Porter County schedules closed-door sessions to discuss tourism director settlement

Porter County officials have scheduled two closed-door meetings in the coming days in an attempt to get to the bottom of a settlement agreement between the Indiana Dunes Tourism board and its outgoing longtime executive director, Lorelei Weimer.

The Board of Commissioners will meet in executive session at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday. The meeting, said President Jim Biggs, R-North, will include two members of the county council, as well as representatives from the tourism board and board attorney David Hollenbeck.

Per the agenda, the meeting is being held “With respect to any individual over whom the governing body has jurisdiction” and “to receive information concerning the individual’s alleged misconduct.”

The council follows with an executive session of its own before their regular monthly meeting on Tuesday. Council member Red Stone, R-1st, confirmed it is to discuss a request by the tourism board for a $225,000 payout for the last two years of Weimer’s three-year contract. The stated purpose for the meeting is to discuss pending litigation.

Christine Livingston, vice president of IDT, took over as the agency’s interim president and CEO on Jan. 19, the day after the board approved her as interim director, while Weimer used up nine weeks of vacation time.

Weimer had been with the agency for 33 years, starting there as an intern after college. She led the agency for 22 years.

Tourism officials had hoped to get the council to approve the settlement at the council’s March 26 but Stone has said as interim council president he wouldn’t put it on the agenda because it’s shrouded in a confidentiality agreement.

Mitch Peters, president of the tourism board and the council’s appointment to that body, has said the settlement “is the number that was approved by our board unanimously,” and that he wouldn’t recommend anything that isn’t in the best interest of tourism and Porter County.

County officials balked at approving the request without knowing the nature of the settlement and without details about why Weimer was exiting her post so suddenly after decades with the tourism bureau.

Biggs said he called for Wednesday’s meeting to get more information. He didn’t know Weimer was stepping back until he read a Post-Tribune story about it in January, which he said took him by surprise, especially since commissioners have four appointments on the 11-member tourism board.

“I didn’t get a whisper that anything was wrong over there and we have all these appointments to that board,” he said.

Commissioners are trying to make sense of what’s going on, he said, because, “just like the county council, commissioners are not being told the whole story,” Biggs said, adding commissioners are getting involved because he’s been told there’s a possibility of litigation.

“To keep it from getting to that point, we need to know what’s at risk here,” he said, adding the tourism board is requesting that the settlement come out of the county’s innkeepers tax.

Stone said of the council’s executive session, “It’s 100% about the settlement. I was not putting it on the agenda until we had an executive session.”

“This whole thing is really unfortunate,” he added.