MERRILLVILLE – There doesn’t seem to be an end to the saga of Randy Palmateer and a March drunken-driving arrest. So widespread is the story that it extends this week to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.
Palmateer is the business manager of the 25,000-member Northwestern Indiana Building and Construction Trades Council. The March arrest was the second in five years. And, as was the case with the first one, this one was reduced to reckless driving, as are many drunken driving charges in Lake County.
It wasn’t terribly surprising that Palmeteer had his March drunken-driving arrest reduced to reckless driving even though it was his second in five years. The Building and Construction Trades Council can be a powerful force in statewide and local elections. To anger the organization’s leader isn’t a wise political move.
The Palmateer case prompted The Times of Northwest Indiana to investigate how drunken-driving cases are handled in Lake County. When it was learned that the majority of drunken-driving charges were reduced to reckless driving, The Times turned the issue into a crusade. As a result, Lake County Prosecutor Bernard Carter has told his deputies that future drunken-driving charges no longer will be reduced to reckless driving.
The case also has played a major role in shaping the Indiana delegation to the DNC. Palmateer ran for national delegate at the state convention in June. John Buncich, Lake County sheriff and county chairman, wasn’t named an automatic delegate as has been the case with party leaders in the past. Because of Palmateer’s arrest record, Buncich declined to run against him. Palmateer ran, but lost.
But Palmateer was on the convention floor Tuesday with the rest of the Indiana delegation. It seems one of the delegates didn’t show and the Indiana delegates picked Palmateer. Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. said the Indiana delegation did so because it wanted more labor representation. “I think it is a shame and disgrace to our delegation there,” Buncich said on learning of Palmateer’s appointment.
Palmateer suffered a good bit of embarrassment, but in the end he came out a winner, as he had his drunken-driving charge reduced and he became a delegate to the DNC.

Rich James has been writing about state and local government and politics for more than 30 years.