There’s a first time for everything and LaPorte County is poised to become the first county in Indiana to try and remove its elected assessor from office.
“To remove a public official from office is not something that you take lightly,” said Democrat LaPorte County Commissioner Mike Bohacek.
By a vote of two to one, county commissioners today decided to move forward with legal efforts to remove Democrat Carol McDaniel from the assessor’s office that she has held for the past seven years.
Today’s vote was bi-partisan as commissioners on both sides of the aisle were concerned about alleged misconduct on the part of the assessor, and the fact that LaPorte County is still trying to finalize and collect on property tax bills dating back to 2006.
“We are the last county out of 92-counties, we are farther behind than anybody else almost two years behind the next closest county to us,” said Republican Commissioner Ken Layton, “and it’s not fun, it’s not humorous.”
One commissioner did speak in defense of Mrs. McDaniel today. “I voted that I did not want her removed from office,” said Democrat Barb Huston. “I do not feel that it is that she is totally responsible for this on her own, I just feel she’s the scapegoat.”
Huston feels the Indiana’s Department of Local Government Finance deserves some of the blame.
It was the DLGF that conducted the investigation into McDaniel that lead to the allegations of misconduct.
Meantime, those who voted to try and oust McDaniel from office realize that it may never happen. “This action that we took today does not remove Carol from office tomorrow,” said Commissioner Bohacek. “It has to go to the prosecutor, it has to go to a judge, and ultimately through the judicial system.”
“Quite honestly, I believe that Mrs. McDaniel will serve out her term, prior to any rendering from any court on this,” said Commissioner Ken Layton. “She’s got 15-months to go, this will be tied up I’m sure for that 15-months.”
The case against McDaniel is perhaps as close as Indiana law gets to recalling public officials.
It marks the first time anyone has tried to use a law passed in 2008 that provides a mechanism to remove assessors who do not adequately perform their duties.
One commissioner today expressed concern that the alleged misbehavior on the part of McDaniel predates the passage of the law.
Mrs. McDaniel was said to be out of the office today, and unavailable for comment. McDaniel did not attend the commissioners meeting or refute any of the allegations against her.