Calumet Township Trustee Kimberly K. Robinson recently filed a lawsuit and a motion for a preliminary injunction in Lake County Superior Court to stop the Town of Griffith from holding a Special Election on December 20, 2016 to vote on seceding from Calumet Township.
Trustee Robinson said her office’s commitment to assisting families in need left her no choice but to take legal action to save the services the Calumet Township Trustee’s Office provides. Robinson says “Contrary to popular belief, the recipients are representative of all cities and towns within the Calumet Township Population.”
Since 2014, the Township has provided relief to 17,944 residents in Calumet Township, without that help, many of its recipients would go homeless, hungry, and cold. The services include assistance with medical expenses, rent and mortgage payments, utilities, food, transportation, clothing/uniforms and education and job training.
“Recent actions taken by the Town of Griffith and the Indiana Department of Local Government Finance threaten to cut poor relief funds by almost $1 million and also reduce funding for the Gary Community School Corporation, Lake Ridge Schools, Lake Station Schools, the cities of Gary and Lake Station Civil City funds and several other taxing districts,” said Robinson. “We will continue to try to reason with the Griffith town leaders about the detrimental impact of their secession plan, but if that fails, we believe that we have strong legal standing in court for protecting the residents and taxpayers of Calumet Township.” Robinson proclaims that “as Calumet Township Trustee she was elected by the people and takes this responsibility to ALL constituents seriously and is preparing to fight all the way to the Indiana Supreme Court to protect the needy in Calumet Township, if we have to.”
The Griffith Town officials contend that state law mandates townships to hold spending within 12 times the state average and argues the Calumet Township exceeds the average.
Attorney Tony Walker, who is representing Calumet Township noted that an amendment to the state code enacted July 2015 requires the current year’s township assistance tax rate to be compared with the previous year’s when determining whether the township rate exceeds the 12 times limit. Since the DLGF’s certification dates are February 2016 and February 2017, the township further reduced it budget after its original submission.
According to Walker, Griffith suffered no harm from having a special Election enjoined since the earliest it could rightfully proceed with the vote for secession would be after the DLGF certifies the Townships 2017 tax rate in February.
Griffith Town Council unanimously approved the resolution that the referendum will take place in December. The resolution also calls for the Griffith election to be conducted like Special Elections, which require a two-thirds vote.
When questioned as to whether Town officials had sought another township to join if the referendum passes, Griffith Council President Rick Ryfa said the town would have a year to petition surrounding townships to join them.
It is reported that St. John, Ross and North are some of the townships being considered.