Chesterton Tribune                                                                                   Adv.

County Council files court arguments against RDA ruling

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Merrillville attorney Mitch Peters has confirmed that he filed documents with the Indiana Court of Appeals last week supporting the Porter County Councilís decision to appeal Jasper County Circuit Court Judge John Potterís ruling last April that Porter County must remain a member of the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority.

Peters was chosen by the council to represent them in the appeal process by a 5-2 vote when the majority of the members decided to appeal the vote during a special meeting on April 16.

The 50-page brief was filed by Peters last Wednesday two days before the due date on Sept. 10. The state now has a 30-day period to respond, but Peters told the Chesterton Tribune Wednesday that it is likely they will extend the response time.

The argument specifies the councilís claim that the legislation creating the RDA was special legislation and unconstitutional in the state of Indiana.

Potterís ruling stated that the legislation creating the RDA in 2005 did not give the county the option to withdraw from the agency and the membership is permanent. Peters said he doesnít interpret it the same way that Potter did.

ďI believe based on the reading of the statute and amendments that there is no prohibition from withdrawing and that the county is entitled to properly withdraw,Ē said Peters.

Porter County Council members voted 4-3 to leave the RDA in April 2009, saying that the agency is taking more money away from the county than what it is returning. The county had paid the agency an annual membership fee of $3.5 million a year out of a County Economic Development Income Tax fund.

Potter also ruled this year that the county must continue making payments to the RDA even after the council voted 5-2 to appeal it.

Appealing members include: current council president Dan Whitten, D-at large, Rita Stevenson, D-2nd, Laura Blaney, D-at large, Marylyn Johns, D-4th, and Sylvia Graham, D-at large. Members who voted not to appeal were Robert Poparad, D-1st and Karen Conover, R-3rd. Both also voted not to leave the RDA in 2009 along with former council member Mike Bucko.

The council hired Peters for a flat fee of $16,000 and will retain him all the way to the Indiana Supreme Court if the case goes that far.

Peter said he expects whichever side prevails at the appellate court, the other side will appeal the decision which would then move the case to the Supreme Court.

RDA officials have said they were disappointed in the councilís decision to appeal the ruling but will continue to fund projects in Porter County like the Gateway to the Dunes project in Porter.

In April, RDA Executive Director Bill Hanna said Porter County had invested nearly $15.8 million in dues and was returned $17.3 million despite the councilís claim of shortfall.


Posted 9/16/2010





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