The Porter County Election Board found itself under new management Tuesday
as Valparaiso attorney David Bengs succeeded the three-member board’s
Republican member Patrick Lyp.
After being on the board more than a decade, Lyp tendered his resignation to
have more time for a new position as attorney for the City of Valparaiso and
as its economic development director.
Bengs, who is an associate with Phil Norman PC in Valparaiso, was given
membership by a 2-0 vote from current board members J.J. Stankiewicz, the
Democratic representative, and County Clerk Karen Martin.
Bengs was also elected president of the board, Stankiewicz vice-president,
and Martin as secretary.
Board positions are appointed by the chairperson of a political party. Bengs
was selected by Republican Party Chair Michael Simpson who was in attendance
County Voters Registration Democrat Director Kathy Kozuszek said Bengs has
worked as watcher for the party on Election Night for the past four years as
votes came in and has a good relationship with the office. She said she
“couldn’t have been more pleased” he received the GOP appointment.
“I look forward to working with you,” Kozuszek told Bengs.
Kozuszek commented she “truly enjoyed” working with Lyp and said he wouldn’t
let party politics play into his decisions.
“He (Lyp) knew what was right was right and what was wrong was wrong,” she
The new board split 2-1 however on hiring a new board attorney for the year.
Bengs and Martin, who make up a Republican majority, outvoted Stankiewicz in
choosing Valparaiso attorney Ethan Lowe as its legal counsel, passing on
retaining Clay Patton who has held the position for eight years or more.
Lowe is a partner with Bachley, Tabor, Bozik and Hartman, the same firm that
Lowe’s areas of practice include municipal law and civil litigation. He
previously ran for an At-Large seat on the County Council in the County’s
2012 Republican primary.
The attorney contract is identical to what Patton had last year except for a
few additional hourly charges, but the basic compensation is the same, Lowe
Stackiewicz said politics was the reason his peers chose Lowe, given the
general make-up of the board. Patton has been active in the Porter County
Democrat Central Committee.
“It goes with the turf,” Stankiewicz said after the meeting.
Council redistricting suit
In the business portion of the meeting, Stankiewicz brought up the recent
lawsuit filed by County Councilman Jeremy Rivas, D-2nd, and four residential
voters challenging the County Commissioners’ new ordinance of redistricting
the county’s four Council districts.
“It will affect us. It is a major election,” said Stankiewicz, who admitted
he felt “out of the loop” on what the suit actually alleged.
Martin said the suit would not have an effect “on the decision of the
election” and therefore would not fall on the shoulders of the election
Lowe said he would look into the matter but much rests on the decision of
LaPorte County Circuit Court Judge Thomas Alevizo who has scheduled a
hearing on the matter Thursday at 11 a.m.
The suit, filed December 30 by attorney Ed Hearn, alleges the Commissioner’s
ordinance is invalid because not all of District 2 is contiguous. It calls
into question Westchester precinct 17 which splits with one area attached to
other precincts in District 2 while another part of it is fully encompassed
by District 1 precincts.
Lowe said he would have to study Alevizo’s decision to see if the suit would
affect just the County Council races or all races.
Candidate filing started last Wednesday with the new ordinance in effect.
Kozuszek said so far there have not been any filings for the County Council
Another part of Tuesday’s meeting was a discussion regarding a new
referendum for the Boone Twp. School District after it previously failed by
just four votes in last November’s election.
Lowe said he would contact attorneys with the Indiana Election Division to
see if state law allows election boards to approve of school referendums
even as the deadline to submit has passed.