Olive Twp. Trustee pleads guilty to theft

An elected official in St. Joseph County today lost his innocence, but not his job.

Olive Township Trustee John Michalski pleaded guilty to three felony counts related to the mis-use of public funds.

He remains on the job at the trustee’s office in New Carlisle on a technicality.

Although Michalski pleaded guilty to two counts of Theft and one count of Official Misconduct, the judge won’t enter convictions until sentencing on July 15th.

It is a felony ‘conviction’ that threatens to cost Michalski his job.

“State law seems to indicate that his resignation is essentially required and results pursuant to state law upon his sentencing, but it does not appear that his entry of a plea agreement necessarily results in his removal from office,” said St. Joseph County Democratic Chairman John Broden. “And again, we are renewing our call for him to resign from office immediately and we will be pursuing every legal option at our disposal to force his resignation from office or force his removal from office if he will not resign from office.”

Meantime, Michalski has paid back the money he is accused of mis-using and he has apparently won back the trust of at least one member of the elected Olive Township Advisory Board. “He was confronted with it, he took care of the situation, he tried to resolve the situation, there is nothing lost in public funds,” Township Advisory Board Member Myles Hooton told News Center 16 over the phone. “I have great confidence that Mr. Michalski has learned a big lesson and in the past he has done one great job for the township.”

Hooton added that he was not advocating for Michalski’s resignation.

A state audit released last summer held Michalski accountable for some $7,600 worth of expenses that were either improper or poorly documented.

For instance, Michalski is accused of making seven separate withdrawals worth $1,634.74 from the township bank account using ATMs located at casinos in Michigan City, Hammond, and in Minnesota.

“These are not victimless crimes, these are big deals for our community,” said Jake Teska, Executive Director of the St. Joseph County Republican Party. “These men, and whether we’re talking about Butch Morgan, or Jeff Dean, or John Michalski, they violated the public trust and when the public loses trust and they lose faith in the system, the system stops working.”

The plea agreement notes that all three crimes will be treated as a “single episode of criminal conduct,” meaning the sentences will run concurrently. That means Michalski could face a maximum sentence of three years behind bars. At minimum, his three felony offenses could be treated as misdemeanors, which could allow him to stay on his job through the end of his term at the end of 2014.

“I have no problem because he has done one excellent job of managing township activities,” said Myles Hooton.

The plea agreement specifies that the state does not consent to misdemeanor treatment, but acknowledges that treatment as a Class A Misdemeanor was possible.

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