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Monday, October 22, 2012

Ind. Gov't. - "Jasper Circuit Court Judge John Potter on Thursday ordered that Linda Belork be reinstated immediately to her position as Starke County Treasurer"

The ILB has posted a number of entries on Starke County Treasurer Linda Belork and her removal from office, beginning with this one from August 12, 2011, headed "Starke County commissioners remove treasurer from office," and most recently, from Jan. 12, 2012, this one headed "More on: Judge Rules in Linda Belork Case."

Today, from K99.3FM, "The Voice of the KankakeeValley," "Anita" reports in a story headed "Linda Belork Expected to Resume Treasurer Duties Today":

Jasper Circuit Court Judge John Potter on Thursday ordered that Linda Belork be reinstated immediately to her position as Starke County Treasurer. According to the order, Belork was wrongfully removed from office after alleged discrepancies were found in the treasurer’s accounts. The judge found that it was an accounting error of the auditor.

Belork is expected to be in the Starke County Treasurer’s office when the doors open this morning at 8 a.m. in the Starke County Annex Building. The Starke County Commissioners said that Kasey Clark, who was sworn in as the interim treasurer when Belork was removed from office, will fill a temporary county position until Jan. 1. She is the only candidate on the General Election ballot for Starke County Treasurer so she will resume her duties in January.

Any further settlement issues between the commissioners and Belork will need to be done in remediation and if the issues cannot be resolved, the parties will meet again in Jasper Circuit Court to resolve them.

Starke County Commissioner Kathy Norem stated, “We are disappointed that the outcome of this case did not meet our expectations. We hold each office holder accountable for the responsibilities of their office. In this case, we felt that our actions were warranted because these responsibilities were not being effectively met causing an intolerable lack of service for the tax payers of Starke County. We will continue to hold all office holders to this standard of service and move forward in the management of operations for Starke County.” [ILB emphasis]

But that is not all. "Anita" also has a newer story, headed "Starke County Treasurer’s Office Closed Until Further Notice":
[ILB emphasis] The Starke County Commissioners held an emergency meeting this morning where Commissioner Dan Bridegroom made a motion to acknowledge that Linda Belork is the Starke County Treasurer but she can not fully serve in that capacity because a surety bond is not in place at this time and they must close the Treasurer’s Office until further notice.

“The only option that would give us, I feel, to close the office at this time. Yes, she is Treasurer, but we cannot allow her to operate the office because of the liability issues,” stated Bridegroom. * * *

All parties are attempting to get the Treasurer’s Office open to serve the public as quickly as possible. For now, if you have a tax payment, you may drop it off in the drop box outside of the Treasurer’s Office until the office is reopened.

The ILB has also found this Oct. 20th story by "Ben" that gives some recent background:
A decision has finally been reached in the case against Linda Belork, former Starke County treasurer. The attorney for the Starke County Commissioners, Martin Lucas, told Jasper Circuit Court Judge John Potter that the commissioners were faced with a serious problem when the funds were reportedly misappropriated in the treasurer’s office according to the State Board of Accounts. He said the commissioners acted according to statute in removing her from office and filing suit against her bond.

Belork’s attorney, Ethan Lowe, argued that the commissioners knew one week after the report came in for the misappropriated funds that the money was not stolen or lost. He said the error lies in the payroll department in the auditor’s office, not the treasurer’s office. Lowe also claimed that because of the commissioners actions, Belork’s reputation in the community has been ruined.

Potter filed his order on Thursday, having found that Belork was not delinquent in her duties as treasurer. Further, Potter said she was not properly removed, and no material fact exists that any money was missing. He said the commissioners themselves agree that the money was found and that the issue stemmed from accounting errors in the auditor’s office. The commissioners knew this suit was groundless since at least Sept. 6, 2011, Potter said, and yet they persisted in prosecuting it.

Therefore, Potter has ordered that Belork be reinstated immediately and any injunction or restraining order against her is lifted. Further, Belork is entitled to back pay at her salary with eight percent interest since Aug. 2011. The amount of money owed to Belork for back pay, benefits, and interest shall be determined at an evidential damages hearing, the date for which has not yet been set.

Lowe said his client is still evaluating whether or not other damages are appropriate, and the parties will undergo a mediation process in order to come to an agreement. In the meantime, however, Belork is expected to return to office Monday morning.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on October 22, 2012 03:33 PM
Posted to Indiana Government