FW City Council Debates Campaign Contributions

By John W. Davis

July 12, 2011 Updated Jul 12, 2011 at 11:21 PM EDT

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Indiana's NewsCenter) - Who should be allowed to earn business contracts with the City of Fort Wayne?

That was the question at the center of testy debate at Tuesday's Fort Wayne City Council meeting.

Republican Councilwoman Liz Brown wrote the ordinance.

Brown said she modeled it after Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's recent executive order on city contracts.

Brown said her ordinance is simple and it would bring more transparency and ethical dealings to local government.

She said it would make it illegal for companies and their owners that bid on city contracts, to make campaign donations to Fort Wayne politicians.

However, Democratic Councilman Tim Pape told Indiana's NewsCenter that all the legal experts who have weighed in on the idea, have said that cities like Fort Wayne do not have the authority to rewrite campaign finance rules.

"I think it's some pretty strong law indicating we don't have the authority to do that," said Fort Wayne City Councilman Democrat Tim Pape.

"I think it's really unfortunate that members of this body are claiming that members in this community are engaging in pay for play. I think it's extremely unfortunate. I think it's unfair labeling," explained Pape.

However, Fort Wayne City Councilwoman Republican Liz Brown, the proposal's author, disagrees with Pape's assessment.

"There's nothing wrong with them making those contributions to a particular candidates campaign but when they are also bidding on a no-bid contract at the same time and they have no attachment to the city, then there's certainly the idea, a possibility of impropriety," Brown said.

"Now I'm not suggesting that there is and this will certainly clean up any of those issues," explained Brown.

The campaign contributions ordinance will be up for discussion next Tuesday.

A final vote could come later this month.

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Meanwhile, Fort Wayne City Council approved a major tax break Tuesday night.

The Dana Light Axle Plant on State Boulevard will receive a $3.5 million dollar tax break.

Dana said the expansion project will create 50 full-time jobs.

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Fort Wayne City Council also approved $309,000 to redo the parking lot at Citizens Square.

However, Republican Councilwoman Liz Brown and Republican City Council President Mitch Harper voted against the request.

Both told Indiana's NewsCenter the project should have been paid for with money that was previously set aside for renovations.

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Fort Wayne City Council also gave final approval to a joint City-County Oversight Board.

The Board will oversee a process aimed at making it easier to apply for and be approved for business permits in Fort Wayne and Allen County.




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