Feds: Philpot took $25,000 without County Council OK
BY Teresa Auch Schultz firstname.lastname@example.org September 22, 2011 7:14PM
David Capp, U.S. attorney for the northern district of Indiana, fields questions during a news conference announcing the indictments of former Lake Country clerk Thomas Philpot, as well as indictments in a separate investigation of former Lake Country Sheriff's officers Edward Kabella, Joseph Kumstar and Ronald D. Slusser, at the U.S. District Courthouse in Hammond, Ind., Thursday, September 22, 2011. | Guy Rhodes~For Sun-Times Media
Lake County Coroner Thomas Philpot has run for public office eight times in the last 19 years — winning five times and losing three times. His political history — all as a Democrat — includes:
1992: Elected Lake County coroner in his first bid for elected office.
1996: Re-elected Lake County coroner.
1997: Defeated in a bid for Hammond mayor.
2001: Defeated for the second time in a bid for Hammond mayor.
2002: Elected Lake County clerk.
2006: Re-elected Lake County clerk.
2008: Elected Lake County coroner.
2010: Defeated in a bid for Lake County sheriff.
Updated: November 10, 2011 5:29PM
Former Lake County Clerk Thomas Philpot took $25,000 in incentive money without permission from the Lake County Council, according to a federal indictment filed Thursday.
U.S. Attorney David Capp announced Thursday at the U.S. District Court in Hammond that Philpot, who is now the Lake County coroner, is charged with three counts of mail fraud and two counts of theft from a federally funded program.
The investigation into Philpot began partly because of a Janauary 2010 report by the Post-Tribune that detailed how Philpot paid himself the money over a seven-year period, Capp said.
Neither Philpot or his attorney could be reached for comment.
The Indiana Department of Child Services oversees federal dollars that are used to compensate local government employees who work to collect child support payments. According to the indictment, the money can be given to employees of the departments but can only be given to elected officials if the fiscal body overseeing the department has given permission.
In this case, that would be the Lake County Council, which oversees the money for the clerk’s office. Capp said that Philpot began paying himself money from this fund in December 2004 without having permission from the Lake County Council. The payments went until 2009, Philpot’s last year as clerk.
“Indiana statute makes clear an elected official may not receive this money” unless the fiscal body approves it, Capp said.
However, Philpot would send requests for the payments to the Indiana Department of Child Services, saying each year that he did indeed have the council’s permission. Overall, he received $24,702 from those payments. During the last years, those payments came as other employees were taking pay cuts.
Capp said that Philpot has returned all the money.
When asked in 2010 by the Post-Tribune about the case, Philpot defended his actions, saying state law allowed it and that his predecessors had also taken the incentive payments. However, there were no records of any clerk from 1994 until Philpot took office taking those payments.
“It’s by statute, it’s approved. Nobody’s stealing,” Philpot said in January 2010. “It’s a nonstory. I didn’t do anything no different than the clerk before me and before that.”
Council President Ted Bilski said Thursday he was not surprised by the indictment and that he did not remember ever approving giving part of the incentive money to Philpot.
Capp said that Philpot was talking with federal prosecutors about turning himself in sometime Friday or Monday.