Immediately after a
particularly contentious meeting of the Porter County Election Board
adjourned Friday, Democrat Director of the Voters Registration Office Kathy
Kozuszek incited a group of audience members to demand that County Clerk
Karen Martin relinquish the keys to the room that houses the County’s
Republican, is facing an election challenge from Kozuszek in this year’s
race for County Clerk.
remained quiet during the meeting portion as the board members discussed
proposals for an early voting site, got up and said she would like the
public to know that Martin is the only person that has a set of keys, giving
her access to the ballots. She said Martin needed to give them to an
impartial party now because absentee ballots have arrived and are to be
mailed out to overseas and military voters.
“As voters in this
county, stand up and tell (Martin) to turn over the keys!” Kozuszek said to
those in the audience.
Nearly a dozen in
attendance acted on Kozuszek’s request, shouting in unison several times for
Martin to “turn over the keys.”
Martin then said
she was handing the keys over to Kenard Taylor who filling in for Election
Board Republican member David Bengs, but Kozuszek advised it “has to be an
Martin called over
Heidi Childers, director of maintenance for the County Administration
Building, and gave her the keys to hold on to. Childers told the
Chesterton Tribune she is not sure if she ultimately can hold the keys
but said she will keep them “for as long as I have to.”
Martin, in her
defense, claimed that she saw documentation from the state saying the Clerk
is to have the keys in an email from Kozuszek.
Keys to various
locks in the Voters Registration office have been the subject of recent
political bickering between Kozuszek and Martin.
Two weeks ago,
Martin said she had the locks to the front doors changed for security
reasons after she heard from secondary sources that Kozuszek reported items
were missing from her desk. The new locks require both a Republican and a
Democrat employee to open the door.
let the employees in herself until the workers got their individual keys.
Kozuszek on Friday
said that there wasn’t any theft but it was a matter of things on her desk
“being tampered with” by persons unknown. She said she had set up a deer
camera to monitor her office area.
Members of the
public sitting in on Friday’s board meeting asked Martin why she changed the
locks to which she replied there was a theft in the office and she was told
by the County Commissioners at a previous time that was the procedure
accusations that her actions were a political power play.
Kozuszek, on the
other hand, contended that Martin’s actions were “100 percent political” and
against the law because she “locked people out of their jobs” in a federal
accused Martin of political intimidation and other improprieties. She said
she will have further documentation at the next election board meeting to
support her claims.
sent word to his fellow board members saying it is his directive that
neither Kozuszek nor Martin shall have direct contact with the ballots at
any time during absentee voting, early voting or Election Day voting in the
May primary elections and the November general elections.