It's been a little over 2 weeks since the County Board of Elections exonerated one of Team Hammond's leaders, Jim Premeske, of vote fraud.
Premeske had been the target of a smear campaign by Dave Woerpel and Steve Fowler, both ardent supporters of Mayor McDermott. In addition to the vote fraud complaint, it was insinuated that Premeske had two homestead exemptions and was scamming taxpayers.
However by a vote of 4-1, the Election Board found Premeske innocent of the charge. The lone dissenting vote was cast by Alfonso Salinas Sr., father of Hammond City Councilman Alfonso Salinas Jr. His vote did not come as a surprise to Team Hammond members who believed the vote was politically motivated.
The original complaint stated Premeske should not be voting in Hammond because he lives in Schererville and does not reside at the Blaine Avenue address. Allegations were made that not a drop of water had been going into the house for several years and neighbors had said they seldom saw Jim at the home.
At the first hearing in June, Jim provided board members with eleven annotated exhibits which included documentation of Hammond water bills paid, affidavits of neighbors attesting to the fact that Jim did reside at the Blaine Avenue address, documentation of agendas the Lake County Council mailed to Jim at the Blaine Avenue address since late 2004, a memorandum from the Auditor's office dispelling dual homestead exemptions, personal data provided to Dave Woerpel by the Elections Office in violation of IC 3-7-26.4-8, documentation that Schererville is the home office for James Walter Premeske Enterprises, Inc., and Indiana codes and statutes pertinent to the allegations.
Those codes include:
Indiana Code 3-5-2-42.5 (Residence) Residence means the place: 1) where a person has the person's true, fixed and permanent home and principal establishment; and 2) to which the person has, whenever absent, the intention of returning.
Indiana Code 3-5-5-14 (Establishment of voting residence separate from spouse) A married person who does not live in a household with the person's spouse may establish a separate residence from the residence of the person's spouse.
At the July 15 hearing, Election Board Attorney Fred Work stated that the burden of proof was upon the accusers and having failed to provide proof of any election law violations, Work recommended that the Election Board dismiss the charges against Premeske.
Later during the proceedings, Premeske commented on being the victim of unfounded accusations, the damage to one's reputation, and the attack on his liberties. Quoting Tip O'Neill, Jim stated, "All politics is local and the place for me to begin correcting government abuse is in Hammond, Indiana, right in Precinct 3-13."