Chesterton Tribune

 

 

Porter County Election Board hires new election deputies

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By LILY REX

The Porter County Election Board voted to approve two former Voter Registration employees as deputies in the new Elections Division at a meeting Friday.

The Board voted 4-1, with member and chair of the Porter County Democrat Party Jeff Chidester dissenting, to approve Jeannie King and Sharon Slusher as deputies to Elections Director and Assistant Director Sundae Schoon and Becky Rauch.

Chidester questioned how many applicants there were for the deputy positions. County Clerk Jessica Bailey reported King and Slusher were the only candidates to turn in completed applications with letters of recommendation. King and Slusher each have more than a decade of experience working on elections in Porter County.

Bailey got approval from the County Council to hire two deputies after a new state law mandated changes to Porter County elections that included forming a new, expanded Board of Elections and Voter Registration (which dissolved the old Voter Registration office), hiring a director and assistant director to run elections, and making all election officials subject to the anti-nepotism policy set forth in the County’s employee handbook.

The new law was a response to the 2018 general election in Porter County being rife with problems, including thousands of uncounted absentee ballots left when the polls closed, poll worker complaints, 13 polling places opening up to two hours late, and results delayed for three days.

A consequence of the new law was that Kathy Kozuszek, formerly the Democrat Director of Voter Registration, cannot work on Porter County elections since Chidester, her husband, has appointing authority over the new Board. Though Chidester had appointing authority over Kozuszek in her former position as well, he was not the party chair who first appointed her in 2001.

Chidester appointed himself to the newly formed Board July 1. He also cast the lone vote against hiring Schoon, who worked opposite Kozuszek in the old VR office. Three of the four former VR employees have now been hired for the new division.

Kozuszek’s attorney filed a motion in a federal district court on July 5 for a preliminary injunction to reinstate Kozuszek. Kozuszek’s attorney argues in court documents that she was “abruptly fired after 19 years of service.”

The injunction is part of a larger lawsuit in which Kozuszek alleges she was denied overtime pay and that the County stripped the Voter Registration office of its election responsibilities in retaliation for her seeking overtime pay.

 

Posted 7/22/2019

 
 
 
 

 

 

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