Terre Haute Mayor Duke Bennett is disputing claims that his office is using the tax increment financing or TIF money to make up for a payroll shortfall.
Department of Redevelopment Director Cliff Lambert made the allegation at a meeting Wednesday night, but Bennett says it’s not accurate.
“We were taking over the control of their accounts,” Bennett says. “They were shifting those duties from their staff person to our staff person in the controller’s office.”
Bennett says his office is complying with a new state law, which takes effect July 1 and puts city controllers in charge of redevelopment funding.
State Senator Pete Miller, R-Avon, is the author of that law. He says the intent of the legislation is to reign in redevelopment departments and add accountability.
“We appreciate the work of redevelopment commissions but at the end of the day they’re still appointed officials and we’re dealing with millions of dollars of tax payer money,” Miller says. “We want to have someone that the tax payer has elected to make the call at key points in the process.”
But Terre Haute is one of 21 second class cities in Indiana where the city controller is appointed by the mayor, not publicly elected.
Bennett says Wednesday night’s meeting was the first he heard of the charges. He says he heard no previous complaints since he sent an email to his department heads on April 21 regarding the consolidation of city bank accounts.
While the mayor would not deny that the funds were moved to make up a payroll shortfall, he says at the end of the day the TIF money will always be used for the redevelopment projects it is intended for.