(La Porte County, IN) - La Porte County Attorney Shaw Friedman is inviting anyone who has evidence of wrongdoing by him or any other county government official to go to the proper authorities.
His fiery challenge came after a realtor listing the former La Porte County Home for sale refuted claims that corruption was involved when the county sold the historic building across from the fairgrounds in 2020.
Realtor Larry Nickell explained how the county sold the home and what the current owner has done to prepare the structure for redevelopment by whoever buys it in a letter read during last night's La Porte County Commissioners meeting.
Nickell, co-owner of a real estate agency in Walkerton, said everything had been done above board, and anyone who thinks otherwise is clearly wrong.
Friedman has said from the beginning the sale of the home was done according to the letter of the law. However, his detractors speculate that Friedman and other officials rigged the deal and took part in other shady dealings for their own personal gain, especially in posts on social media.
Friedman practically begged his accusers to go to the proper authorities if they had any evidence of any wrongdoing during last night's commissioner's meeting.
"This is an open challenge to all big tough keyboard warriors like Jody Slabaugh. I say to them there's a grand jury meeting right now downstairs in the old Superior Court 3. You take any evidence you think you have to the grand jury where you're going to have to testify under oath under pain and penalty for perjury about what you've got," Friedman said. "Come on, Mr. Slabaugh. Talk is cheap, but when you're dealing with reputations and questioning integrity, you better have something to back it up."
Friedman said Slabaugh is in the same political camp as La Porte County Auditor Tim Stabosz, who's being sued by Friedman for defamation of character and withholding payment on some of his work claims.
Friedman also gave out the phone number of Anthony McLintock, an investigator with the LaPorte County Prosecutor's Office, for people feeling they have evidence of corruption to call and arrange to testify before the grand jury. The prosecutor's office has assembled a grand jury to look into what, so far, have been unproven claims of wrongdoing from detractors of Friedman and supporters of the county attorney.
"Mr. Slabaugh not only accused me of defrauding taxpayers by billing for political work such as writing for Howey Politics, absolutely untrue. He accused me without a shred of proof for trying to defraud taxpayers with his buddy's run-down warehouse. Again, completely false and outrageous," Friedman said.
Friedman said Slabaugh also accused him of "selling out taxpayers" on the county home sale "when we followed the statute by the letter."
"How dare he say that taxpayers are being charged when I'm suing the auditor on my time and my own dime to collect fees that he's unlawfully withheld to my firm," Friedman said.
The commissioners last night ordered Stabosz to pay over $37,000 in claims he's withholding from Friedman over the past several months. Stabosz has no plans to pay the claims he believes are for political work and work similarly to the duties of a county administrator, not a county attorney.
Commissioner Joe Haney, who's made similar allegations, voted against the order.
Friedman vehemently denied ever billing for "partisan political work" and appealed for Haney to look at the contract for services he entered into with the commissioners before further disputing his work claims.
According to the contract agreed by the commissioners, Friedman's duties include not just legal work, but advice to county elected officials and department heads, risk prevention and litigation avoidance, and work on economic development and health and public safety matters. His contractual duties also include crafting resolutions, ordinances, contracts, government relations, and policy work.
When requested or required, the contract also directs Friedman to conduct his duties "in various forums which include administrative, regulatory and legislative settings."
Friedman told Haney, "I got to tell you, sir. We've been county attorneys for 26 of the last 37 years, and I have never had a county commissioner or an auditor ever take exception to our billing."
Friedman also said Stabosz refusing to pay his claims is in "explicit violation" of the recently written opinion by the Indiana State Board of Accounts.
"That's your opinion of what that letter says. I don't think any of those letters ever told him not to do his due diligence as an auditor," Haney said.
"Look at the contract. Look at the contract that has been approved by this board. It authorizes to engage in a variety of policy work on behalf of this body. It's advocacy on behalf of the county. I can't believe that you would attempt to usurp that," Friedman said.
Friedman has alleged that Stabosz uses his public office to wage a vendetta against his political opponents and for political gain. Stabosz denies his decisions are driven by politics.