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Porter County clerk to testify to fed grand jury

Updated: January 14, 2014 1:04PM

VALPARAISO — Porter County Clerk Karen Martin is scheduled to testify next week before a federal grand jury in a criminal case about conflict of interest forms filed with her office.

Martin, who will testify Dec. 18 in U.S. District Court in Hammond, said she received a subpoena Dec. 3 from an FBI representative. Assistant U.S. Attorney Philip Benson, who handles public corruption cases, signed the subpoena.

This was the second time in recent weeks the FBI has been digging in Porter County. Officials from the federal agency also asked the servicing agent for the county’s health insurance to provide communication regarding the county’s health clinic contract.

Martin did not know if the investigations are related.

The FBI made repeated visits to Martin’s office last week, making copies of the indexes of who has filed the forms back to 2007. The representative also looked through the binders containing the signed forms, Martin said.

“I don’t know what person or year they’re looking for,” she said, adding she is not being implicated in the FBI’s research.

She expects to be questioned before the grand jury on how the forms are filled out and the related procedures.

County officials who filed the forms this year, as required by state statute, are: Auditor Bob Wichlinski; Commissioner Nancy Adams, R-Center; Commissioner Laura Blaney, D-South; and Councilman Bob Poparad, D-At-Large. Also filling out a form was interim Expo Center director Ken Blaney, who has since resigned.

Mike Anton, principal with Anton Insurance, provided documents about the health clinic contract with Porter Regional Health three weeks ago. He said shortly before Thanksgiving that he shared with the FBI that the process was “very transparent,” and all the commissioners were involved in what was an open process.

Conflict of interest forms must be filed with the county clerk’s office and the State Board of Accounts, Martin said. The filings include two types of forms, conflict of interest statements and disclosure statements, and cover one-time contracts and ongoing business relationships.

The forms must be filed within 15 days of when a contract is executed, she said.

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