Starke County Prosecutor Leslie Baker

Starke County Prosecutor Leslie Baker

STARKE COUNTY – During the Commissioner Meeting on Sept. 3, Prosecutor Leslie Baker approached the commissioners asking them to reconsider a request she made last month.

The initial request was to create the new job position of Investigator as well as two employee positions.

It also included updating job titles and pay scales.

During that prior meeting, the commissioners had voted to deny the request.

“I didn’t feel like I had a real meaningful opportunity to present that,” Baker said, explaining why she’s asking the commissioners to reconsider her request.

“The council, during the budget process, did approve in my budget a two percent raise for my budget as a whole so I have budgeted the role of that position (investigator) into my budget so it’s not a request for additional funds or anything,” she explained.

Commissioner Kathy Norem gave her opinion on the matter, an opinion that has not changed since the last meeting’s decision.

“We have good investigators at the Sheriff’s Department. There’s no reason to employee investigators for them and investigators for you. I think that’s too much,” said Norem. “And I think you need to work closer with the Sheriff’s Department.”

Baker replied that her department’s budget has the funds already approved for the position of investigator.

“That’s what the money is there to be spent on. And so, this has nothing to do with investigators at the Sheriff’s Department. The issues are not mutually exclusive.”

Prosecutor Baker added that she had no problem working with the detectives at the Sheriff’s Department or with the detective at the City of Knox Police Department.

“In fact, when I asked him to do some follow up for me the other day he said he wishes there were three of them,” Baker said. “This is not a position to reflect anything on any current investigator that we have working for any agency in the county. This is an additional means of support to provide follow up on cases that sometimes slip through the cracks.”

Commissioner Norem asked the prosecutor if the additional funds were coming out of the Pre-Trial Diversion Fund.

Prosecutor Baker said yes.

The commissioner then stated that she didn’t think that there were sufficient funds in the Pre-Trial Diversion Fund to support that position.

“They can appropriate the funds, but you still have to collect the money. And if you don’t collect the money, then you don’t have the money to spend,” said Norem.

Commissioner Bryan Cavinder suggested that Prosecutor Baker, himself, and Sheriff Bill Dulin meet to “resolve some things.”

Baker stated that she has expressed interest to Commissioner Norem to sit down and discuss the matter, but so far that has not happened.

“And so the issue now is, for whatever reason, dirty laundry was aired at a public meeting and I think that’s where it definitely impacts how people work together going forward. Because I firmly believe that information was put out in the public as a means to smear me and to smear my office. And that, to me, doesn’t rise to the level of mending fences. So, I’m happy to sit down and try to work out whatever can be worked out, but that requires two people to be willing to do those things. And given some of the statements made at the last meeting,” Baker said. “I just have some concerns about why some of those things were said and where that information is coming from and the spirit in which it was shared.”

Sheriff Dulin stated that he would be willing to sit down with the prosecutor and Cavinder, but he suggested on having County Attorney Marty Lucas and at least one County Council Member present as well.

“I want everyone to know what’s going on,” Sheriff Dulin said.

Prosecutor Baker stated that she’d be willing to table the request.

Commissioner Norem cautioned that the request might be tabled for longer than one meeting.

“I don’t think one time sitting down is going to cut it,” she said.

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