Lawrenceburg repeals $600,000 grant
By John Estridge, Editor
Citing misinformation and omissions from State Rep. Jud McMillin, the Lawrenceburg City Council repealed the $600,000 grant for Destination Brookville LLC.
It is the first time in the history of the grant program, Lawrence-burg City Council (LCC) has taken such action.
During the Feb. 4 LCC meeting, city councilman Mike Lawrence said McMillin did not publicly state McMillin's father, Lowell "Teen" McMillin, is the registered agent for Destination Brookville LLC. Jud's mother, Sharon McMillin, is a partner in the business as well as Jud's business partner, Allen Beneker, and the wife of Jud's dad's best friend. Jenny Wilz.
According to Lawrence, minutes from the public meeting state Jud told those on the committee, Jud would not vote because some friends were involved in the venture.
However, Jud's contact with Destination Brookville LLC is more than just family and friends.
According to a Statement of Economic Interest, a document state legislators must file with the Secretary of State's Office detailing business partnerships, Jud lists Destination Brookville LLC and Turning Point Fitness as businesses where he has economic interests.
Under No. 3 on the form with the instructions "List the name of every partnership and limited liability company of which you or your spouse are a member and the nature of the business," Jud lists four. They are: Mullin, McMillin and McMillin, a law firm; McMillin Properties LLC, investment properties; Turning Point Fitness LLC, fitness center; and Destination Brookville LLC, investment properties.
The document was signed by Jud on Jan. 7 and is for the year 2012.
Under all four, Jud has checked the box for "your business."
The same businesses are listed on the form filed with the Secretary of State on Jan. 4, 2012, for the year 2011.
In an interview with Mary Mattingly, news director for WRBI radio, concerning the Destination Brookville LLC grant, Jud was quoted as saying he had divested himself of his business ventures when he was first elected as a state representative in 2010.
"In order to move economic development forward in Brookville, I would be in a better position to handle it by wearing my state representative hat to helping in those regards, then as a business owner," Jud said. "I forfeited all interest I had in Destination Brookville, Turning Point and those buildings."
According to the grant application, which lists Jud as a government official who will be responsible for the grant, the grant was planned for several uses.
This included three main points.
First, it wanted to create a lodging facility in the former Case House in Brookville as well as an adjacent building. It also planned to rehabilitate apartments in Brookville for short-stay facilities.
Second, there was a plan to rehabilitate the Brookville Theater into a multiplex.
And third was the establishment of a destination restaurant in the Turning Point Gym building.
Lawrence, during his address to the LCC, said he was alerted to the situation by an article in The Dearborn County Register. After reading the article, he researched the grant on his own.
He told council when he voted for the grant, he did not know it was going to be used for a restaurant. Lawrence said the LCC has a standing policy of not giving grants to restaurants.
He also said that part of the grant was going to be used to renovate an older building in Brookville. Lawrence said that is something Brookville Redevelopment Commission should fund.
A grant committee reads grant applications and hears representatives from the companies involved talk about the needs for the proposed grants.
The grant committee then makes a recommendation to the LCC, which then formally votes on the grant.
Because of the way this grant was handled, Lawrence asked for a policy change.
He now wants the grant application to be attached to the committee's recommendation.
According to Lawrence, he and others wanted to use money for the grant program to give the Lawrenceburg citizens property tax relief. However, Jud told LCC members if that happened, there was a good chance the state would take the money away from Lawrenceburg. Also, the grant program was the subject of a federal subpoena. For a few weeks, the LCC suspended the grant program.
Jud went to an LCC meeting and spoke against the program's suspension.
Lawrence said Jud had a conflict of interest when he made those comments.
"When we discussed giving property tax relief to our citizens, Aaron (LCC member Aaron Cook) stated he talked to our state representative," Lawrence said. "He (Jud told Cook) stated that is not what we should be doing with our money. The state is going to look down on it and come down here and take our money.
"Then, when the federal subpoena (council decided) let's put the brakes on and make sure everything is legal before we move forward, he came to this podium and gave us a guilt trip," he continued. "It's OK to give his mom $600,000 of these (Lawrenceburg residents) people's money, but we can't give these people property tax relief."
Lawrence was told Lawrenceburg Redevelopment Director Grant Hughes had reservations about the grant.
The vote to repeal the grant was 3-2 and was done in a roll call vote.
The entire LCC Feb. 4 meeting can be viewed on video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FLopE2ylvY8&feature=youtu.be. The pertinent part of the meeting is at the two hour, three minute mark in the meeting.