Friday, September 30, 2016

09302016 - News Article - Ex-mayor, wife sentenced in gambling plot



Ex-mayor, wife sentenced in gambling plot
The Journal Gazette
Associated Press
September 30, 2016 1:00 AM
http://www.journalgazette.net/news/local/indiana/Ex-mayor--wife-sentenced-in-gambling-plot-15531351

HAMMOND – The former mayor of Lake Station will serve four years in prison and pay tens of thousands of dollars in fines for using campaign money and city food pantry funds to gamble.

Keith Soderquist’s wife, Deborah Soderquist, was also sentenced in U.S. District Court in Hammond on Wednesday. The judge ordered her to serve two years in prison. The Soderquists must also pay over $26,000 in restitution to Lake Station and the IRS.


A jury found the couple guilty last September of using $35,304.25 from the former mayor’s campaign and $5,040 from the city’s food pantry on dozens of gambling trips to Michigan. Federal authorities said the Soderquists lost more than $100,000 from 2009 to 2012.


Keith Soderquist also pleaded guilty earlier this year to helping his stepdaughter, Miranda Brakely, hide thousands of dollars she stole from the city during her time as a court clerk. Brakely was sentenced to six months of home detention.


According to court documents Soderquist also admitted this summer to recording and listening to thousands of phone calls city hall employees made since 2011. Soderquist was not charged with the wiretapping however it was considered during sentencing documents said.


The defense for the couple asked that the medical issues that the Soderquists require treatment for be taken into consideration before serving their sentences. Keith Soderquist is scheduled to have neck surgery on Oct. 13, according to defense attorney Scott King.


Deborah Soderquist asked for her hearing to be pushed back due to her CT scan scheduled the day after her sentencing. She has suffered from a variety of medical ailments since her 20s.


Judge Rudy Lozano said Deborah Soderquist will serve her sentence in a prison with a medical facility.


The couple made brief statements to the court prior to being sentenced.


“I would like to sincerely apologize to my wife, my two daughters, my family, my friends and to all those who had to endure this process. I am sorry,” Keith Soderquist said.


Deborah Soderquist followed her husband and said, “I would just like to apologize to everyone that was affected by my actions.”


The couple will both begin their sentences on Nov. 14.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

09292016 - News Article - Soderquist's wife denied delay in sentencing due to health



Soderquist's wife denied delay in sentencing due to health
NWI Times
Updated Sep 29, 2016
http://www.nwitimes.com/news/crime-and-court/soderquist-s-wife-denied-delay-in-sentencing-due-to-health/article_c8eab4bb-36e8-5fad-8c50-fc4c541ad9b0.html


HAMMOND — The wife of Lake Station’s disgraced former mayor on Wednesday sought to delay her sentencing because of medical issues, but a federal judge quickly denied her motion, court records show.

A sentencing hearing for Deborah Soderquist, 58, and husband Keith Soderquist remains scheduled for next Wednesday in U.S. District Court. They were convicted of improperly taking money from his re-election campaign fund and the city’s food pantry account to gamble at casinos.


Deborah Soderquist’s attorney, Visvaldis Kupsis, filed a motion Wednesday seeking to delay the hearing, because she has been diagnosed with a recurrent kidney cancer and has a CT scan scheduled for the day after the hearing. the filing noted the U.S. attorney’s office was opposed to the request, and Judge Rudy Lozano denied her motion.


In a separate filing Wednesday, Deborah Soderquist asked Lozano to sentence her to 18 months in a halfway house. Guidelines call for a sentence of 24 to 30 months.


“Some cases call for mercy, and this is one of them,” a sentencing memorandum said. “Mrs. Soderquist’s medical conditions are very real and the danger imposed is also very real.”


In addition to kidney cancer, Deborah Soderquist has a myotonic dystrophy, is undergoing physical therapy for a number of issues and likely will require surgery related to her various conditions, according to court records.


The federal Bureau of Prisons cannot accommodate her need for the types of treatment recommended by her doctors, according to the sentencing memorandum.


Deborah Soderquist also is asking the court to grant her 60 days to surrender to the Bureau of Prisons, which would allow her to complete some of her medical care.


Keith Soderquist faces an enhanced term of 42 months at sentencing, court records said.

09292016 - News Article - Former Lake Station mayor, wife sentenced in gambling scheme



Former Lake Station mayor, wife sentenced in gambling scheme
WishTV.Com
Associated Press
Published: September 29, 2016, 1:26 pm
http://wishtv.com/2016/09/29/former-lake-station-mayor-wife-sentenced-in-gambling-scheme/


HAMMOND, Ind. (AP) – The former mayor of Lake Station will serve four years in prison and pay tens of thousands of dollars in fines for using campaign money and city food pantry funds to gamble.

Keith Soderquist’s wife, Deborah Soderquist, was also sentenced in U.S. District Court in Hammond on Wednesday. The judge ordered her to serve two years in prison.


The Soderquists must also pay over $26,000 in restitution to Lake Station and the IRS.


A jury found the couple guilty in September of using money from his campaign and the food pantry on dozens of gambling trips to Michigan.


Keith Soderquist also pleaded guilty earlier this year to helping his stepdaughter, Miranda Brakely, hide thousands of dollars she stole from the city during her time as a court clerk.




Brakely was sentenced to six months of home detention.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

09282016 - News Article - Judge sentences former Lake Station mayor to 4 years in prison: 'Shame on you'



Judge sentences former Lake Station mayor to 4 years in prison: 'Shame on you' 
Post-Tribune
September 28, 2016 - 8:34 PM
http://www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/post-tribune/news/ct-ptb-soderquist-federal-sentencings-st-0929-20160928-story.html


Federal judges had strong words for a former Lake Station mayor and his wife Wednesday, particularly about the money they used from the Lake Station food pantry.

"What were you thinking? Are you goofy or what?" Judge James Moody asked in a raised voice to Keith Soderquist.


After a brief, silent pause, Moody asked Soderquist to answer him, and Soderquist replied, "no."


"You took full advantage of (the poor)," Moody said. "Shame on you."


In a full day of parties shuffling between courtrooms, medical documents and court transcripts, Keith and Deborah Soderquist were sentenced Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Hammond.


Keith Soderquist was ordered to spend four years in prison — 42 months for his crimes with his wife followed by 6 months for aiding his stepdaughter — while Deborah Soderquist was sentenced to two years in prison. The couple must also pay more than $26,000 in restitution to the city of Lake Station and to the IRS.


Last September, a jury found the couple guilty of using money from his campaign fund and the food pantry on dozens of gambling trips to Michigan.


Earlier this year, Keith Soderquist also pleaded guilty to helping his stepdaughter, Miranda Brakely — who was sentenced to six months of home detention — hide thousands of dollars she stole from the city when she worked there as a court clerk.


And this summer Soderquist admitted in court documents to recording and listening to thousands of phone calls city hall employees made since 2011, including a call made from a phone in the private chambers of a Lake Station City Court judge. Though he wasn't charged for the wiretapping, it factored into the sentencing, documents state.


Wiretapping

Before the couple was sentenced Wednesday, the prosecution read excerpts from grand jury transcripts from former Lake Station Police Chief Kevin Garber and the ConvergeOne employee who installed the phone system revealing new details about Soderquist's admitted wiretapping.

Garber testified in the transcripts that he walked in on Keith and Deborah Soderquist chatting about listening in on a city employee's phone call with the employee's mother and Deborah laughing and saying something along the lines of, "Don't they know we can listen in on them?"


The recording system was set up during the construction and move to the new Lake Station City Hall in late 2011, according to court documents. While it is fairly common to record police and fire department phone calls, Soderquist specifically asked the installers to record calls of all city hall employees without them knowing, the ConvergeOne employee testified in the transcripts, allowing Soderquist to access the recordings at any time on his computer.


When the system was initially set up, there was a function that notifies callers they are being recorded, the installer testified, but Soderquist requested that be disabled, making employees unaware of the recordings until the government began investigating earlier this year.


Medical ailments

The Soderquists' trial before the wiretapping revelations was accompanied by discussion of their medical ailments, and their sentencings were no exception.

The prosecution argued Wednesday that Soderquist should be taken into custody immediately after sentencing because Soderquist violated his bond in the case by continuing the wiretapping as his trial progressed, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Philip Benson.


"I can't think of anything more egregious," Benson said, noting how "incredibly serious" wiretapping is.


But there is a medical issue that poses a problem with going straight into custody, defense attorney Scott King argued. After exhausting all non-surgical options, a doctor scheduled Keith Soderquist for neck surgery on Oct. 13, according to King.


"This isn't about getting his affairs in order," King said. "This is about getting his neck fixed so he doesn't spend the next three-plus years in agony."


Judge Rudy Lozano agreed Soderquist could have the surgery and time for recovery, but he must report to prison on Nov. 14. However, if the surgery gets canceled, he has to go to prison sooner, Lozano said.


Deborah Soderquist also highlighted her medical concerns Wednesday. Last week, Deborah Soderquist asked for her hearing to be pushed back in light of a CT scan scheduled the day after her sentencing. Her life has been filled with medical ailments, from her diagnosis of muscular dystrophy in her 20s, to her degenerative joint diseases to her more recent kidney cancer diagnosis, defense attorney Visvaldis Kupsis said.


Additionally, the defense asked she be able to serve her sentence in a halfway house to make it easier for her to receive cancer treatment.


But if the sentence was lenient, "I think the message to society is that if you're sick, you can do any crime you want," Judge Lozano said.


While Lozano allowed Deborah Soderquist to start her sentence on Nov. 14 like her husband, he decided she would have to serve her sentence in a prison equipped with a medical facility.


Apologies

In each of the defendant's sentencing hearings, Judge Lozano repeatedly expressed how "bothered" he was by the layers of crimes the two committed.

Kupsis described the case as "a story of two people in love who make a lot of mistakes." And the mistakes came when Soderquist "succumbed" to the "flashing lights" of casinos with his gambling addiction, King said.


"It doesn't excuse, but it does serve to explain," King said.


Family members of the Soderquists filled a bench in the courtroom Wednesday, and letters from family, friends and coworkers were filed in the couple's court docket leading up to the sentencing, saying their crimes were out of character of the positive impacts the couple made on Lake Station.


Keith and Deborah Soderquist each made brief statements to the court before they were sentenced.


"I would like to sincerely apologize to my wife, my two daughters, my family, my friends and to all those who had to endure this process. I am sorry," Keith Soderquist said.


His wife followed, saying, "I would just like to apologize to everyone that was affected by my actions."


But it's the people of Lake Station the couple should apologize to, Benson said.


"Maybe he should apologize to them because he lied to them and stole from them," Benson said.


"Lake Station is not a rich community, but a very proud community, and they have every right to expect that it will be run properly," Judge Lozano said, as he sentenced the couple.


Judge Lozano admitted that people make mistakes, and Keith Soderquist did try to help his wife and stepdaughters.


However, "I wish you had had the same respect for the people of Lake Station," Lozano said.

Monday, September 26, 2016

09262016 - Portage Mayor James Snyder had checks issued for his attorney fees, related to FBI investigation - Without Board approval


On September 26, 2016 - without Board approval - Mayor Snyder directed the Portage Utility Services Board secretary to issue checks, totaling over $90,000 for his attorney fees associated with the FBI's investigation of him. 

On November 17, 2016, Mayor Snyder was federally indicted on charges related to the FBI's two year investigation:











Portage mayor's legal fees turned over to outside attorney
Joyce Russell joyce.russell@nwi.com, (219) 762-1397, ext. 2222
November 11, 2016
http://www.nwitimes.com/news/local/govt-and-politics/portage-mayor-s-legal-fees-turned-over-to-outside-attorney/article_80d727f4-8c32-5f98-a8e5-d125e6138e3b.html
PORTAGE — Mayor James Snyder’s $93,000 in legal fees will be turned over to an outside, independent attorney for review and investigation.

Utility Services Board Vice Chairman Mark Oprisko said this week he had hired John Hughes of Hoeppner Wagner & Evans in Valparaiso to review Snyder’s legal fees associated with a more than 2-year-old federal investigation. However, Oprisko said after spending an hour and a half with Hughes on Thursday, Hughes decided it would not be in his law firm’s best interest to take on the issue, Oprisko said.

Oprisko said he would move forward, seeking another attorney for the job.

Oprisko, also president of the City Council, said after last month’s controversy he spoke with City Council and Utility Services Board members and felt this is the right way to go. Snyder chairs the board.

Snyder, who has been under investigation by the FBI, had two checks cut by the utility department on Sept. 26, totaling more than $93,000 to pay his two attorneys representing him during the investigation. The checks initially were sent to the firms without board approval. The money was returned to the utility department after the firms said they couldn’t collect payment from the utility department because it was not their client.

The request for reimbursement for the legal fees is legal under Indiana law, but only “if a grand jury fails to indict the officer or employees and the acts investigated by the grand jury were within the scope of official duties of the officer or employee.”

Snyder’s request for reimbursement would indicate the federal investigation is over.

Oprisko, who was on vacation and out of the country at the time, asked the matter be tabled upon further investigation.

Oprisko said he has no guarantee that the investigation is over and if the funds are reimbursed to Snyder and Snyder is indicted, the utility department will have lost the money.

He also said he’s uncertain if the entire investigation has to do with Snyder’s role as board chairman. The investigation began over Snyder using a utility department credit card to take a trip to Austria that he said was for economic development. However, it spread beyond to include the street department and purchasing of garbage trucks.

Snyder said before Wednesday’s Utility Board meeting that he had no intention of submitting the claims to the board a second time until the review was completed. Even then, he added, he may not submit the claims.

“This is the right, the fair thing to do,” said Oprisko about reviewing the claims. “I till have an obligation to anyone sitting on this board to find out what is correct and legal.”

Oprisko said he will share what information he receives with the board and council










EDITORIAL: Snyder skipped propriety in legal fees matter
The Times Editorial Board
Updated October 17, 2016
http://www.nwitimes.com/news/opinion/editorial/editorial-snyder-skipped-propriety-in-legal-fees-matter/article_ef3ccac0-722c-5b0d-84a0-7cc547755c26.html
It’s the type of mistake, innocent or not, that paints an undesirable portrait of local government.

Portage Mayor James Snyder and other city officials owe their ratepayers an apology for putting the cart before the public discussion horse while attempting to pay his legal bills following an FBI probe of Snyder’s practices.

At issue are checks cut from the funds of the Portage Utility Service Board, of which Snyder is chairman, to pay for Snyder’s legal fees in the long-running federal probe.

On Sept. 26, Snyder directed the board’s secretary/treasurer to cut two checks totaling more than $93,000 to two law firms that represented him during the probe.

The mayor did so even though the payments weren’t discussed, much less voted upon in a public forum, by the Portage Utility Service Board.

In fact, the board didn’t vote to approve those payments until Oct. 12 — after the law firms already had returned the money, having determined they were improperly paid by a public utility rather than their actual client, Snyder.

Snyder seeking to have the board cover his legal expenses isn’t what’s wrong in this situation.

State law allows for a government body to cover such expenses if an official involved in a possible criminal probe isn’t indicted by a grand jury or if “the acts investigated by the grand jury were within the scope of official duties of the officer or employee.”


In short, if there’s proof the federal probe uncovered no wrongdoing by Snyder, his fees should be covered by the utility board under state law.

However, the public deserved an appropriate procedure to be followed before those checks were cut.

A discussion and vote in a public meeting should have occurred first, and that didn’t happen.

Snyder, and any public official, should realize the sacred confidence they must keep with voters regarding fiscal propriety. Northwest Indiana has seen too many cases of abuse over the years, and we’re frankly sick of flippant handling of public money.

Factor into that history that Snyder’s checks were cut because of a federal probe into his activities, and it’s not hard to see why a public discussion and board vote should have occurred prior to release of these payments.

Snyder is now doing the right thing.

He’s asking for the board to consider reimbursing him for legal expenses following a future public discussion and vote.

It’s unfortunate a course correction was necessary.








Portage mayor's request for attorney fees remains up in the air
Joyce Russell joyce.russell@nwi.com, (219) 762-1397, ext. 2222
NWI Times
10122016
http://www.nwitimes.com/news/local/govt-and-politics/portage-mayor-s-request-for-attorney-fees-remains-up-in/article_540a6f7b-b3ff-5aa4-929a-9be5a8f1c005.html
PORTAGE — The Portage Utility Service Board did not decide whether to reimburse its chairman for his legal fees in regard to a long federal investigation.

The members never even discussed the matter during their monthly meeting Wednesday.

The board did approve claims that included two checks to Mayor James Snyder’s attorneys totaling over $93,000. However, that money has been returned to the utility.

Snyder, who chairs the utility board, didn’t answer many questions.

He said he intends to submit claims to get reimbursed for the legal fees, but wants board vice chairman Mark Oprisko to return and have a discussion before he submits any claims.

Oprisko, who is out of town, objected to the claims, saying earlier this week he wanted time to conduct research before approving anything. He wanted the issue tabled until he returned.

Last month Snyder submitted claims to pay the firms of Winston and Strawn of Chicago and Dogan and Dogan of Portage totaling just over $93,000. The checks were cut and distributed to the law firms before they were approved by the board. The firms said they could not accept the checks because they were from the utility and the utility is not their client. The money was returned to the utility this week.

State law allows Snyder to seek reimbursement of the legal fees “if the grand jury fails to indict the officer or employee and the acts investigated by the grand jury were within the scope of official duties of the officer or employee.”

Asked Wednesday if that means he has been cleared of any potential charges during the nearly three-year investigation, Snyder said he couldn’t comment.

“I can’t answer that either. We have several legal people looking at it,” Snyder said. “We are going to get through it and do the right thing.”

Snyder did say he approached the utility because the investigation started with a trip he took to Austria using the utility’s credit cards. The investigation expanded, however, with FBI agents delivering several subpoenas for various financial records, including the purchase of garbage trucks. The FBI interviewed dozens of city employees.

“As a board member, I don’t know enough about it,” said James Hazzard, adding he only learned of the situation Monday when he picked up the claims docket and saw the two claims to the two attorneys.

“I want to know the exact statute and how it reads,” Hazzard said, before making any decision.

Member Marci Kunstek said she trusts the board’s attorney “to walk us through the decision,” adding she would have no problem reimbursing Snyder’s legal fees if that was the recommendation.









Portage mayor asking city to pay his attorney fees
Joyce Russell joyce.russell@nwi.com, (219) 762-1397, ext. 2222  
NWI Times
10112016

PORTAGE — Mayor James Snyder has submitted two claims to the city’s Utility Services Board to pay more than $93,000 in attorney fees in defense of a 2-year-old federal investigation.

The request for reimbursement for the legal fees also could indicate that the investigation by the FBI is over.

Snyder has been under investigation by the FBI for more than two years. Agents have subpoenaed hundreds of records from city hall, the utility services department and the city’s street department as well as interviewed dozens of city employees.

In September 2014, agents visited the street department requesting information on the purchase of automated garbage trucks in 2012.

In July of that year, the agency visited the city’s Utility Services Department and requested documents about Snyder’s travel expenses for a city economic development trip to Europe.

FBI agents also requested copies of his campaign finance records and reports, and last year they requested meeting minutes from Portage FOP Lodge 145.

The Times received the latest information Monday after filing a Freedom of Information Act request on Oct. 3, asking for copies of checks written by the Utility Services Board between Sept. 20 and Sept. 30. Included in that information were checks made payable to the Chicago law firm of Winston and Strawn for $87,389 and to Portage law firm Dogan & Dogan for $6,118.

The checks, dated Sept. 26 were made out to the law firms and sent directly to their bank for automatic deposit, according to a statement from the city.

According to the statement, the law firms cannot take the checks directly from the utility department because the department is not their client, and will return the money. When the money is returned, the department will issue payment directly to Snyder. The statement said the payments were for “legal invoices pertaining to the Federal Investigation of James Snyder that started in his role as chairman of the Utility Service Board.”

Neither of the checks issued on Sept. 26 were approved by the Utility Services Board. Board attorney Katrina Spence and city Director of Administration Joe Calhoun said that was a mistake, but did not say who was responsible for sending the checks without board approval. They said the checks should not have been mailed to the law firms until the expenses had been reviewed by the Utility Services Board.

The Utility Services Board will meet Wednesday afternoon with Snyder’s claims on its agenda.

Wants second opinion
One member is not so sure he’s going to approve the claims.

Mark Oprisko, board member and City Council president, will be out of town for Wednesday’s meeting and will ask the board to table action on the claims until he returns and has a chance to do some research.

Oprisko said he wants to know how much of the investigation has to do with Snyder’s personal business.

“I want to see the bills. I want to get a second opinion. I want to try and contact the federal prosecutor and find out where the investigation is,” he said.

The board already approved payments to local attorney Kevin Milner for legal fees for Assistant Street Department Superintendent Randy Reeder and for Snyder’s administrative assistant Amanda Lakie. In January, the board approved claims of $4,125 for Lakie and $7,375 for Reeder. In September, a second claim for Reeder for $8,375 was approved.

Neither Spence nor Calhoun anticipate additional requests for reimbursements will be made to the department.

Only official duties covered
Spence said the reimbursement is legal under Indiana law. The code, 36-1-17-3(b), states that an officer or employee of a unit or municipal corporation may apply for reimbursement “if the grand jury fails to indict the officer or employee and the acts investigated by the grand jury were within the scope of official duties of the officer or employee.” In an email from Spence to Snyder on Sept. 26, Spence tells Snyder that he can present the bills to the utility department “since the Grand Jury specifically investigated your actions as the Chair of the USB ...”

Susan Gordon, of the Indiana State Board of Accounts, said while the law does allow for the reimbursement, it must be proven the fees covered only the part of the investigation pertaining to his professional duties. Gordon said it is likely to toss up a “red flag” when the department’s financial statements are audited by the state.

Gordon said paying a claim without board approval is not allowable unless specifically addressed by a city ordinance. Portage Ordinance 2-109 addresses bills that can be paid without board approval. Attorney fees are not included on the list.

Spence and Calhoun said they didn’t know if all of the legal fees cover the investigation of Snyder in his official capacity, or if it would cover any investigation into his personal business, a local mortgage company.

Spence said that is something the board will have to discuss.

The request for reimbursement may mean the end of the more than two-year investigation; the funds can only be paid “if the grand jury fails to indict,” according to the law.

“That is what we have been led to believe,” said Spence.

Snyder did not immediately return telephone, text or email messages.










Snyder submits $93K bill for legal fees to Portage
Michael Gonzalez
Post-Tribune
10102016
http://www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/post-tribune/news/ct-ptb-portage-legal-fees-st-1011-20161010-story.html
Anyone or any business that pays user fees for sewer or stormwater sewer service in Portage may also be on the hook for paying legal bills related to a federal investigation of Mayor James Snyder.

The seven-member Portage Utility Services Board, whose majority is made of mayoral appointees, is expected to consider reimbursing Snyder's $87,389.75 in legal expenses from Chicago law firm Winston and Strawn and $6,118.75 in expenses from Portage-based law firm Dogan and Dogan, as part of its claims, or bills that have been paid. Snyder serves as the board's chairman.

Boards often pile up bills in their claims sections and vote them up or down as part of consent agendas. Individual items rarely come up for discussion or a separate vote.

City Council President Mark Oprisko, who is the vice chair of the utilities board, said he encourages the board to table a vote on the reimbursement until members can get more information on Snyder's request.

"It's awful hard to get two bills that total more than $90,000 without having all the facts," said Oprisko, who is out of town and will not attend Wednesday's meeting. "I want to see what the bills were, dates, hours and I want to go a step further.

"Was there anything found that the mayor did that was illegal as far as the utility end or the city end? (Snyder) keeps saying there's nothing there, but I'd sure like to see some proof of that before the board cuts a check for more than $90,000."

Snyder could not be reached for comment Monday.

The board also will consider paying $8,375 in legal expenses for Randy Reeder, assistant superintendent of the streets department, and Amanda Lakie, the mayor's secretary, though the amount of her legal expenses were not in the claims list.

Director of Administration Joe Calhoun said both employees were called before grand juries for the investigation.

According to Calhoun, federal officials began looking into a trip Snyder took to Austria after an invitation from Fronius, an Austrian-based manufacturer of solar panel technology, whose U.S. headquarters is in Portage.

The company did not pay for the trip, Calhoun said.

Snyder used his utility board-issued credit card to take the trip and later asked political supporters who contributed to a political action committee to reimburse the utility board for expenses related to the trip.

"It was kind of an economic development-type trip that many government officials often take about implementing new things and bringing new jobs to the city," Calhoun said.

Calhoun said the trip caught the attention of federal investigators.

In 2013, federal officials began an investigation related to the Austria trip, Calhoun said, but that could not be verified by federal officials Monday, a federal holiday.

Snyder hired the law firms when the investigation began, Calhoun said.

The utilities board issued a statement Monday indicating state law allows the board and other governmental entities to pay for legal expenses of board officers related to work done for the board.

Because Snyder went to Austria to represent the utilities board, the board can pay for his legal expenses related to the investigation, Calhoun said.

Calhoun also said Snyder has been paying his legal bills for the three years of the investigation, and he had reason to believe the investigation concluded without an indictment.

"(Snyder) wanted to make sure he went through the process and waited until (the investigation) had reached this level of conclusion," Calhoun said. "Obviously, at this point, (Snyder) feels there's a level of conclusion, and thats why he submitted the bills at this point."


Friday, September 23, 2016

09232016 - News Article - Judge nixes request by Soderquists - Ex-Lake Station mayor, wife sought sentencing delay



Judge nixes request by Soderquists 
Ex-Lake Station mayor, wife sought sentencing delay
Post-Tribune (IN)
September 23, 2016
http://infoweb.newsbank.com.proxy.portagelibrary.info/resources/doc/nb/news/167C84BA43F07BE0?p=AWNB
A U.S. District Court judge denied a request by former Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquist and his wife, Deborah Soderquist, to delay their Sept. 28 sentencing on federal corruption charges.

They sought the delay on the basis of Deborah Soderquist's medical condition, as she is undergoing cancer treatment and is scheduled for a CT scan the day after the hearing, according to court documents.

In September 2015, a jury found Keith Soderquist and his wife guilty of using money from his campaign fund and Lake Station's food pantry on dozens of gambling trips to Michigan. Deborah Soderquist was found guilty of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, seven counts of wire fraud and three counts of filing a false tax return.

Deborah Soderquist is seeking an 18-month sentence to be served in a halfway house with the ability to leave as needed to seek medical treatment.

Keith Soderquist has agreed to a 42-month prison sentence.

He also pleaded guilty earlier this year to helping his stepdaughter, Miranda Brakely, hide more than $16,000 in court bond money she stole from the city by helping her get a $15,000 loan from a third party to cover up the theft.

Brakely was sentenced last month to six months of home detention.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

09222016 - News Article - Judge denies sentencing delay for Soderquists



Judge denies sentencing delay for Soderquists
Post-Tribune
September 22, 2016 - 7:35 PM
http://www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/post-tribune/news/ct-ptb-soderquists-denied-st-0923-20160922-story.html


A U.S. District Court judge denied a request by former Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquist and his wife, Deborah Soderquist, to delay their Sept. 28 sentencing on federal corruption charges.

They sought the delay on the basis of Deborah Soderquist's medical condition, as she is currently undergoing cancer treatment and is scheduled for a CT scan the day after the hearing, according to court documents.


Last September, a jury found Soderquist and his wife guilty of using money from his campaign fund and Lake Station's food pantry on dozens of gambling trips to Michigan. Deborah Soderquist was found guilty of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, seven counts of wire fraud, and three counts of filing a false tax return.


Deborah Soderquist is seeking an 18-month sentence to be served in a halfway house with the ability to leave as needed to seek medical treatment.


Keith Soderquist has agreed to a 42-month prison sentence.


He also pleaded guilty earlier this year to helping his stepdaughter, Miranda Brakely, hide more than $16,000 in court bond money she stole from the city by helping her get a $15,000 loan from a third party to cover up the theft. Brakely was sentenced last month to six months of home detention.


Wednesday, September 21, 2016

09212016 - News Article - Ex-Lake Station mayor's wife seeks leniency in public corruption case



Ex-Lake Station mayor's wife seeks leniency in public corruption case
Post-Tribune
September 21, 2016 - 7:30 PM
http://www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/post-tribune/news/ct-ptb-deb-soderquist-request-st-0922-20160921-story.html

The wife of former Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquist is petitioning a federal court to spare her prison time on public corruption charges, according to court records.

Last September, a jury found Soderquist and his wife, Deborah Soderquist, 58, guilty of using money from his campaign fund and Lake Station's food pantry on dozens of gambling trips to Michigan. She was found guilty of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, seven counts of wire fraud, and three counts of filing a false tax return.


A sentencing memorandum filed Wednesday cites a variety of health concerns afflicting Deborah Soderquist that cannot be properly cared for in a federal prison environment. The court filing states that she is undergoing kidney cancer treatment and suffers from muscular dystrophy, diabetes and high blood pressure. Thus, incarceration in a federal facility would be an unduly harsh punishment, the records claim.


As she has no prior criminal history, Deborah Soderquist should be sentenced in a range of 24 to 30 months in prison, her attorney, Vis Kupsis, states in the sentencing memorandum.


She is seeking an 18-month sentence to be served in a halfway house with the ability to leave as needed to seek medical treatment. She is also asking for 60 days to surrender, which would allow her to go directly to the designated facility and also complete some of her needed medical care. In addition, she is asking to not be held financially responsible for her crimes.


Keith Soderquist has agreed to a 42-month sentence, but a formal sentencing date for the couple has not been set. Deborah Soderquist also filed a motion Wednesday to delay her sentencing for 30 days while she seeks cancer treatment.


Keith Soderquist also pleaded guilty earlier this year to helping his stepdaughter Miranda Brakely hide more than $16,000 in court bond money she stole from the city by helping her get a $15,000 loan from a third party to cover up the theft. Brakely was sentenced last month to six months of home detention.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

09132016 - News Article - Rutter: Soderquist showed fondness for bugging citizens



Rutter: Soderquist showed fondness for bugging citizens
Post-Tribune
David Rutter
September 13, 2016
http://www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/post-tribune/opinion/ct-ptb-rutter-soderquist-st-0914-20160913-story.html


The last time Keith Soderquist won a general election in Lake Station, it was November 2011, and supporters still erroneously believed he could manage his mayoral life.

Mostly what he was managing was 425,000 tapped phone calls into and out of city offices. He was Nixon, the NSA and Matrix all wrapped together.


Between gambling trips to Michigan with stolen food pantry loot, diverted campaign cash plus his electronic hobbies, how did this guy have enough time to be mayor?


His phone tappings were trying to find who might report his family to the FBI for pilfering public money that fed his gambling monkey.


In the last successful campaign of his career, 945 Lake Stationistas — although you'd guess Soderquist, wife and stepdaughter cast three votes for him — said they liked Soderquist just fine as the re-elected mayor, and viewed him as an upstanding force for civic good.


You'd wonder what those 945 folks (minus three Soderquists) think now that Soderquist has been proven to be a ground-slinking skunk. He is such a lowrider skunk that he was forced to confess to even deeper skunkness to avoid vaster time in a federal prison.


We love democracy and hail its benefits because, as the Churchillian aphorism proclaims, it's the worst form of government except all the others. This does not prove democracy is a wonderful invention. It only means all other forms of human governance are abysmally awful. But you'd have a hard time making a logical case that any dictatorial strongman supreme monarch ruling Lake Station would have been more unpleasant and less democratic that Soderquist.


In the low-rent electoral zone of Lake County's municipal politics, Soderquist was the secretive, conspiracy-driven Richard Nixon.


Nixon did not directly steal money from the electorate; he only pilfered power, control and sealed his network by secretly recording private conversations of everyone who entered the Oval Office.


At least the NSA claims it's thwarting terrorists by intercepting everyone's messages.


The Matrix? The perfect invisible monitoring system for humans who think they are independent beings, but actually are being managed by higher powers, which in this case, seemed to be Soderquist.


Higher powers are not what they used to be.


As for Soderquist, the FBI says he secretly installed phone taps to and from city hall, and the city court. It appears he actually listened to 30 or so.


Soderquist confessed to this aural peeping to avoid being charged with electronic federal crimes. They would have gotten more years in federal lockups than his felonious pilfering will cost when he's sentenced on Sept. 28.


This was not the first time that Soderquist displayed an odd penchant for electronically managing citizens.


If residents there had paid closer attention, they might have smelled skunk juice in the air years ago.


As a city councilman and candidate for mayor in 2007, Soderquist led an abortive charge to ban citizens from recording city council meetings.


Apparently Soderquist had gotten word that such recordings were being edited for comedic effect to mock council members and their public statements. The videos then were shown on large-screen TVs at local bars amid the general guffaws and hoots of bar patrons.


The video-banning initiative ended when everyone figured out — after they were told — that the ban would violate Indiana's Open Door Law, which gives citizens the unequivocal right to record public meetings in any way they choose. And also, by the way, the idea was exquisitely, goofily undemocratic.


Soderquist told reporters he "didn't have a problem" with anyone videotaping meetings — very big of him — if they didn't later edit the results.


"I hope they'd use the best judgment and that nothing is being edited. You can alter the tape and hurt someone bad," he comically and prophetically said at the time.


"It is essential that council members and members of the public be able to speak freely and without the threat of being recorded and photographed," the hilarious Soderquist-inspired ordinance stated.


The odd tale of How the Gambling Monkey Ate the Mayor's Career also holds a footnote for Cynthia Robbins.


She was the arch-fiscal conservative who ran against Soderquist for mayor in 2011 and got 311 votes in a traditionally Democratic Party bastion. One of the votes was probably her.


But 60 percent of the adults in town didn't vote.


Soderquist benefited from another political aphorism. Democracy only works if you use it.


Friday, September 9, 2016

09092016 - News Article - New shelter: 'The animals deserve this'



New shelter: 'The animals deserve this'
NWI Times
Sep 9, 2016 






WASHINGTON TOWNSHIP — Porter County Commissioner Laura Blaney, D-South, said her children asked her why there was a groundbreaking ceremony Friday for the new animal shelter when work is already underway at the site.

The answer became clear as one speaker after another voiced excitement about the accomplishment and what it means for the future of the county.

“This has been a long time coming,” said Blaney’s aunt, Jacki Stutzman, who donated $1 million toward the $3.25 million project located along Ind. 49, just northwest of the Porter County Expo Center.

Stutzman said while volunteering at the current shelter, she saw all that the staff has been able to accomplish at that aging site.

“They deserve this,” she said of the new building. “The animals deserve this. Porter County deserves this.”

The new shelter will be 14,000 square feet, as compared to 4,000 square feet at the current facility that was built in the early 1980s along Ind. 2, south of U.S. 30, according to a fact sheet provided during Friday’s groundbreaking. The new maximum capacity for dogs rises from 50 to 120, and from 80 to 120 for cats.

The new building, slated to be open next year, also will feature a spay/neuter clinic, two examination rooms and a grooming area.

Shelter Director Toni Bianchi said the new building will provide greater enrichment opportunities for the animals and result in more adoptions.

“I just can’t thank you all enough,” she said to the group that included various county officials, shelter and rescue staff, and contractors linked to the project.

County Commissioner Jeff Good, R-Center, said the groundbreaking is also significant in that it represents a wider effort to update other county buildings.

“Your buildings are really a perception of who you are,” said Good, who works in the hotel business.

The county is funding the project through proceeds from the 2007 sale of the former county hospital, which required a unanimous vote by the three county commissioners and seven members of the County Council.

County Council President Dan Whitten, D-at-large, lauded the cooperation necessary for the vote, saying that each official has a different background and likely different priorities.

“This animal shelter was clearly a priority of all 10,” he said.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

09072016 - News Article - Lack of dog impound facility concerns Portage residents



Lack of dog impound facility concerns Portage residents
NWI Times
Sep 7, 2016 


PORTAGE — Debra Hric told the City Council recently that she no longer feels safe in the city.

Hric, who lives in Harbor Oaks subdivision, said she wasn’t satisfied with the city’s actions recently after a neighborhood dog mauled her dog to death.

“It’s not about revenge, it is about safety,” she said.

But, said City Attorney Gregg Sobkowski, the city’s hands are tied.

“It is a practical issue. We don’t have a place to impound animals,” Sobkowski said.

Hric’s dog, Dolly, was killed the night of Aug. 30 when, she said, a neighborhood pit bull came out of nowhere, grabbed her 12-pound Shih Tzu, which was on a leash, and killed it.

The incident was reported to Portage police and animal control. The owner of the dog was ordered to quarantine his animal until the city could hold a hearing under its dangerous dog ordinance on Oct. 3.

“I feel it is a safety issue,” said Hric, who was joined by a half-dozen neighborhood residents. “You have quarantined the dog with the owner. What’s to say he’s not going to get loose again?”

Police Chief Troy Williams said it isn’t just Hric’s case. A police officer was recently injured while on a call, he said, and police were not able to take that dog.

Councilwoman Liz Modesto told Hric that they can’t take the dog to Hobart Humane Society because officials there only will hold the animal for three days. They also can’t take it to the Porter County Animal Shelter because the city doesn’t have a contract with the county agency to take animals.

Council President Mark Oprisko said the city is presently negotiating with the county, which is building a new facility on Ind. 49. If a deal is struck, they would be able to take animals there in the future.

Council members said they would also review the dangerous dog ordinance to see if there are any changes that can be made to strengthen the ordinance.

In the meantime, Williams said he would ask for extra patrol in the Harbor Oaks area by officers.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

09062016 - News Article - EDITORIAL: Soderquist deserves maximum possible sentence



EDITORIAL: Soderquist deserves maximum possible sentence
The Times Editorial
September 06, 2016
http://www.nwitimes.com/news/opinion/editorial/editorial-soderquist-deserves-maximum-possible-sentence/article_23ea8b3f-78e2-5fe2-a6ed-fae472b52177.html


The details of a public corruption case don’t get much more repugnant than the case of disgraced former Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquist and his immediate family.

Soderquist and his wife were convicted of stealing from the town food pantry to finance gambling excursions, among other allegations.


And Soderquist also pleaded guilty in a separate case to helping cover up the embezzlement of funds from Lake Station City Court by his stepdaughter and former court clerk Miranda Brakley.


Soderquist had faced up to 30 months in federal prison at a future sentencing date in Hammond federal court.


But court documents show new information has added an additional year onto that sentencing range. Those circumstances should remind Region residents, elected officials and prosecutors of the need to hit perpetrators of public corruption with the full measure of the law.


The additional prison time Soderquist faces follows his admission in court documents that he recorded upwards of 425,000 city calls between October 2011 and August 2015 — and continued to do so even after being released on bond as his federal cases were pending.


City computer records show he listened to 14 calls involving potential government witnesses in his case. Those witnesses happened to be City Hall employees, according to federal court records.


Soderquist also listened to at least one call placed from the private chambers of the Lake Station City Court judge, court records allege.


This new evidence against Soderquist shows yet another egregious abuse of power — in this case a transgression committed when he already was facing other corruption charges.


Public officials prone to such behavior will never truly get it. Some have an entitlement complex so thick they actually believe they’re the victims when they’re caught.


Our justice system must continue sending a strong message that such behavior won’t be tolerated, and an extra year in prison may not be enough for Soderquist.


We also must ensure, as voters, that elected officials who serve as apologists for such behavior are shown the door.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

09032016 - News Article - Soderquist caught listening to calls at City Hall, faces more prison time



Soderquist caught listening to calls at City Hall, faces more prison time
NWI Times
Updated Sep 3, 2016  


HAMMOND - As federal officials prepared to sentence former Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquist on corruption charges, they said they discovered he had set up a system of recording and listening to telephone calls at City Hall.

Soderquist had recorded approximately 425,000 calls between Oct. 12, 2011, and Aug. 13, 2015, and continued the activity even after being released on bond as his federal corruption cases were pending, according to a sentencing agreement filed Wednesday in federal court.

Computer records show Soderquist listened to 14 calls involving potential government witnesses working at City Hall and at least one call placed from the private chambers of the Lake Station City Court judge, according to the court document.

Soderquist, who admitted to violating the federal wiretapping statute and doing so while on bond, now faces an enhanced term of 42 months when sentenced Sept. 28, according to the filing by the U.S. attorney’s office. The government, in return, will not file a new criminal case against him.

“The system was not installed for eavesdropping,” Soderquist’s defense attorney Scott King told The Times on Wednesday.

The phone system was installed a few years ago as part of the construction of new city offices, he said. The idea was to improve customer service while protecting city employees against false accusations.

Where Soderquist ran afoul of the law is that not all city employees were notified the calls were being recorded, and there was no message notifying those on the other end of the line, King said.

The sentencing agreement says Soderquist authorized the installation of the system and that it recorded all calls except those in the mayor’s office. In addition to recording calls that were accessible to Soderquist by computer, it allowed him to “surreptitiously eavesdrop on any City Hall call while the call was in progress.”

King said he has seen no evidence to back up government claims that Soderquist continued listening to calls after being released on bond April 17, 2014, in his corruption cases.

Soderquist and his wife, Deborah, were already scheduled to be sentenced Sept. 28 for improperly taking money from his re-election campaign fund and the city’s food pantry account to gamble at casinos.

U.S. District Judge Rudy Lozano had postponed the sentencing from July after a joint motion was filed by the Soderquists’ attorneys and the U.S. attorney’s office seeking the delay because “additional investigative matters” had come to light.

Keith Soderquist had been facing up to 30 months behind bars, but the recommendation to the judge now will be 42 months as a result of the violation involving the phone system, according to the sentencing agreement.

The proposed agreement also calls on Soderquist to pay $3,520 to the city of Lake Station and $22,571 to the Internal Revenue Service.

The government agrees not to bring any charges against Deborah Soderquist stemming from the phone system.




Friday, September 2, 2016

09022016 - News Article - Former Lake Station mayor admits to wiretapping employees



Former Lake Station mayor admits to wiretapping employees
Associated Press
Published: September 2, 2016, 7:10 am
WISH-TV


LAKE STATION, Ind. (AP) — New court records show that the former mayor of the northwest Indiana city of Lake Station admitted to recording and listening to phone calls of City Hall employees over several years starting in 2011.

The Wednesday filings were part of Keith Soderquist’s presentencing agreement. He is to be sentenced Sept. 28 after pleading guilty and being convicted in two criminal cases.

The agreement reveals that the government learned about the wiretapping after a Lake Station City employee discovered a recording system device in March. An FBI investigation revealed that Soderquist had the system installed during the construction of city hall in 2011.

Records show that between Oct. 12, 2011, and Aug. 13 of last year, Soderquist recorded about 425,000 calls. Since Dec. 1, 2014, he had listened to about 30 of the recordings.

Soderquist admitted to violating the federal wiretapping statute in the agreement. In exchange, the government said it won’t file new charges, but the wiretapping will factor into the sentencing for his two previous cases.

“The system was not installed for eavesdropping,” Soderquist’s defense attorney Scott King said Wednesday. The phone system was installed to improve customer service while protecting city employees against false accusations, King said.

The former mayor pleaded guilty earlier this year to helping his stepdaughter hide more than $16,000 in court bond money she stole from the city by helping her get a loan to cover up the theft. And a jury in September found Soderquist and his wife, Deborah, guilty of using campaign and food pantry funds to gamble at casinos.

He potentially faces 42 months in prison when he’s sentenced on Sept. 28. The government also has recommended that Soderquist pay $3,520 in restitution to Lake Station and $22,571 to the Internal Revenue Service.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

08312016 - News Article - Soderquist caught listening to calls at City Hall, faces more prison time



Soderquist caught listening to calls at City Hall, faces more prison time
NWI Times
Aug 31, 2016
http://www.nwitimes.com/news/crime-and-court/soderquist-caught-listening-to-calls-at-city-hall-faces-more/article_7e63f04e-f11b-5e78-b3ea-ed4d02cd74de.html


HAMMOND — As federal officials prepared to sentence former Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquist on corruption charges, they said they discovered he had set up a system of recording and listening to telephone calls at City Hall.

Soderquist had recorded approximately 425,000 calls between Oct. 12, 2011, and Aug. 13, 2015, and continued the activity even after being released on bond as his federal corruption cases were pending, according to a sentencing agreement filed Wednesday in federal court.


Computer records show Soderquist listened to 14 calls involving potential government witnesses working at City Hall and at least one call placed from the private chambers of the Lake Station City Court judge, according to the court document.


Soderquist, who admitted to violating the federal wiretapping statute and doing so while on bond, now faces an enhanced term of 42 months when sentenced Sept. 28, according to the filing by the U.S. attorney’s office. The government, in return, will not file a new criminal case against him.


“The system was not installed for eavesdropping,” Soderquist’s defense attorney Scott King told The Times on Wednesday.


The phone system was installed a few years ago as part of the construction of new city offices, he said. The idea was to improve customer service while protecting city employees against false accusations.


Where Soderquist ran afoul of the law is that not all city employees were notified the calls were being recorded, and there was no message notifying those on the other end of the line, King said.


The sentencing agreement says Soderquist authorized the installation of the system and that it recorded all calls except those in the mayor’s office. In addition to recording calls that were accessible to Soderquist by computer, it allowed him to “surreptitiously eavesdrop on any City Hall call while the call was in progress.”


King said he has seen no evidence to back up government claims that Soderquist continued listening to calls after being released on bond April 17, 2014, in his corruption cases.


Soderquist and his wife, Deborah, were already scheduled to be sentenced Sept. 28 for improperly taking money from his re-election campaign fund and the city’s food pantry account to gamble at casinos.


U.S. District Judge Rudy Lozano had postponed the sentencing from July after a joint motion was filed by the Soderquists’ attorneys and the U.S. attorney’s office seeking the delay because “additional investigative matters” had come to light.


Keith Soderquist had been facing up to 30 months behind bars, but the recommendation to the judge now will be 42 months as a result of the violation involving the phone system, according to the sentencing agreement.


The proposed agreement also calls on Soderquist to pay $3,520 to the city of Lake Station and $22,571 to the Internal Revenue Service.


The government agrees not to bring any charges against Deborah Soderquist stemming from the phone system.