County Council has announced it will hold a special meeting at 5:00 p.m. on
Friday to discuss pending litigation regarding whether it will decide to
appeal last week’s ruling that the county does not have the legal grounds to
withdraw from the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority.
members expressed disappointment in Jasper County Circuit Court Judge John
Potter’s ruling last week against the council which sought a legal
declaration since filing at lawsuit on Aug. 28, 2009. The council has said
the legislation that forced them into the RDA is “unconstitutional” since it
voted 4-3 to leave the RDA a year ago. Potter ruled the 2005 legislation to
create the RDA had already included Porter County as a member.
President Dan Whitten, D-at large, said in a statement last week that he is
“willing to lead” what he calls a “revolution” and feels an appeal is
needed. Whitten said the fact remains that there are no assurances that the
county’s investment in the RDA would be beneficial to the county.
stated the investment has cost Porter County much more than the RDA has
returned, despite the RDA’s claim that $12.2 million has been received from
the county and $17.2 million has been returned.
“Anyone who says
otherwise is simply misleading or misled,” said Whitten.
Whitten said the
issue of raising the County Economic Development Income Tax goes beyond the
RDA. He said the state has tried to impose other taxes on Porter County, but
the council has been able to ward off such efforts. The council voted in
2005 to raise the CEDIT tax 0.25 percent in order to pay the RDA its $3.5
million in membership dues.
The council may
also decide on Friday, depending on whether a consensus to appeal is
reached, to choose a new law firm to represent the council in subsequent
proceedings which may save the county additional money. The county to date
has retained the Hall Render firm of Indianapolis for its legal arguments
against the RDA and has paid the firm about $65,000 in service fees.
Rita Stevenson, D-2nd, told the Tribune earlier this week the costs
for appeal proceedings will be much lower since the research work portion of
the legal process has already been done.
ruled that the countymust continue paying its annual dues to the RDA and
turn over all the money that had been kept in an interest-bearing escrow
account by the county auditor and treasurer under a partial settlement
ordered the county to forward the money by May 1. County Attorney Gwenn
Rinkenberger said if the county files a notice of appeal, it may “freeze”
everything in the order including the payments to the RDA until the Indiana
Court of Appeals issues a ruling.
said she believes the county would be able to maintain their status quo if
an appeal is filed but nothing is certain until the council reaches a
decision and discusses matters with attorneys.
The council will
also be meeting at 4:30 p.m. on Friday in a closed executive session before
the public meeting at 5:00. The meeting will be held at the Porter County
Administration Center (155 Indiana Ave., Valparaiso) in Suite 205.