Elected trustee who admits theft--avoids jail time and remains on the job

On one hand, an elected official who admits he stole taxpayer money was banned from holding public office for eight years.

On the other hand, John Michalski was ordered to continue to perform his duties as the elected trustee of Olive Township for the next 30 days.

The unusual move came as Michalski was sentenced today for his guilty pleas on charges of theft and official misconduct.

“I’m certainly going to review the judge’s order. I was under the expectation today that based on Indiana state law that once the plea agreement, plea agreement was approved that there would be a vacancy in the office,” said John Broden, Chairman of the St. Joseph County Democratic Party. “But I certainly want to see how that corresponds to the judge’s order that seems to give Mr. Michalski another 30-days in office.”

Both St. Joseph County’s Republican and Democrat parties have repeatedly called for Michalski to resign. It was back in April that Michalski first agreed to plead guilty.

“Well I certainly think that it’s odd for a judge to order a man who has abused his power in such a way to remain in office for any length of time,” said Jake Teska, Executive Director of the St. Joseph County Republican Party. “I also think that any elected official who uses public funds in a casino should get a bit tougher of a sentence.”

An audit shows that the trustee used the township credit card to withdraw money from ATM’s located in casinos. The report documents seven separate ATM withdrawals from casinos in Michigan City, Hammond and Minnesota totaling $1,634.74.

In all, Michalski made some $7,600 in improper or undocumented expenditures and he has repaid the money.

Michalski will not serve time in jail, but he will spend one year on probation. MIchalski will have to perform 40 hours of community service and pay a $500 fine.

Judge Michal Gotsch explained that the only reason he ordered Michalski to return to work was so that the public would continue to be served while a placement trustee was chosen.

Michalski declined to speak at this sentencing hearing today where others described him as a 72 year old Navy veteran with heart trouble—a retired project manager at Notre Dame who exercised poor judgment when he gave into temptation.

Michalski has been Olive Townshp Trustee since being appointed to the post in 2003.

“Mr. Michalski is, by all means, an elderly man,” said Teska, “but I do think that on principal, jail time would have been appropriate in this case.”

Michalski is a Democrat, so his replacement will be chosen by precinct committee people in Olive Township (the New Carlisle area).

A total of three precinct people will be involved according to Chairman Broden.

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