Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

April 21, 2013

Public Eye - April 21, 2013

Scott Smith and Ken de la Bastide
Tribune staff writers

— The long wait is over

After almost two years, the Tipton County Council has finally approved the minutes from their meeting on May 31, 2011 at Tri-Central High School.

The meeting, which lasted several hours and attracted a large crowd, was when the council voted to approve a 10-year tax abatement requested by E.ON Climate & Renewables for the Wildcat Wind Farm, east of Windfall.

The wind farm began operations in January.

The lack of council minutes has been a point of contention. Current Auditor Greg Townsend has been pressed for months to get the minutes up to date. Mandy Inman was auditor at the time of the May 31, 2011 meeting.

County officials were aided in the completion of the meeting minutes by local resident Bob Edinger, who supplied audio recordings of the meeting.

Council members also approved the minutes from the Dec. 18, 2012 meeting in which the 10-year tax abatement for the proposed Prairie Breeze Wind Farm was approved.

For anyone wondering, minutes of government meetings are public record as soon as they are created. They do not have to be approved at a public meeting to be considered public record. The Indiana Public Access Counselor has dealt with that issue many, many times over the years.

Karickhoff reverses course

Two years after authoring a bill which required universities to verify a person’s citizenship or immigration status before granting in-state tuition, has State Rep. Mike Karickhoff had a change of heart?

Last week Karickhoff voted in favor of SB 207, which essentially nullified much of what he authored two years ago.

The Senate and the House have passed different versions of the bill, which have to be reconciled before it can go to Gov. Mike Pence for a signature into law.

But both chambers voted to make exceptions to the Karickhoff bill’s requirement that an agency or political subdivision verify that an individual applying for state or local public benefits or federal public benefits is a United States citizen or qualified alien.

State Rep. Heath VanNatter, R-Kokomo, and State Sen. Jim Buck, R-Kokomo, were both in the minority voting against SB 207.

Father of the year?

State Rep. Eric Turner, R-Cicero, is under the spotlight after two Associated Press stories linked his legislative efforts to possible conflict of interest issues involving two of his children.

His daughter, Jessica Turner Stults, is a lobbyist working for a company called Insure-Rite, which is trying to win a multi-million dollar contract screening uninsured drivers for the state Bureau of Motor Vehicles.

According to the AP, Eric Turner tried to include legislation paving the way for the contract in a tax bill, which failed. A similar measure, however, was signed into law by Gov. Mike Pence last week.

Rep. Turner’s son Zeke is at the center of another potential conflict, after Zeke Turner’s Mainstreet Property Group was set to receive $345,000 in state aid. Last week, Pence put that money on hold pending a review.

Eric Turner has denied wrongdoing in both cases, saying he did not hold a direct financial stake in either company.

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