FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — Due to the apparent intransigence of the current Allen County surveyor, and with 100 documents waiting to be signed, the Allen County Commissioners Friday appointed a county hydrologist and engineer to oversee the day-to-day operations of the office.
Mike Fruchey, who left a teaching position at Indiana Purdue Fort Wayne four and a half years ago to work for the Allen County surveyor’s office before transferring to the Allen County Highway Department this year, was approved unanimously by the three commissioners.
Although his appointment is for an indeterminate amount of time, the commissioners are considering removing the elected Allen County surveyor, Jeff Sorg, from the position he’s held since 2016, they said. Sorg’s current term ends in 2024.
Sorg, re-elected in 2020, did not attend the public hearing, although the commissioners requested his presence and had asked him to appoint a deputy surveyor, Commissioner Therese Brown said.
“Unfortunately, this particular individual, Jeff Sorg, does not have a chief deputy. Had there been a chief deputy, a chief deputy could take over these functions and the office would be operating. Unfortunately, there’s no chief deputy. So subsequently staff has been struggling to get things signed to the point where they had to go to his home to try to get documents signed which is inappropriate and uncalled for,” Brown said.
Forcing Sorg from office would be a lengthy process that would involve the Allen County Council and Allen Court Circuit Judge Wendy Davis, Brown said at Friday’s public hearing held specifically to discuss Sorg’s tenure.
Three county council members – Ken Fries, Kyle Kerley and Paul Lagemann – attended the public hearing and indicated they were looking at that solution. Fries, who visited Sorg at his northwest Allen County home about four months ago, said the public could expect more movement on the situation.
Indiana law allows the removal of five key positions in county government: auditor, recorder, treasurer, surveyor and assessor.
Prior to Fruchey taking the job with the county surveyor’s office, he spent 13 years as an engineer with the transportation department before his teaching position, he said. Fruchey will split his time between the county highway department and the surveyor’s office and will be paid the same salary, they said. Fruchey will be responsible for the office’s documents, claims, hiring, payroll and human resources functions.
But above all, “he understands water,” Brown said.
The Commissioners, all of whom sit on the Drainage Board, couldn’t help but notice his absence, they said. The drainage board is a powerful county board that gets little public attention.
Since January 2020, Sorg has missed 65% of the drainage board meetings and 77% of the Plan Commission meetings.
Sorg has not logged in to his county email since April 2020, Brown said.
“The Commissioners sit as three of the five members on the Drainage Board. As such it had become very apparent that the current sitting surveyor had not been attending any meetings and also that he was not attending planning commission meetings. So as anyone who has gone through any issue recently with water, or had any water issues when it comes to tributaries, regulated drains, etc, the surveyor’s office, when it comes to growth of our community as well as people living on metes and bounds, drainage is extremely important,” Brown said.
Commissioner Nelson Peters stressed that the commissioners weren’t replacing Sorg, but appointing someone to fulfill theoffice’s obligations.
Rich Beck described the move as an opportunity to Sorg to “self correct.” If there is no self correction, the commissioners will pursue the next step toward removal, Beck added.