(Lawrenceburg, Ind.) – Two Lawrenceburg City Council members are taking an “I told you so” approach with their reaction letter to recent Indianapolis Star newspaper reports about the city’s grant program.
The Star published two investigative reports last month calling attention to several grants awarded by the City’s 10-County Regional Grant Program that have benefitted public officials or not delivered on jobs promises.
In a press release provided to Eagle 99.3 Monday, council members Mike Lawrence and Jane Pope say that the city must stop giving the state legislature reasons to take the city’s riverboat revenue.
“We ought to show the General Assembly we can police ourselves – that we’re not corrupt and that we can be trusted with the people’s money,” the release said. “Unfortunately, to date we (the city) refuse to do either of these things.”
The two council members call for the city to cease all grants and loans. They also seek to repeal the existing grant program which they claim has put the Lawrenceburg in an “embarrassing and perilous position,” and create a new grant program embracing their concept.
Lawrence and Pope – now the minority in a philosophically divided city council since Doug Taylor resigned and was replaced through a caucus by councilman J.R. Holdcraft – specifically focused on a grant to Destination Brookville. The organization was formerly owned by State Rep. Jud McMillin – a governor’s appointment to the Lawrenceburg Grant Committee – and currently owned by his mother and business associates.
Prior to Taylor’s departure from City Council in March, the council rescinded a grant of $600,000 to Destination Brookville. Lawrence cited McMillin’s alleged failure to fully disclose personal ties to the organization.
“Nevertheless, we’ve been informed by the Mayor’s Assistant and Economic Development Director Grant Hughes that he’s still working on the grant,” the Lawrence and Pope letter states, adding that fellow council members Bill Bill Bruner and Aaron Cook voted against stopping the grant.
Hughes was contacted for comment, but said he had not yet seen the news release. Mayor Dennis Carr was not immediately available.
Lawrence and Pope said they believe the McMillin episode brought the Indianapolis Star’s attention to the grant program. The newspaper published an article titled “A Lawmaker, a Grant, an Ethics Lapse” on March 17.
The press release also brings up a recent city grant to CSX Railroad Corporation. The more than $358,000 grant will be used to improve a private railroad crossing at Hollywood Casino for an employee parking, according to Lawrence and Pope.
“While many of our citizens struggle to make ends meet, we’re giving their money away to CSX. CSX had revenue of nearly $3 billion and profits of $459 million in just the first three months of 2013,” the two council members claim. “Our elected officials have forgotten who they are elected to serve.”
Lawrence and Pope say they’ve proposed solutions for the grant program in the past, but the city has opted for “business as usual.”
As Taylor did in a public letter following his resignation from council, Pope and Lawrence call on local law enforcement to investigate elected officials who fail to operate government in accordance with the law. No specific examples were given.
In the most recent article, Indiana Senate budget chief Sen. Luke Kenley (R-Noblesville) said he hoped the publicity would help lawmakers realize that something needs to be done to improve the program’s accountability.
Kenley said he did not believe that any laws have been broken in Lawrenceburg regarding the grants, as the state has few laws governing such a fairly unique program.
Lawrenceburg City Council meets Monday, June 3 at 6:00 p.m.