Chesterton Tribune

 
 

Rivas gets the boot in County Council coup; Poparad new president

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By JEFF SCHULTZ

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 vice-president.

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 and Biggs.

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 this January.

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 detail.

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 month.

 

 

Posted 3/12/2013