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Auditor must win spending approval from Porter County Council

Updated: May 12, 2013 2:20PM



VALPARAISO — The Porter County Council has yet again zeroed out the auditor’s nonreverting fund.

With a 7-0 vote on a second reading Wednesday — the council split 5-2 on the first reading — the council reduced about $542,000 in appropriations from the fund.

Auditor Bob Wichlinski will now have to go to council and ask for appropriations, as do other department heads.

Council President Bob Poparad, D-At-large, brought up the matter in late February, after council members learned Wichlinski had announced he was going to spend $7,000 a month from the fund, which is generated by homestead credit violations, for a satellite office for him, the recorder, the treasurer and the assessor in Portage, an idea that has since been put on hold.

Council members said then they weren’t taking the funds away from Wichlinski, but simply wanted more accountability for how they were spent, and that was their message Wednesday.

Many good things have come from the fund, said Councilwoman Karen Conover, R-3rd District, but the council is still waiting for a detailed accounting of spending from the fund since the start of the year.

“It’s for public accountability,” she said of reducing the fund.

The council voted on March 11 to strip control of the funds from the auditor’s office, but Wichlinski said then that the council needed to advertise that they were going to zero out the fund’s allocation, which wasn’t the path they took.

In the ensuing weeks, Wichlinski spent $83,000 from the fund without the council’s prior approval, which angered council members at their last meeting.

Wednesday’s special meeting was advertised; council attorney Scott McClure recommended a revote because it was easier than attorneys arguing over which way the council should handle the matter.

With a 4-3 vote, the council also tabled $225,250 in contractual service payments out of the nonreverting fund until their next regular meeting, on April 23, for further discussion.

But Councilman Jim Biggs, R-1st District, said Wednesday’s meeting was called to address the nonreverting fund. He voted against tabling the contracts.

“I see no benefit on any of our parts in putting this off another week or two,” he said, adding that the contracts, which are related to homestead credit violations, benefit the county.

The Board of Commissioners approved the contracts retroactive to Jan. 1 last week, with payment contingent on approval from the council, Wichlinski said.



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