Valparaiso ethics violation complaint dismissed
By James D. Wolf Jr. Post-Tribune correspondent August 14, 2012 9:50PM
Updated: September 16, 2012 6:20AM
VALPARAISO — The Valparaiso Ethics Commission dismissed an ethics violation complaint against some city appointees on Tuesday without stating what the complaint was about, who it was about or who filed it.
Former Valparaiso Community School Board member Brigid McLinn has said elsewhere that she filed the complaint, but she has not disclosed what it states.
Ethics Commission President Dorothy Bass said in the open meeting that a woman filed the complaint July 2 and that she and Eric P. Mathisen, attorney for the commission, met with the woman and let her know by letter they gave copies of the complaint to those named in it.
The commission members debated the matter in private executive session for about 45 minutes before Bass said in the public part of the meeting — taking a quote from the city’s ethics ordinance — “The complaint does not allege facts sufficient to constitute a violation of the ethics ordinance.”
Board member Tim Sutherland said the complaint did not cover areas mentioned in Valparaiso’s ethics ordinance, such as nepotism, misuse of public property, financial gain, ghost employment or conflict of interest.
Bass said it also didn’t show unethical behavior so much as bad process or communications.
The ethics commission could have done four things with the complaint: reject it as frivolous and irresponsible, reject it because it has been handled by the state or another governmental body, go into further investigation and make it public, or do what the commission did.
News of the complaint’s dismissal did not sit well with Porter County Council President Dan Whitten, who had filed a Freedom of Information Act request to see the complaint.
The state has tasked the County Council with approving the school’s budget later this month, but Whitten wants more openness, especially with rumors of financial misdeeds.
“I want to know what’s going on,” Whitten said.
In an email last week, Whitten wrote that he heard the ethics complaint has to do with financial malfeasance and, “Frankly, there’s more transparency at the College of Cardinals than there is with this school board.”
The Post-Tribune had also a Freedom of Information Act request to see the complaint in July but was turned down.
Mathiesen said such complaints remain confidential unless they’re found to have probable cause.
Whitten said he would also like an independent audit of the school budget, but School Board President Mark T. Maassel said at Monday’s Valparaiso City Council meeting that the State Board of Accounts, which audits public agencies, told Valparaiso it would look bad on an outside audit.
McLinn did not return calls Tuesday night.