News and Tribune

Floyd County

September 1, 2013

New Albany: A highly ethical city?

Ethics, human rights commissions still haven’t heard a case



As for the Ethics Commission — which differs from the human rights commission because it only considers cases regarding public officials — the timing of the formation of the body appears to be keeping it from hearing one complaint that has been made public.

Local businessman and resident Randy Smith filed a complaint with the ethics commission against David Duggins, director of economic development and redevelopment for the city, over the firing of former New Albany Urban Enterprise Executive Director Mike Ladd.

Smith alleged that several actions made by Duggins during the process were unethical including accusing Ladd of paying claims without board approval.

However, since the alleged actions took place in March of 2012, about five months before the body was established, the ethics commission is likely not to review the case.

In March, commission member and local attorney Claire Hagedorn said the body still needed to set its operating procedures, but that as she understood it, they would not be reviewing situations that occurred prior to the board’s establishment.

Mayor Jeff Gahan has stated he would favor the commission hearing the case because he believes Duggins did nothing wrong.

Earlier this week, Duggins maintained he acted appropriately while overseeing the elimination of the executive director’s position for the UEZ.

“I know and feel very strongly that nothing unethical has been done in the termination case of” Ladd, he said, as Duggins added he would “happy to discuss” the matter with the ethics commission.

Smith — who worked on the campaign for former Councilman Jack Messer when he ran against Gahan for mayor in 2011 — said he hasn’t received a response from the ethics commission about his complaint, but is still interested in seeing the case reviewed by the board.

The longer it takes to get a response, the worse it looks for the administration and the ethics commission, Smith said when contacted by the News and Tribune.

Messages left for Hagedorn this week hadn’t been returned as of press time.

The ethics commission was the idea of Councilman John Gonder. He said on Friday the commission has formed a rough draft of its operating procedures, and the council could act soon to approve or revise those bylaws.

“We’re not trying to expedite any cases but want to make sure something is passed so [the commission] isn’t just languishing there,” Gonder said.

There are still other matters pending regarding Ladd’s termination.

The Indiana Department of Labor had been investigating a claim that Ladd was owed $1,875 in pay at the time he was fired, and never received payment.

According to documents obtained by the News and Tribune, the state was unable to determine whether the wages claimed were actually owed because the UEZ never responded to their inquiries.

Ladd declined to comment on the matter at the advice of his attorney as both sides concede there are pending legal issues revolving around the termination.

Duggins said the UEZ attempted to mail two checks to cover the $1,875 for two weeks of pay they believe he was due, but they were returned and not cashed.

“We do feel like he was entitled to the remaining two weeks of his contract,” Duggins said.

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