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Starke County Treasurer's office closed until further notice

October 22, 2012

From left: Starke County Treasurer Linda Belork and Starke County Commissioner Kathy Norem begin the process of securing and closing the Starke County Treasurer's office until Belork has been bonded. Photo by: Cheryl Patrick

STARKE — The Starke County Treasurer’s Office is closed until further notice. Linda Belork was reinstated as Starke County Treasurer Monday morning following Judge John Potter’s ruling issued Oct. 18 that said Belork was entitled to serve in the office she was elected to in November 2008. However, her official bond had been revoked following her removal from office in August 2011
Starke County Commissioners removed Belork as treasurer following the results of the State Board of Account’s (SBOA) 2010 audit of the county. The audit showed discrepancies in the financial records of both the Starke County Auditor and Starke County Treasurer’s offices.
Starke County Commissioners held an open door emergency meeting Monday morning to address the issue of Belork’s bonding. Indiana Statute IC 5-4-1-18 states that a county treasurer shall file an individual surety bond, and IC 5-4-1-9 says, “An officer required to give an official bond shall give the bond before the commencement of his term of office.” The bond is required to “cover the faithful performance of duties of an officer” and to “account properly for all monies and property received by virtue of the officer’s position.”
Commissioner Dan Bridegroom said, “Linda Belork is the County Treasurer, but State law says she has to be bonded. We cannot take on that liability. That is the purpose of this meeting today.”
Commission President Kathy Norem said, “We need to look at what’s in the best interest of the public, the County and the Treasurer.” Norem also noted that the need to comply with Judge Potter’s ruling was hampered by the lack of comment on the issue of bonding.
The Commissioners concluded that the only course of action was to close the Treasurer’s Office until bonding is obtained. They also determined that all funds on hand must be counted and documented.
Following the meeting, the Commissioners, former Interim Treasurer Kasey Clark and Starke County Auditor Kay Chaffins proceeded to the Treasurer’s office where Norem advised Belork of the action. Clark counted the funds on hand and the amount was verified by Chaffins and Belork.
Kasey Clark, who took over the duties of Treasurer after Belork's removal, will work in a temporary position for the county until Jan. 1, 2013, when Clark, who is the only candidate on the ballot for Treasurer, is sworn in as Starke County Treasurer.
Belork said, “I talked to the bonding company Friday; and I will continue to work on getting my bond.” Belork remains as Treasurer and is permitted to remain in the office while bonding is being obtained.
Also at issue is the employment status of two Treasurer’s office employees, Clark and Kim Redlin. Redlin said, “She (Belork) asked me what I was doing there. I told her I was doing my job. She said I was no longer needed because she has new deputies. I asked for something in writing, but she refused to give me anything.” Clark and Redlin left the Treasurer’s office but remained in the building.
Belork said she did not terminate anyone from their positions when she resumed her duties as treasurer.
It was reported that Belork had hired her sister and brother-in-law to serve as deputies, which would be against the recently enacted State anti-nepotism laws. That information couldn’t immediately be verified as there was no formal paperwork on any hiring.
Arrangements were made with First Source Bank to accept payments for the fall property tax installment. Taxes also may be made by mail and must be postmarked by Nov. 10.
Following the office closing, Commissioner Bridegroom added, “The Commissioners regret the inconvenience to the taxpayers, but I will not violate the law.”
Leader Editor Cheryl Patrick
contributed tho this story

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