prosecutor will investigate allegations that the Indiana Department of
Natural Resources and Pavilion Partners LLC dodged state law in advance of
renovations to the 90-year-old Pavilion at Indiana Dunes State Park.
On Tuesday, Porter
County Prosecutor Brian Gensel appointed a special prosecutor to consider
the claims--made by Dunes Action--as a preemptive strike for transparency
and objectivity. “Due to my having a personal and professional relationship
with Chuck Williams, the matter was referred to Senior Prosecutor David
Thomas,” Gensel said. Williams is the managing partner for Pavilion Partners
Gensel also said
that his move does not speak to his views on the merit of the accusations.
“My bringing in a special prosecutor only means that the recognized conflict
necessitated bringing in another prosecutor to review the matter,” he told
the Chesterton Tribune.
Court Judge Roger Bradford approved the appointment same day.
follows allegations made by Dunes Action and Public Employees for
Environmental Responsibility (PEER) that Pavilion Partners LLC violated
Title 14 of Indiana code because it did not obtain a valid permit for
demolition on the West Plaza, now the location of the comfort center, and
construction of an elevator shaft that protrudes through the Pavilion roof.
Dunes Action and
PEER also allege that the DNR, along with Pavilion Partners, should have
secured a certificate of approval from the Indiana Historic Preservation
Review Board before state resources were used for the project. According to
Dunes Action, the DNR confirmed that part of the demolition was done by
State Park employees.
Both claims were
made in a letter that Dunes Action and PEER sent to Gensel last month. Dunes
Action first contacted the Indiana Attorney General’s Office in February and
was advised that the matter is under the purview of the local prosecutor.
reports that it supports historically appropriate restoration, but it
opposes the addition of two balconies or a rooftop pub at the Pavilion. Both
groups believe that additional work done on the property without proper
authorization would constitute further violation of state law. No further
work has been done on the project this year.
PEER is a
non-profit public interest organization that focuses on the environment,
including management of public land and ethics in government.
Dunes Action is a
grassroots, all-volunteer, non-partisan coalition. It can be found on
Facebook and at www.dunesaction.org