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October 12, 2012

Clark County sells property without public vote

Commissioner Meyer’s daughter buys house, two other properties for $4,500

(Continued)

JEFFERSONVILLE — MEYER’S REACTION

Meyer said he “didn’t pay much attention to it” when the bids for the properties were unsealed, even though the address listed on the bids submitted by BMW LLC gave the residential address of his daughter.

“I didn’t look at [the bids],” Meyer said. “All that was handled by Applegate and them, Fifer.”

Meyer was present at the meeting in which the bids were received and made the motion to accept them, according to the minutes of the March 15 meeting. When asked what he knew about his daughter’s purchase of the two properties the commissioners approved, Meyer said, “Nothing more than she bid on them, I guess, and got them.”

Meyer referred questions about how the property at 916 Walnut St. in Jeffersonville was sold to his daughter to Fifer.

“You’d have to ask Greg Fifer that,” Meyer responded when asked why he hadn’t filed disclosure of the sale — as a legal contract — as required by an Indiana law which took effect July 1.

FIFER’S EXPLANATION

Fifer said he did not see a problem with the properties bid on in the commissioners’ sale being deeded to Wardlaw, despite that they were bid on by a company that does not exist.

“They could have formed an LLC and made that a non-issue, but I couldn’t do a deed to a nonexistent entity,” Fifer said. “That would have created additional problems. So in essence, I’m not sure we did formal documentation of that, but in essence — the principal of the nonexistent BMW LLC assigned that to herself, individually. I don’t think that’s problematic.”

A representative for the Indiana State Board of Accounts declined to address whether or not such a transaction was valid because it is a legal question.

As for the property at 916 Walnut St. being conveyed without a vote at a public meeting, Fifer said he discussed selling the property with the commissioners, and provided an email in which he reached out to Jeffersonville Board of Public Works attorney Les Merkley and offered to sell it to the city, which Fifer said had a sizable sewer lien on the property. Fifer said Merkley never responded to the email.

“I reported that to the commissioners. I’m almost certain I did not do this at a public meeting,” Fifer said. “But I reported that to them, and said that I didn’t think it was worth anything and we had received no offers, and the city hadn’t responded. I guess Ed must have then gone and looked at it or had his daughter go look at it and said, ‘We might have some interest in it.’ I said, ‘Then send me your best offer for it,’ which was $500, which was better than zero, and it kept the county from having to take on ownership of what I think would have been a burden of expense that we didn’t need. So they sent the offer in, and I’m sure I probably didn’t take it back.

“Probably in hindsight, maybe I should have done that, take it to a public meeting and vote on that.”

Fifer maintains that the sale of the property was the right thing to do for Clark County.

“We certainly attempted to put it through the disposal process, and everybody would have been tickled if it would have gone for more,” Fifer said. “I still think — I don’t care, take Ed’s daughter out of it — anybody that would have been willing to take that property for $500 and have the county not be responsible for it, in my opinion, with the financial state that the county’s in, the county’s better off than if the city had taken it for nothing.”

Fifer went on to acknowledge that there may have been a mistake made in the advertising of the properties up for bid. The public hearing for the acceptance of the bids was advertised once. Per Indiana Code 5-3-1-2, public hearings where bids are accepted and approved must be advertised twice, at least seven days apart and at least seven days before the hearings.

“I’m not perfect. Maybe I made a mistake. I don’t know,” Fifer said.

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