Q&A: Commissioners and economic development

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From the Princeton Daily Clarion:

Q: Gibson County Commis­sioners publicly endorsed in June a proposed 47,000-acre economic development area along Interstate 69. They asked the Gibson County Redevelop­ment Commission to approve a declaratory resolution to establish the economic development area. 

One redevelopment commission member asked Gibson County Economic Development Corp. CEO Todd Mosby if there was a development prospect that was causing the request. Mosby said no, but that the interchanges along the highway need infrastructure to encourage development and having the area designated as an EDA would more quickly lead to creation of a TIF district that could put infrastructure in place and lead to development.

Gibson County Commissioner Steve Bottoms told the redevelopment board, “We’ve been talking about this since April.” One of the discussions Bottoms referred to was a forum in Oakland City where owners of some 4,000 parcels of property were invited by Gibson County commissioners to discuss the proposed economic development area. No Open Door Law notice was given of the meeting.

I learned about the meeting when a school board member called me an hour before it started and said he had a copy of a flyer given to one of the landowners.

I questioned the commissioners about having meetings without giving notice, and Bottoms referred me to Mosby, who told me a previous county commissioner had discovered a provision in the Open Door Law that places a meeting for economic development as not really a “meeting” as defined by the statute. What’s your take?

A: The economic develop­ment exception to the Open Door Law is for discussions with prospects. A discussion of the creation of an economic develop­ment district would not fit that provision.

Remind the commissioners that the intent of the legislature is to liberally construe the transparency of government, which means the provisions for exceptions are interpreted narrowly.

Contact Steve Key, HSPA executive director and general counsel, with media law questions at skey@hspa.com or (317) 624-4427.

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