A decision has finally been reached in the case against Linda Belork, former Starke County treasurer. The attorney for the Starke County Commissioners, Martin Lucas, told Jasper Circuit Court Judge John Potter that the commissioners were faced with a serious problem when the funds were reportedly misappropriated in the treasurer’s office according to the State Board of Accounts. He said the commissioners acted according to statute in removing her from office and filing suit against her bond.
Belork’s attorney, Ethan Lowe, argued that the commissioners knew one week after the report came in for the misappropriated funds that the money was not stolen or lost. He said the error lies in the payroll department in the auditor’s office, not the treasurer’s office. Lowe also claimed that because of the commissioners actions, Belork’s reputation in the community has been ruined.
Potter filed his order on Thursday, having found that Belork was not delinquent in her duties as treasurer. Further, Potter said she was not properly removed, and no material fact exists that any money was missing. He said the commissioners themselves agree that the money was found and that the issue stemmed from accounting errors in the auditor’s office. The commissioners knew this suit was groundless since at least Sept. 6, 2011, Potter said, and yet they persisted in prosecuting it.
Therefore, Potter has ordered that Belork be reinstated immediately and any injunction or restraining order against her is lifted. Further, Belork is entitled to back pay at her salary with eight percent interest since Aug. 2011. The amount of money owed to Belork for back pay, benefits, and interest shall be determined at an evidential damages hearing, the date for which has not yet been set.
Lowe said his client is still evaluating whether or not other damages are appropriate, and the parties will undergo a mediation process in order to come to an agreement. In the meantime, however, Belork is expected to return to office Monday morning.