Strife on the Porter County Council erupted Tuesday and ended up with
Council member Robert Poparad, D-At Large, replacing fellow Council member
Jeremy Rivas, D-2nd, as Council president by a 4-3 vote.
At what was to be the start of a series of meetings to get a leg up on the
challenges of the 2014 county budgets, Council member Dan Whitten, D-At
Large, without any discussion beforehand, made a motion for the Council to
reorganize, saying he has become “very uncomfortable with the direction the
board has taken lately” with Rivas as president and Jim Polarek, R-4th, as
Voting in favor of Whitten’s motion were Poparad and Council members Sylvia
Graham, D-At Large, and Karen Conover, R-3rd. Voting against the motion were
Rivas, Polarek, and Jim Biggs, R-1st.
Whitten then nominated Poparad as President and Conover as Vice-president to
strip Rivas and Polarek of their officer positions.
As in the previous motion, Poparad, Whitten, Graham, Conover voted for the
Poparad/Conover team. Voting for the Rivas/Polarek team were Rivas, Polarek
Little discussion transpired among Council members to explain the sudden
shift in power, but Conover said there has been “constant controversy,
discontent and bullying” and little being done to address the County
Economic Development Income tax funding with the County Commissioners.
“I feel absolutely terrible about this. I don’t think this has ever been
done in our County government,” Conover said in casting her vote for herself
and Poparad. She advocated moving forward with CEDIT so the County “can pay
its bills on time.”
Graham, who is often the swing vote on the Council, said her decision to
switch leadership was “to help make certain that county government runs
smoothly and efficiently” saying that’s what she was “elected to do.”
Biggs came to the defense of Rivas and Polarek saying they were not given
the chance to lead.
“I thought Jeremy was representing this board well,” Biggs said adding that
his colleague helped shape a budget last year that cut county government
spending by five percent while others on the Council voted for a failed
budget that would have increased spending.
Rivas, in his third year on the Council, became president for the first time
Poparad re-joined the Council this year and had served previously as
president off and on during his two terms as 1st District representative
from 2003 to 2010.
After the meeting, Rivas told the Tribune he was “blindsided” by the
vote to reorganize and said he believes it may have been done for political
reasons by his peers for “asking too many questions” about things such as
spending and oversight.
He said his promise as Council president was to never raise taxes and look
for other ways to balance the 2014 budgets.
“I’m going to keep fighting,” Rivas said.
When asked why he felt changes needed to be made, Poparad said, “The board
felt it needed to move in a different direction” but did not go into further
In one of his first actions as president, Poparad rescheduled the March 20
Council meeting to Tuesday, March 26 when the Council will take action on
restoring the $8 million or so in CEDIT funding that was left out of the
Commissioners’ 2013 budget.
Poparad said that the Council will continue to “do its homework thoroughly”
on the budgets. As of this morning, he is not sure whether he will continue
Rivas’ action of holding county budget workshops every first Tuesday of the