Allegations of corruption within or between law enforcement officers’ unions often have a nasty edge. Its members, sworn to uphold the law, take insinuations of impropriety as an attack on their integrity. Union Corruption Update over the past year has reported on separate cases of internal warfare at police or sheriffs’ unions in the Nashville, Sacramento and San Bernardino areas. Add Lake County, Indiana to the list. The police union there has been trying to remove the county sheriff in the wake of allegations that one of his employees had embezzled as much as $24,000 from the union. And the sheriff has fired back, urging the union leader to resign for dereliction of duty.
The focus of the battle is Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) Lodge 125, based in Crown Point, Indiana, a 15-minute drive south of the Gary-Hammond-South Chicago area. Lodge President Robert A. Klasner alleged roughly a year ago that a member of the Lake County Sheriff’s Department, Sgt. Mitchell King, had embezzled up to $24,000 during the time he was local treasurer. On the union’s recommendation, County Sheriff Rogelio “Roy” Dominguez conducted an investigation. That led to County Prosecutor Bernard Carter charging King with theft, though the lodge attorney, Michael Deppe, had cautioned against such action. Sheriff Dominguez, himself a member of FOP Lodge 125, responded by accusing union leaders of ignoring rank-and-file member wishes. He claimed that members had voted unanimously this past April to forward the King investigation to the prosecutor. Klasner and Deppe denied this was ever so, stating that members had sought restitution from King. Dominguez fired back, asserting that certain union officials were trying to cover up embezzlement.
The case escalated from there. Klasner sent Dominguez a letter, dated December 5, 2007, demanding an apology. He has acknowledged that his intent was to kick Dominguez out of the union. “A lot of the membership…are tired of being bullied around and intimidated,” said Klasner. “It’s got to stop. Just because he’s the top guy doesn’t mean he can run around and make accusations.” Dominguez has a different interpretation. He said Klasner, an ally of former Sheriff John Buncich, had political motivations to drive him (Dominguez) from office. “The apology should be from Klasner,” remarked Dominguez. “In fact, he should resign…for dereliction of duty in carrying out the wishes of the FOP membership.” One hopes that amid this war of words, someone gets to the bottom of the missing money. (Associated Press, 12/8/07).