Local News

Commissioners Again Suing Auditor

(La Porte County, IN) - The LaPorte County Commissioners are again suing the La Porte County Auditor’s Office for ignoring their orders not to pay a legal bill.


Commissioners Connie Gramarossa and Rich Mrozinski voted on Wednesday night to file the lawsuit over a non-payment of a roughly $20,000 bill owed to Eichhorn & Eichhorn, Attorneys at Law out of Indianapolis.


Commissioner Joe Haney opposed the motion by Mrozinski to sue the Auditor’s Office.


“More money for the lawyers, less following of the rules,” Haney said.


The legal bill is for time spent on a still-undecided wrongful termination suit brought against the La Porte County government by former La Porte County Highway Department Superintendent and current La Porte County Republican Party Chairman Allen Stevens, alongside two other employees let go from their positions.


Gramarossa said the commissioners approved payment over three months ago, but La Porte County Auditor Tim Stabosz has not released a check to cover the bill. She said Stabosz is obligated to issue checks on any payments authorized by the commissioners and has been sued by several vendors of county government for non-payment or partial payment since becoming auditor in 2021.


“It’s very clear what you’re supposed to do. If we sign off on a bill you’re supposed to pay it,” she told him during the meeting.


Gramarossa also said the non-payment by Stabosz is just because the commissioners have not paid his legal expenses from a lawsuit filed against him in 2021 by former county attorney Shaw Friedman. The former county attorney sued him personally, claiming Stabosz withheld payments on some of the legal work he performed for the county because of his dislike for him and to score political points.


Initially, over $12,000 in legal expenses for Stabosz were paid for by taxpayers, but any future payments were stopped until that case was decided to avoid the potential of public monies going for an elected official’s personal actions.


In this matter, the LaPorte County government, along with Gramarossa and Mrozinski, are named in the wrongful termination lawsuit.


Stabosz said the two commissioners are being sued personally on some of the counts and that he’s withholding payment because it’s a conflict of interest for them to approve spending on something they are a party to. He also said he’s only following the policy established when payment of his legal expenses was suspended.  Now, he alleges, the commissioners don’t want to follow the precedent that was set.


“They approved the payment of their own bill from their own budget when they were sued personally. They should have recused themselves and sent it to the council,” he said.


Several weeks ago, Stabosz said that he offered to pay the bill if it was presented to the LaPorte County Council and approved, so as to avoid the appearance of any impropriety on behalf of the commissioners.


“I went the extra mile,” he said.


Gramarossa said only the county government is being sued in the wrongful termination case, and that the placement of her and Mrozinski’s names on the paperwork is just a formality. However, the LaPorte County government, along with Gramarossa and Mrozinski, are listed as “defendants” on the front page of the lawsuit documents filed at the U.S. District Court in South Bend.


One of the allegations in the lawsuit is that “Mrozinski and Gramarossa exceeded the scope of their authority as public officials and are, therefore, individually liable for their unlawful actions.”


A previous lawsuit by the commissioners against the auditor ended with a settlement in 2022, where Stabosz agreed to make due on about 90 percent of the close-to-$30,000 he owed Friedman.

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