State Rep. Jud McMillin (right) addresses Lawrenceburg City Council Monday, March 4.
Mike Perleberg-Eagle 99.3
(Lawrenceburg, Ind.) - State Representative Jud McMillin and Lawrenceburg City Council cleared the air concerning a repealed grant Monday.
Last month, City Council voted to rescind a previously approved $600,000 grant for Destination Brookville LLC. McMillin’s friends and family are involved with the economic development organization whose aim is to revitalize downtown Brookville, but the lawmaker told council he divested himself of any interest last year prior to the group’s application to the Lawrenceburg 10-Country Regional Grant Program. His name did appear on the grant application as a governmental sponsor, which every grant request must include.
McMillin (R-Brookville), a member of the grant committee which recommends grants to the City Council, abstained from voting on the Destination Brookville grant last year.
Vote or not, McMillin blamed a “nasty” Brookville American Democrat newspaper article for causing the grant to be repealed.
Councilman Mike Lawrence had cited the American Democrat article when he motioned for the grant to be repealed February 4.
“It’s a little bit extra disturbing to me that because of one newspaper – that had some ulterior motives – printed an article that we didn’t get to discuss before action was taken,” McMillin told council Monday.
The report stated that McMillin, as a state lawmaker, signed a conflict of economic interest form on January 7, 2013 that lists Destination Brookville LLC as a business where he had economic interests in 2012. The article did not mention that McMillin had divested himself from the organization later in the year.
“As hard as I work to be transparent and talk to people, nobody ever called anybody from either the actual members of Destination Brookville, me as a sponsor, or anybody to talk about things. I understand it can be fun to have a sexy story to sell papers.”
In light of the article, McMillin apologized to council for not making more of an up-front effort to help them understand the project.
“I think that I probably did a poor job, not as effective job, of explaining everything in that grant… …You guys have not been privy to all the information. That’s because there’s a system set up that doesn’t necessarily include you. It does include a way for you guys to reject or approve grants, but it doesn’t allow you to get into the meat and potatoes of what is really going on,” McMillin said.
Council members and McMillin bantered about whether or not he fully disclosed his mother and father’s involvement with Destination Brookville. McMillin said he did disclose the connection during a grant committee meeting. Councilman Mike Lawrence questioned whether the disclosure was made during a public meeting or closed-door executive session of the committee.
“The only thing I heard was this grant didn’t include anything as far as family or of that nature. Then I get a call about the newspaper,” said Councilman Doug Taylor, who sits on the grant committee with McMillin. “It didn’t look good as far as a possible conflict there.”
McMillin assured council that the Destination Brookville grant request is not an attempt to line individuals’ pockets. He pointing to several people – calling them “pillars of the community” – involved with the organization that attended Monday's meeting with him: Teen and Sharon McMillin (Jud’s parents), Allen Beneker, Jenny Wilz, and Mick Wilz.
“Let’s be clear. Nobody seems to want to talk about the fact that before $600,000, we have people putting up $1.5 million of their own money. Destination Brookville LLC is already about $500,000 into projects that they’re doing,” McMillin said.
McMillin urged the city council to continue administrating the 10 County Regional Grant Program with transparency and accountability. He made clear that he was not seeking immediate action on the grant Monday.
“I think as far as council making a decision to put the brakes on it, it was the right thing to do,” Taylor said.
“I think that the members, if you asked them, would agree whole heartedly,” McMillin replied.
No vote was held on the $600,000 Destination Brookville grant. Lawrenceburg Redevelopment Director and Mayor’s Assistant Grant Hughes is continuing to perform the city’s due diligence on the grant application.