FBI asking about Dem deal for office: Interim surveyor
By Carrie Napoleon Post-Tribune correspondent January 2, 2014 6:12PM
Bill Emerson Jr., attorney, running in the Lake County Democratic Party caucus for county surveyor.
Updated: January 3, 2014 11:10AM
One candidate for Lake County surveyor in Saturday’s Democratic caucus to fill the seat vacated by George Van Til said FBI investigators questioned him at his office about the race earlier this week.
Interim Surveyor Gregory Sanchez said the FBI spent 55 minutes in his office Monday with some of those questions focusing on a possible deal between party leaders and candidates Bill Emerson Jr. and John Garcia that resulted in Garcia withdrawing from the race.
Sanchez said he told investigators he was unaware of any such deal. Sanchez said he also has not been involved in any deal for the office or the position of deputy surveyor.
“I am very concerned the FBI has questions about the race,” Sanchez said.
Special Agent Bob Ramsey, spokesman for the FBI’s Merrillville office, had little to offer.
“I won’t confirm or deny that or substantiate anything Mr. Sanchez said,” Ramsey said Thursday.
Sanchez, Emerson and Garcia were the first three candidates to announce they would run in the caucus Saturday to replace Van Til, who resigned Dec. 5 after pleading guilty to federal corruption charges that he used employees in his office to work on his re-election in the 2012 primary and general elections.
On Dec. 30, the party conducted a precaucus meeting to poll party leaders and city and town precinct chairman to determine if a consensus on one candidate could be reached, according to Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott, the Lake County Democratic Party chairman.
At that meeting, Garcia announced he was dropping out of the race and urged his supporters to back Emerson, McDermott said.
Neither candidate could gain the two-thirds majority needed for the party to back one candidate. The vote was 15-13 in Emerson’s favor, according to McDermott.
“I’m concerned about the FBI asking questions of Mr. Sanchez. As the party chairman, the absolute last thing we need is a black eye,” McDermott said.
McDermott is supporting Emerson, a lawyer who has not previously run for public office.
Emerson said he had not been contacted by the FBI and if the FBI did contact Sanchez it was in response to false allegations made in another newspaper Monday. He described the allegations as last-minute smear campaign politics he wants to leave behind.
“I have made no deals with anyone. Period,” Emerson said.