official meeting on Friday, March 8. In that exchange, Stankiewicz, the then President of the Board, behaved in a manner that 15 Porter County officials have since called unacceptable.

Stankiewicz’s resignation came yesterday shortly after the 15 Porter County Democrat elected officials began circulating a letter urging Porter County Democrat Party Chairman Jeff Chidester to demand Stankiewicz resign and publicly apologize to Bailey. Chidester is responsible for appointing the Democrat representative on the three-member Election Board, which consists of a Republican and Democrat, each appointed by the respective County Chairman, and the County Clerk.

Among the signers on the letter were lone Democrat Commissioner Laura Blaney (South); Democrat County Council members Dan Whitten, Sylvia Graham, Jeremy Rivas, Greg Simms, and Bob Poparad; Sheriff Dave Reynolds; Auditor Vicki Urbanik; Treasurer Michelle Clancy; Portage City Council member Colin Czilli; Valparaiso City Council members Deb Porter, Diana Reed, and Robert Cotton; Portage Township Trustee Brendan Clancy; and Center Township Board President Deb Fray.

The politicians said Stankiewicz’s shouting at Bailey was unacceptable and that Bailey deserves a chance to prove herself after only being on the job three months, in which time they say she has already made great efforts to avoid a repeat of the disastrous 2018 general election last November where results were delayed for three days after a shortage of poll workers caused 13 polling places to open late and absentee ballots were not delivered to precincts or counted on time.

“We find the comments made by Mr. Stankiewicz to be demeaning, unprofessional, and woefully misguided and inaccurate. We cannot tolerate such behavior from any member of our county boards,” the letter reads. “There is no place in Porter County government for your appointee to berate her and use the derogatory language that he used.”

“It is incumbent upon all elected officials, board appointees, and county employees to work cooperatively and professionally. If board members cannot approach their work without resorting to unfounded personal attacks, they should be replaced,” the letter reads. “Our citizens deserve reassurance that our Porter County Election Board places greater priority on working toward fair and honest elections rather than engaging in petty, political disputes.”

In the taped exchange, Stankiewicz repeatedly talked over Bailey, raised his voice, told her to “shut up” and said to her, “you have no idea what you’re doing,” after asking her how many poll workers have been recruited for the 2019 primary so far. He charged in the video that Bailey is not doing her job and is steering the County toward another election disaster by delegating the recruitment of the majority of poll workers to the Party Chairmen, a practice that follows state law, according to Board Attorney Monica Conrad.

In the video of the exchange, Stankiewicz also tells Board member David Bengs that Bailey is “a pimple” and just functions as a secretary of the Board. The Clerk is a voting member of the Election Board, and an equal of Stankiewicz and Bengs per state law, as the 15 officials noted in their letter.

Stankiewicz, for his part, wrote in his resignation letter that he has been the victim of personal attacks due to his record of opposition to vote centers in Porter County, and that this round of outspokenness against him is a “repeat of an old election board issue.”

Stankiewicz further wrote that the calls for his resignation are part of a pattern of “recent wrongful and politically based attempts to pass special laws to entirely eliminate the current Board of Elections, punish county workers who dissent, and thereby further eliminate voters access to the polls on Election Day.” He said he’s confident the truth will come out eventually.

In the letter, Stankiewicz refers to the shouting match with Bailey as a “private exchange” that was “secretly recorded.”

“That private exchange was overly heated to say the least; but it eventually led to a very civil official meeting and my pressure eventually caused public disclosure of the names and telephone numbers for workers to call to assure poll workers appear in the upcoming primary election,” Stankiewicz wrote.

“I am proud, rather than being apologetic, about my twenty years of service on the Election Board and what I personally accomplished for the 2018 election,” Stankiewicz wrote.

Bailey responded to Stankiewicz’s resignation in a prepared statement, which says, in full, “I would like to thank Mr. Stankiewicz for his service. He has been a valuable member of the election board for many years and his accomplishments encompass much more than these past few months. The county election board provides an essential service and the contributions of each member should be recognized.”



Posted 3/19/2019




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