By Erick Johnson, Gary Crusader
Michael A. Brown wants to be the next Lake County Sheriff. Right now, he’s the Lake County Clerk, but he’s planning to run for the sheriff’s position next year, hoping his clean reputation will convince voters to give him the job.
Now, Clerk Brown is worried.
On Monday, May 15, Brown received an email from a friend about a sexual harassment lawsuit filed against a man named Michael B. Brown, who turns out be the Lake County Recorder who unseated longtime incumbent Michelle Fajman. Recorder Brown has denied the allegations in news reports.
The lawsuit was filed May 8, but since then Clerk Brown, has been getting dozens of calls from concerned constituents who are worried that voters will get him confused with Michael B. Brown in a bad case of mistaken identity. After years of building a solid reputation and career, Brown has now shifted his campaign into damage control mode. He has reached out to news outlets, even Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson in an effort to keep his name and reputation clear of any confusion.
“I’m absolutely concerned,” Brown told the Gary Crusader. “My family taught me good values and to protect the name that I’ve been given.
Brown said he is looking at a run for Lake County Sheriff in 2018 when his current term as clerk expires. Both the positions of sheriff and clerk have two-term limits and both offices are up for reelection.
How the careers of two people with nearly identical names is an interesting tale of who’s who.
In the 2010 Democratic primary race for Lake County Recorder, Michael B. Brown, a political rookie and caucasian, was accused of capitalizing on the name of the veteran politician, current Clerk Brown, who is an African American in a bid to unseat Fajman for the position.
From 2005 to 2010, Clerk Michael Brown, has served two terms as Recorder, adding to the confusion. When Clerk Brown left that position, the other Michael Brown stepped in and won the position after concerns of voter confusion at the polls.
Now, Clerk Brown is concerned that a lawsuit against Recorder Brown will hurt his image and perhaps his chances of being elected Lake County Sheriff.
In the lawsuit, Estela Montalvo, of East Chicago, alleged that she was forced to leave her part-time job at the recorder’s office because Recorder Michael B. Brown, sexually harassed her according to court documents.
According to the lawsuit, Montalvo said she was hired in August 2014 in a part-time position with no benefits and told Brown she was interested in a full-time job with benefits.
Montalvo claimed Brown made an advance and said that a sexual relationship was required to secure the full-position, according to the complaint.
Recorder Michael B. Brown could not be reached for comment, but He previously denied the allegations in news reports.
Meanwhile Clerk Brown continues to reach out to news outlets to prevent Recorder Brown’s troubles from confusing voters.
“I’m trying to serve the people of this community and I want them to know that this man is not me,” Clerk Brown said.