When voters go to the polls on May 5, Portage City Councilman Ted Uzelac won’t be on the ballot. That’s because a new state law forced him to make a choice – keep his job as a police officer for the city or seek a third term in office. The law, which will take full effect in January, bans an elected official from working for the government he or she represents. “The state put me in a spot where I had to pick my family or my desire to run again,” said Uzelac, a Republican.
The law was aimed at getting rid of conflicts of interest in government, arising from concern that council members, who hold the budgetary purse strings, could have a say over their own wages and other benefits. The Indiana General Assembly passed the law in 2012, but grandfathered in current elected officials until January 2016.
The law is already starting to make itself felt, with candidates reacting in different ways. Seven candidates — Hobart City Councilman Matthew Claussen, New Chicago Town Councilwoman Susan Pelfrey, East Chicago City Councilman Juda Parks, Lake Station Councilman John McDaniel, Lake Station Councilman Donald Huddleston and Hammond City Council candidate Scott Rakos — have filed a lawsuit seeking to overturn the law, arguing that it violates their free speech rights. The state has moved to dismiss the lawsuit.