Judge allows Hobart to join in tax levy freeze lawsuit
By Karen Caffarini Post-Tribune correspondent November 15, 2012 5:26PM
Updated: December 19, 2012 12:57PM
HOBART — Lake Superior Court Judge Diane Kavadias Schneider has ruled that the city of Hobart can join in the lawsuit filed by two Lake County police officers declaring the state-imposed tax levy freeze in Lake County to be unconstitutional.
The judge granted the motion for the city to intervene as a party plaintiff on Nov. 5. She could not comment on her ruling as it is an ongoing case.
Council President Dave Vinzant, D-4th, who proposed the city seek to join the lawsuit during a council meeting in December, said the judge’s ruling doesn’t necessarily strengthen what he feels is already a strong lawsuit, but he does believe it will change the potential remedy if they win it.
“While I’m no legal scholar, it seems to me that the losses experienced by the city of Hobart are larger and different in nature than the losses experienced by the couple brave individuals who were the original litigants and will require different damages and remedies,” Vinzant said.
The lawsuit was originally brought by Lake County Deputy Chief Daniel Murchak, president of the Lake County Police Association Local 72, and Officer Robert Klasner, president of Lake County Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 125.
They contend the freeze is unconstitutional because it singles out Lake County. The state imposed the tax levy freeze when Lake County refused to pass a county option income tax, making it the only county in the state without the tax.
Vinzant said by allowing Hobart to join the lawsuit, the judge opened the door for any city, town, township, school system, or Lake County government itself, to join as well.
“I do feel that having other communities join might help show how significant the losses have been to the citizens of Lake County for having been singled out in this clearly unconstitutional way,” Vinzant said.
He said he would be happy to talk to any community officials interested in joining the fight.
Hobart City Attorney Anthony DeBonis said this is just the first step in the city’s legal fight to eliminate the frozen levy that has crippled Hobart and other Lake County government bodies financially for about five years.
He said a conference has been scheduled for next week and there will be a future date when motions and briefs are to be filed. DeBonis also pointed out whatever decision is made in Lake Superior Court could be appealed.