Allen County Prosecutor Karen Richards has formally accepted appointment as special prosecutor in a case involving Elkhart County Commissioner Terry Rodino.
Next, she must review the case and decide if charges are merited.
Robin Niedzwiecki, the public information officer in Richards’ office, said today, Nov. 20, that Richards had agreed to a request from Elkhart County officials to look into the matter. Elkhart County Prosecutor Curtis Hill had approached Elkhart Circuit Court Judge Terry Shewmaker, asking for a special prosecutor in the case, and Shewmaker on Nov. 12 agreed to the request, naming Richards to the post, subject to her approval.
Hill’s office has released little information in the matter, saying only that the case stemmed from an Elkhart Police Department investigation into an alleged Oct. 29 incident in Elkhart. The allegations, Hill said in a Nov. 12 press release, involve “an individual affiliated with Elkhart County government” though they don’t involve the unnamed person’s government connection.
A source familiar with the investigation said Rodino was the focus of the inquiry, for alleged inappropriate sexual activity.
Rodino, elected to his third term as county commissioner earlier this month, has remained largely quiet, continuing his duties as county commissioner. But he issued a statement last week, offering a general denial and saying he will “vigorously” defend himself.
“I possess faith in our judicial system and believe it is best to allow the legal system to work through its process without unnecessary interference from extrinsic, unrelated or other ‘anonymous’ sources,” he said in the statement.
Additional action in the case from Richards may be a few days off. Niedzwiecki said Richards will be out of the office Wednesday and that the office is closed Thursday and Friday for Thanksgiving.
Hill had sought a special prosector, citing a state law that allows such moves “to avoid the appearance of impropriety.” Hill hasn’t elaborated on the move, but both he and Rodino have participated in county government leadership summits. Hill also donated $200 to Rodino’s re-election bid in 2008.