(Indianapolis, Ind.) – Following up on its Sunday front page expose concerning the City of Lawrenceburg 10 County Regional Grant Program, The Indianapolis Star published a new article Wednesday providing reaction from state officials.
Sunday’s article (found here) detailed five grants awarded in recent years to economic development projects that either haven’t produced close to the number of jobs promised or personally benefitted elected officials. The grants in question ranged from $5 million for Carbon Motors in Connersville to $400,000 for an unopened restaurant partly owned by the City of Greendale’s mayor and city attorney.
“We’re going to have to stay on this problem. Unless the legislature keeps their finger on it, we’re not at the end of the road on solving this,” State Senator Luke Kenley (R-Noblesville) said in the latest article.
The article written by The Star’s Mary Beth Schneider quotes Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller saying there is not enough transparency with the program. He hinted at possible audits for those who have misused the funds or don’t have receipts to show the money was spent properly to repay their grants.
State Senator Jim Banks (R-Columbia City) called the Sunday article’s revelations “startling.” He called for a better mechanism to make sure those dollars are spent in the public’s interest.
Banks said he will propose legislation to do just that. A bill that would have required government agencies receiving casino revenues – such as Lawrenceburg – to file an annual report showing how the money is used was watered down to only require a report from non-profit organizations.
“We could just hear rumors that there were grants being made without any follow-up. There were grants being made where there might be conflicts of interest, so we just decided to dig into it a little bit,” fellow State Senator Kenley (R-Noblesville) was quoted in the article.
Kenley, the Senate budget chief, said he didn’t think there have been any laws broken with the grant program, but there is a problem with the situation not being heavily governed.
Kenley said “the light of the sun” from Sunday’s report will help lawmakers realize that something needs to be done.
State Senator Mike Delph (R-Carmel) authored a law in the completed 2013 legislative session that requires more disclosure of state incentives the Indiana Economic Development Commission uses to lure businesses to the state.