Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Local News

February 5, 2013

Juwi sees report denied to public

County attorney: Document created to aid negotiations

— TIPTON — Tipton County officials are withholding a consultant’s report on tax abatements from the public, but not from the developers of the Prairie Breeze Wind Farm.

Included in the report, according to those familiar with it, are detailed financial estimates of what property tax abatements would be worth to juwi Wind Energy, and the property taxes the proposed wind farm project might bring to Tipton County and Tri-Central Community Schools.

John Brooke, the Muncie attorney handling public records requests for the county, denied a request for the report, saying it was produced for the purpose of helping county officials in negotiations.

The report was a public record, Brooke agreed. But he said county officials still retained discretion over whether to release it.

“The report was prepared by a consultant hired by the county for the purpose of deliberations, negotiations, and was shared at an executive session,” Brooke wrote in a Dec. 13 denial of the Kokomo Tribune’s public records request. “[County officials] are not obligated to provide information created during the course of negotiations or which are created by a private contractor which are communicative for the purposes of decision making.”

The Kokomo Tribune asked the Indiana public access counselor for an advisory opinion on Brooke’s denial letter, and in a Jan. 28 response to the Tribune’s query, Brooke told the counselor, Joseph Hoage, the report was “contemplative” and “deliberative” in nature, “as well as part of the entire negotiation process with the wind energy company that was looking to locate some wind energy improvements in Tipton County.”

The reason for asking Carmel-based consultants H.J. Umbaugh for the report, according to Brooke’s letter, was “for the purpose of deciding what, if any, benefits would be received by the Prairie Breeze Wind Farm.”

Brooke also maintained the report wasn’t provided to any other party or entity, other than Tipton County elected officials. A copy of the report was filed with Tipton County Auditor Greg Townsend, who issued the initial denial of the Tribune’s records request.

Based on Brooke’s statement, Hoage sided with Tipton County’s denial.

But in fact, the report already had been shared with juwi Wind Energy officials, before Brooke denied the records request, and while Tipton County officials were ostensibly still in negotiations with juwi.

According to former Tipton County Commissioner Jane Harper, whose term ended Dec. 31, the commissioners received an email from an H.J. Umbaugh employee during the commissioners’ Dec. 3 meeting.

According to the emails, which Harper forwarded to the Tribune, the Umbaugh consultant had been contacted by Mary Solada, an attorney representing juwi, who had asked for a copy of the Umbaugh report.

Harper said she asked fellow commissioners Mike Cline and Phil Heron, during the meeting, if they were OK with Umbaugh sending the report to juwi’s attorney, Solada. Both Cline and Heron agreed to the request, and then Harper emailed back to the Umbaugh consultant that it was OK to send the report.

The Umbaugh employee, Matt Eckerle, confirmed last week that, with the commissioners’ OK, he’d sent the report to Solada.

Matt Heck, project manager with juwi, said Friday the company had looked at the report.

Heck was in charge of producing a 40-page Power Point report juwi presented at the Dec. 18 meeting of the Tipton County Council. At that meeting, the council voted to approve the tax abatements.

“Yeah, we’ve looked at it. I don’t have a great deal of understanding of the ins and outs of it,” Heck said Friday of the Umbaugh report. “We just pulled different numbers from it, and talked about the positives, in terms of economic development.”

Solada referred questions about the document to the county’s attorney, Rick Hall. Hall didn’t return calls seeking comment.

Harper said she wasn’t happy that she wasn’t consulted, as a commissioner, before Brooke issued a denial of the Tribune’s initial Dec. 12 request.

It’s her contention decisions on records are being made by Cline, who hasn’t returned phone calls for weeks.

“I am extremely disturbed that decisions are being made by a ‘select few’ regarding the release of public records, yet it is being reported that such decisions were made by a majority of elected officials,” Harper said. “So much for transparency in government, and within government.”

Hoage said that since the Indiana Court of Appeals issued the 2003 Indianapolis Star v. Indiana University Board of Trustees decision, it has been generally accepted that once a “deliberative” record has been disclosed to an outside party, the agency can’t deny that record to other parties.

“The court of appeals has said that if an agency provides it to one party, from there on down the line, they can’t deny it to another party, based on a deliberative exception,” Hoage said.

Contacted last week, Brooke said his statement that the Umbaugh report hadn’t been supplied to a third party was based on information he’d received.

“That’s what my client has told me,” he said.

He said he didn’t think the fact juwi received the report would change the county’s position on the records request.

Scott Smith can be reached at 765-454-8569 or at scott.smith@kokomotribune.com

To enjoy home delivery

of the Kokomo Tribune


For a Kokomo Tribune

eEdition Subscription


Text Only | Photo Reprints
Local News
  • Indian Heights fire 01 [Duplicate] Fire engulfs Indian Heights home

    Josh Justice left his house and went to get a haircut Tuesday afternoon. When he came back, his house was destroyed. Firefighters said it was likely a propane-tank explosion inside an RV parked beside his house that caused severe fire damage to Justi

    July 22, 2014 2 Photos

  • Apollo 11 program at library Kokomo High School graduates Greg McCauley and Dave Hudson will present a 60-minute, graphic-rich multimedia lecture called Earth to the Moon: Celebrating the 45th Anniversary of Apollo 11 from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday. The lecture will be at the

    July 22, 2014

  • NWS - KT072314 - Kareen Dunn Kareen Dunn sentenced to 18 years for non-fatal shooting A Kokomo man charged in a 2012 shooting on East Mulberry Street pleaded guilty to an aggravated battery charge and was sentenced last week to 18 years. After accepting the guilty plea of Kareen Dunn, Howard Superior Court 4 Judge George Hopkins sente

    July 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Main street group announces meeting TIPTON —- Tipton Main Street Association will meet at 8 a.m. July 24 at the Tipton County Foundation for a presentation on final qualifications needed to become a "main street association." Included are goals and cost estimates for the remainder of 2

    July 22, 2014

  • Howard County rejected for state preschool pilot Howard County is not among the five counties selected for Indiana’s new preschool voucher pilot. Gov. Mike Pence announced Tuesday that Allen, Jackson, Lake, Marion and Vanderburgh counties will roll out the program in 2015. Eighteen counties, includ

    July 22, 2014

  • Police: Peru man punched officer in the face

    PERU — A 51-year-old Peru man was arrested after allegedly flipping off a police officer and punching him in the nose. According to court documents released Tuesday, Peru Officer Matthew Feller was on patrol Friday when he observed Matt Shuey lean out his car

    July 22, 2014

  • Lowe's plans 1,000-worker Indianapolis call center INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Home-improvement retailer Lowe's says it will open a new call center in Indianapolis that could have up to 1,000 employees in the next couple years. The North Carolina-based retailer announced Tuesday that it would spend about $20

    July 22, 2014

  • Indiana governor's residence gets honey bee hive INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana's Governor's Residence is getting a bee hive to call its own. First lady Karen Pence was scheduled to unveil a honey bee hive Tuesday morning at the Governor's Residence on Indianapolis' north side. The hive and its bees w

    July 22, 2014

  • iRead program 03 Indiana improves overall rank on national child well-being report

    More Indiana parents are earning at least a high school diploma and their children are performing better in school too, but the advances in education still are not enough to counteract the lingering effects of the 2007 recession and lift families out

    July 22, 2014 2 Photos

  • NWS - KT072214 - IUK chancellor Sagamore Wabash WEB PIC - MS IUK Chancellor Sciame-Giesecke receives Sagamore of the Wabash Indiana University Kokomo Chancellor Susan Sciame-Giesecke received the state’s highest recognition on Saturday when she was honored with the prestigious Sagamore of the Wabash, presented by State Sen. Jim Buck.The presentation, on behalf of Gov. Mik

    July 22, 2014 1 Photo

Latest news
Featured Ads
Only on our website
AP Video
Judge Ponders Overturning Colo. Gay Marriage Ban Airlines Halt Travel to Israel Amid Violence NYPD Chief Calls for 'use of Force' Retraining VA Nominee McDonald Goes Before Congress Bush: Don't Worry, Sugarland Isn't Breaking Up US Official: Most Migrant Children to Be Removed Police Probing Brooklyn Bridge Flag Switch CDC Head Concerned About a Post-antibiotic Era Raw: First Lady Says `Drink Up' More Water Courts Conflicted Over Healthcare Law Holder Urges Bipartisanship on Immigration Raw: Truck, Train Crash Leads to Fireball US Airlines Cancel Israel Flights Obama Signs Workforce Training Law Crash Victims' Remains Reach Ukraine-held City Diplomatic Push Intensifies to End War in Gaza Cat Fans Lap Up Feline Film Festival Michigan Plant's Goal: Flower and Die Veteran Creates Job During High Unemployment

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.