The Tippecanoe County Election Board Tuesday found a procedural way to release itself from investigating admittedly illegal cell phone use by Republican sheriff candidate Jason Dombkowski.
Dombkowski has paid the City of West Lafayette back for using his city-issued cell phone for duties not related to his job as police chief, but instead to his run for political office.
But despite that admission, Board chair Randy Vonderheide made it clear he considers the issue closed.
“The issue has been dealt with in the media and I think that’s the job of the media,” Vonderheide says.
Vonderheide made a motion to send the issue to county prosecutor Pat Harrington – who’s also a Republican and is also on Tuesday’s ballot – but the other two board members declined to second the motion, which killed it.
“As a group or as a board, we made the decision collectively that this has no effect on the election and accordingly our inclination to take further action is nonexistent,” Vonderheide says.
Still, Vonderheide says he agrees it’s longstanding law that what Dombkowski did is illegal, and says the board could have asked more questions and conducted a fuller investigation, but chose not to.
Board members dismissed multiple complaints to them about Dombkowski’s behavior as normal correspondence in an election year, and claimed they don’t think the electioneering gave the candidate what they called an “unfair advantage” over his two challengers.
“Biggest concern would be: how does this affect the election, if at all," Vonderheide says. "And I have personally some difficulty seeing that it would affect the election. But that’s not my decision to make. I make my decision in the voting booth.”
After the meeting, Vonderheide chalked up the acts of West Lafayette’s top cop to Dombkowski’s lack of experience running for office.