(Lawrenceburg, Ind.) – Lawrenceburg City Councilman Doug Taylor is demanding an investigation into alleged wrongdoing by more than a dozen current and former city officials, ranging from the mayor to city employees.
In a letter hand-delivered to the Dearborn County Prosecutor’s Office on Friday, Taylor, a former Lawrenceburg Police officer, requests that Prosecutor Aaron Negangard prosecute the crimes detailed over 11 pages. Taylor accompanied by fellow councilman Mike Lawrence presented a copy to Eagle 99.3 News.
“I believe the government of Lawrenceburg is badly broken, that this is very harmful to the people of Lawrenceburg in terms of lost opportunities, and the only way to fix it is for you (the prosecutor) to prosecute the many misdemeanor and felony crimes I believe have been committed,” Taylor claims in the letter.
Taylor said the City of Lawrenceburg has spent approximately $1 billion of public funds since casino gaming came to the city in December 1995 – about $200,000 for every man woman and child in the city. Despite the millions in revenues and subsequent spending, Taylor argues that the city residents haven’t received property tax relief, lower utility bills, jobs are harder to come by, and kids aren’t receiving a better education.
“This is the result of certain individuals within the City using the City’s treasury as their own personal piggy bank without any regard for the law or fear of prosecution for violating the law rather than using the City’s treasury to serve our people,” Taylor wrote.
Among the city officials Taylor accuses of wrongdoing: Lawrenceburg Mayor Dennis Carr, former mayor Bill Cunningham, Clerk-Treasurer Jackie Stutz, Councilman Bill-Bill Bruner, Councilman Aaron Cook, Board of Works member Donnie Bryant, former councilman Mario Todd, former councilman J.R. Holdcraft, former councilman Tony Abbot, Chief of Police Gene Hunefeld, Jr., Assistant Chief of Police Mike Lanning, and mayor’s secretary Dena Baker.
Many of the alleged criminal activities regard spending money on hiring and raises not appropriated by the city council.
Taylor said he believes the prosecutor can clearly prove that Mayor Dennis Carr felony official misconduct by hiring a human resources director and Grant Hughes as an assistant later appointed director of the Lawrenceburg Redevelopment Commission.
The allegations also refer to a contract the city entered into with northern Kentucky-based Tri-State Parking Inc. for the riverfront parking garage. Taylor says the city pays Tri-State Parking Inc. approximately $220,000 a year, but only brings in $20,000 annually. He alludes that the parking garage deal was a sweetheart deal organized in part by Lawrenceburg Utilities Director Mel Davis and retired City Manager Tom Steidel.
“This is interesting because Steidel was widely rumored to be selling influence… ,” Taylor said. “…It would be interesting to explore this potential relationship. The contract is incredibly lucrative.
The councilman claims that before the November 2011 election in which Taylor was elected, former mayor Bill Cunningham and other city leaders “were trying to tie the hands of future elected officials and take care of their friends.”
Taylor also believes that city officials may have participated in official misconduct by holding illegal, closed door executive session meetings during negotiations with Hollywood Casino owner Penn National Gaming on the in-progress Lawrenceburg Event Center and Hotel. He called the meetings violations of the Indiana Open Door Law.
“As you may know, these executive sessions ultimately culminated in the City giving more than $49 million of the people’s money to Hollywood Casino without getting any meaningful commitments in return, e.g. jobs, events, occupancy rate, etc.,” Taylor said.
Earlier this month, Hollywood Casino executives clarified to city council the workings of the event center agreement – that $49 million was not simply being given to the casino.
Taylor goes as far as accusing the recipient of his investigation request, Prosecutor Aaron Negangard, of looking the other way. *Update at 2:05 p.m.: Negangard issues a response to Taylor's claim.
“I believe these individuals believe the substantial money they see to it your office gets every year buys them your discretion or protection from prosecution.”
As he accuses other city leaders of wrongdoing, Taylor is currently facing a legal situation of his own. In 2011, Taylor was charged with Official Misconduct and Ghost Employment, both felonies, after allegedly attending a campaign event while wearing his police uniform. On March 6, the special prosecutor on the case motioned to call off a jury trial for later this year as the two sides work on a possible agreement.
Taylor told Eagle 99.3 his request is independent of a possible investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. In December, the FBI subpoenaed the city’s records regarding grants and loans dating back to 2007.
The letter is also provided to Lawrenceburg Chief of Police Gene Hunefeld, the Indiana State Police, the Indiana Attorney General, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Indiana, the FBI, and various media outlets.
Eagle 99.3 contacted the mayor’s office prior to publication of this story. Mayor’s Assistant Grant Hughes said he was not aware of the letter.
Lawrenceburg City Attorney Leslie Votaw could not be immediately reached for comment.