(Lawrenceburg, Ind.) - Two Lawrenceburg City Council members have issued three press releases to local media this week.
The releases by Mike Lawrence and Jane Pope have caught the attention of citizens and other council members. A release Monday (PDF) gave Lawrence and Pope’s perspective on a recent Indianapolis Star investigative report series on the Lawrenceburg 10 County Regional Grant Program. A second release was critical of raises for the Lawrenceburg Chief of Police and Assistant Chief approved by council Monday.
The third release (PDF) dated May 4 was a tongue-in-cheek railing against a new city council policy enacted Monday. Council voted 3-2 with Lawrence and Pope in the minority to have any press release written by a council member first run through Mayor Dennis Carr’s office before going out to the public.
“Now, the City is subject to federal and state civil rights violation lawsuits and very likely liable for damages and attorney fees for the same. Is this the dawn of a new era in our City?” The two councilors asked in the release, put out just hours after council’s decision.
In the release that Lawrence and Pope said was not submitted to the mayor or council, they called the mayor’s office the “Bureau for the Repression of Different Opinions.”
After looking at the latest message, City Attorney Leslie Votaw says the two council members have “gone off the deep end.”
Pope and Lawrence’s releases have usually been delivered to Eagle 99.3 before any of the city officials targeted in them have an opportunity to see what is said. Votaw, who Lawrence and Pope are frequently seen butting heads with at council meetings, said the objective of the policy is not to prohibit free speech.
“The goal of the other council members in passing the motion to run the press releases by the Mayor's office was to stop the perception that these policies are from the Council and the City as a whole,” Votaw said. “I feel that the other three council members were merely attempting to work together and stop all the nonsense.”
Votaw said that Lawrence and Pope are misrepresenting the new council release rule. The policy allows council members to continue putting out their own releases after sharing them with Carr’s office, whether the mayor agrees with the message or not.
“We want to try to work on it internally before it’s put out for everybody to see and we all look like idiots,” she said.
Although their names are the only names signed on each news release, Votaw said that it is obvious that Lawrence and Pope are not the ones penning them.
“It is truly sad that the person writing the releases is using council members to further his agenda,” she said.
Votaw did not say who she believes is behind the releases.
When asked about it, Lawrence declined to provide an answer.
“I think I’ll keep that to myself,” he said.
Pope could not be immediately reached to answer the same question.
Votaw also had thoughts on recent Indianapolis Star articles focusing on five grants awarded through the Lawrenceburg Regional Grant Program. The article – which Lawrence and Pope cited in their first release this week as reasons to repeal the program and start a new one – focused on grants ranging from $5 million to $400,000 that have not delivered on jobs promised or may have benefitted public officials.
“It is clear that when only 3 grants out of 105 total grants distributed by the Regional Grant Committee can be questioned, that that is a pretty good success rate. Of course, all Mr. Lawrence and Mrs. Pope and their cohorts can do is point out the negative.
Votaw said she hopes that council can begin to run the city in a more civilized and professional manner.
City Council members Bill Bill Bruner and Aaron Cook were asked for comment on this story.