Local News

Ax Drops on President and County Attorney

(La Porte County, IN) - The La Porte County Commissioners on Wednesday replaced their board president and attorney well before their one-year terms expire.


Joe Haney was ousted as president and replaced by Connie Gramarossa in separate 2-to-1 votes by Gramarossa and Rich Mrozinski in support of the move. Gramarossa and Mrozinski were also in the majority in the decision to terminate Andrew B. Jones as county attorney.


The decisions seemed to represent a thunderous shift in power because it was Gramarossa siding with Haney in naming him commission president in early January.


That same day, Gramarossa and Haney voted to hire Jones to replace former county attorney Shaw Friedman.


The decisions came after Haney acting on tips learned Gramarossa drove a county-owned vehicle to Chicago on March 16th without seeking permission from the commissioners to take it outside the state.


She was later operating the county-owned 2021 Ford Escape when she caused the accident.


Haney also accused her of never telling the commissioners about the crash as required. Instead, Haney said she began driving her personal vehicle to report for work at the commissioners’ office while the taxpayer-owned car was nowhere in sight.


Eventually, Haney said he located the vehicle at a local body shop and estimated the damage at roughly $20,000.


According to a Chicago Police report, Gramrossa before 6 a.m. struck the back end of a vehicle stopped for a red light on Halsted Street.


During the meeting, Gramarossa said she took the car in a rush after receiving a phone call that her son was in a hospital in Chicago. She said no light was shed during the call on the condition of her son.


She said her sense of urgency was heighted because her son is still impacted by a traumatic brain injury suffered when he was younger and is deaf.  Therefore, she felt more of a need to be there as quickly as possible to act as a sign language interpreter so her son and doctors could communicate.


“Like any mother would have, I went in the first vehicle that was available to me. I didn’t think.  I didn’t hesitate to be at his bedside,” she said.


She said the accident happened early the next morning while heading back “sleep deprived and, frankly, still shaking from my son’s hospitalization.”   


Haney expressed remorse over the circumstances, but felt there was no excuse for what he alleged was an attempted cover-up.


“We all make mistakes, but covering it up?  It’s inappropriate,” he said.


The termination of Jones was tied to La Porte County Prosecutor Sean Fagan’s request for all of the e-mails last year from the former prosecutor and several of his staff members.  Jones strongly advised to turn them over or risk being sued by the Indiana Attorney General’s Office.


A majority of the commissioners, expressing concerns about privacy violations and political witch hunts, voted not to.


Jones said e-mails from a prosecutor’s office belong to the prosecutor who works for the state.  Later, Jones said he was contacted by Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita, who asked if he could speak with Gramarossa and Mrozinski the following day about the matter.  Jones then contacted Gramarossa, the latter having said he gave her the times Rokita was available to speak, but she rejected his invitation.


”He’s suing us and I didn’t think it was appropriate that our attorney would put us in jeopardy in talking to an adversary,” she said.


Jones accepted a request by the commissioners to stay on as county attorney until a replacement is appointed in two weeks.        

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