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Northwest Indiana official getting heat for comment about ‘fruits’ in jail

Jim Polarek.  | Provided Photo~Sun-Times Media

Jim Polarek. | Provided Photo~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: May 23, 2012 4:48PM

An official in Porter County, Ind., said Wednesday he will not apologize for a remark he made at Tuesday’s council meeting that some of his colleagues have interpreted to be a slur against gays and lesbians.

Porter County Councilman Jim Polarek added his words were misconstrued and being blown out of proportion.

“If somebody thought when I said ‘fruits’ I thought gays and lesbians, that is the furthest from the truth,” Polarek said. He said he was referring to the “fruitcakes, crazies and wackos” who comprise the jail population.

Council president Dan Whitten, who was not at the meeting, said Polarek could face admonishment from the council for his actions.

Polarek’s comment came during a discussion of overcrowding at the Porter County Jail. Circuit Court Judge Mary Harper said “low-hanging fruit” might be able to be released from the jail to reduce the number of inmates, referring to those incarcerated on low-level felonies.

Polarek responded with, “Are you telling me that there are fruits in the Porter County Jail?”

Curt Ellis took offense at the remark, and on Wednesday he drafted a letter to Whitten with his concerns. Ellis said he approached Polarek after the meeting about the remark and Polarek said it was a joke and walked away. The remark, Ellis said, was “thoughtless.”

“I don’t want his apology because it doesn’t mean anything, but I think the rest of the council needs to step up and say, ‘This is not behavior we will condone at our meetings,’” Ellis said.

Polarek said he will draft an email response to the letter from Ellis but will not apologize.

“If I can’t refer to the criminals in our jail as crazies and fruitcakes, God help us all,” he said.

Whitten said he would talk to Polarek about the incident and write a response to Ellis. He is not sure what will happen next, though it would be appropriate for the council to admonish Polarek for his remark.

“I find these kinds of allegations disturbing,” Whitten said, adding if Ellis’ letter is true, Polarek’s comment “seems terribly inappropriate.”

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