Letter to Porter County employees stirs up council
By Amy Lavalley Post-Tribune correspondent October 30, 2012 5:34PM
Updated: December 1, 2012 4:41PM
VALPARAISO — Porter County Councilman Jim Biggs, R-1st, raised questions Tuesday about a letter sent to county employees over the weekend from Council President Dan Whitten, D-At-large, and Councilwoman Laura Blaney, D-At-large, that apologized because the 2013 county budget did not include raises.
Whitten is seeking another term on the council and Blaney is running for the South County seat on the Porter County Board of Commissioners.
Biggs claims the letter is political and questioned how Whitten got employee addresses to send it out; Whitten said he paid for the letter himself, got the addresses on his own, and it wasn’t meant to be political.
The letter — and the friction it’s created — is the most recent development in a council split caused by a vote on the county budget.
A budget proposed by Blaney and Whitten, along with Councilwoman Karen Conover, R-3rd, and the Board of Commissioners, was voted down by the rest of the council.
The budget that failed included $500 in raises; council members who passed an alternative budget, including Biggs, said their version was the more fiscally responsible of the two choices.
The letter was clearly political, Biggs said, but did not carry a political disclaimer. He also wondered how Blaney and Whitten got access to the home addresses of the county’s employees, since the release of that information is a violation of county ordinance.
“It is obviously political and I am sincerely concerned about the way in which they obtained the information to mail it out,” Biggs said, adding that while the auditor’s office and the county’s information technology director had access to employee addresses, neither released them.
Whitten said he put the letter together over the weekend, creating letterhead with an image from the county’s website and paying for the letter and postage out of pocket. He said he got county employees’ addresses on his own, by asking around and using public records. “No one released anything to me,” he said. “I probably missed a bunch.”
The letter’s intent, he said, was to thank county employees in a non-political way for their hard work and offer an explanation for why they didn’t get raises, because he’s had county employees calling and asking about it.