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Lawsuit Alleges Terre Haute Officials Involved In Pay-For-Play

A federal lawsuit filed by the company previously involved in a Terre Haute sludge-to-diesel project alleges Terre Haute city officials participated in a "pay-for-play" arrangement through secret meetings involving parties in the original project.

The lawsuit, filed by New Jersey-based Overseas Lease Group, claims that during an October 2014 meeting between Overseas Lease Group President George Badcock, Terre Haute's Wastewater Utility Superintendent Mark Thompson and Plocher Construction Co. President Scott Plocher, Thompson asked Badcock for cash payment in exchange for awarding contracts.

Last year, a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit that alleged the city of Terre Haute defaulted on the contract agreements.

Eddie Felling is the city attorney for Terre Haute and says the allegations lack specificity and are outrageous.

"On its face is that the complaint that's filed doesn't allege any factual basis whatsoever to back up any of these allegations that are set forth in that complaint," Felling says.

"The complaint that's filed doesn't allege any factual basis whatsoever to back up any of these allegations that are set forth."

New York Attorney Paul Batista is representing Overseas Lease Group in the suit.

"Mr. Thompson asked Mr. Badcock whether OLG was prepared to continue, quote, 'playing the game,'" Batistia says. "To Mr. Badcock that meant, and this is what Mr. Thompson intended, was whether OLG, in order to do business with the city of Terre Haute, was prepared to make cash payments to Mr. Thompson."

The lawsuit also alleges that Plocher Construction had made significant campaign contributions to Terre Haute Mayor Duke Bennett.

According to Batista, Overseas Lease Group was frozen out of the contract with Terre Haute and never paid the amount Terre Haute committed to them as a result of secret meetings between Mr. Plocher and Terre Haute city officials, including Mayor Bennett and Mr. Thompson.

"The benefits of these city contracts that OLG had all ended up miraculously in the pockets of Plocher Construction Co. and Mr. Plocher," says Batista. "We ended up with nothing and our position is that Plocher interfered with OLG's contracts with the city of Terre Haute."

The Terre Haute Tribune-Star reports Mayor Bennett said there were no such meetings.

While Plocher Construction Co. and Scott Plocher are listed as the only defendants in the lawsuit filed on July 5, federal rules allow for an amendment of the lawsuit to include additional defendants. Batista says their intention is to add Mayor Bennett, Mr. Thompson, Terre Haute, and several Terre Haute agencies to the suit.

"We'll take that as it comes, if he believes that that's going to be a proper course of action for him and his client he's obviously free to do that and we will respond in kind," Felling says.

The filing of the most recent lawsuit comes two weeks after the FBI served a search warrant at the Terre Haute Wastewaster Treatment Administration Building, which Felling says is coincidental.

"I can see no correlation whatsoever between what's in that civil complaint again over New Jersey and what the FBI would be likely pursuing here locally," Felling says.

Read the complete complaint below.


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