Jasper County Judge John D. Potter issued a continuance on the request to have Starke County Commissioners, Starke County Treasurer Linda Belork and their counsel in Jasper Court Monday, Oct. 29 to explain to the judge why they believe they should not be held in contempt of court for closing the Starke County Treasurer's office last Monday until the matter of Belork's lack of bond is rectified.
Belork was reinstated as Starke County Treasurer last Monday morning following Judge John Potter’s ruling, issued Thursday, Oct. 18, that said Belork was entitled to serve in the office she was elected to in November 2008. Belork took office Jan. 1, 2009; however, on Aug. 11, 2011, she was removed from her position following the results of the Indiana State Board of Accounts 2010 audit of the county.
Starke County Commissioners held an open door emergency meeting on the morning of Monday, Oct. 22 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.” Belork's official bond was revoked following her removal from office in August 2011.
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.”
While the commissioners recognized Belork as Treasurer, Indiana law states that she cannot assume the duties of the office she was elected to unless she is bonded.
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.”
Wednesday, Oct. 24, Judge Potter held a telephone conference with Belork's attorney Ethan Lowe and legal representation for the county Martin Lucas regarding Potter's order to reinstate Belork as treasurer not being upheld.
While the commissioner's decision to close the office was what they believed to be in keeping with Indiana law, apparently, the judge viewed the action as nullification of his ruling.
Counsel for both Linda Belork and the county as well as Belork and all three commissioners were initially required to be in Jasper Circuit Court at 3 p.m. Monday to explain to the judge why they believed they should not be held in contempt of court. Presently, neither a date nor time has been set for the parties to appear in Jasper Court.
The Starke County Treasurer's office is once again open. Belork is currently in her position as Treasurer and she has been afforded all rights, responsibilities and duties that she was elected to.
Tax payments can be made at the Treasurer's office; and the deadline is still Nov. 10. Persons who do not wish to pay in person may still do so by mail.
Starke County Commission Vice-President Dan Bridegroom released the following statement Thursday, “In deference to the Jasper Circuit Court’s ruling denying the Starke County Board of Commissioners’ Motion to Clarify Order, the Starke County Treasurer’s Office is now open.”