News and Tribune

Floyd County

July 13, 2014

Former UEZ director claims New Albany administration tainted his reputation

Mike Ladd harbors discontent over Urban Enterprise Zone issue

NEW ALBANY — The lawsuit brought by former New Albany Urban Enterprise Zone Executive Director Mike Ladd has been settled, but he still harbors discontent over how the matter was handled.

Ladd settled with the zone for an undisclosed sum June 16 in an agreement reached through a court appointed mediator. In January, Ladd filed a lawsuit asking for the pay out of the remainder of his contract, which his attorney said was $11,370.

Ladd was fired by the UEZ board at the request of the administration in March 2012. It’s not uncommon for city officials to be dismissed; however, Ladd took exception to a statement made by David Duggins, director of economic development and redevelopment for the city.

Acting as a UEZ member, it was Duggins who brought the request to the board for Ladd to be fired. Among his reasons, Duggins said Ladd had paid claims without the approval of the board.

During a later meeting, Duggins said nothing appeared to be amiss with the UEZ’s expenses; however, Ladd said he felt accused of a wrongdoing unnecessarily.

A full-time replacement for Ladd was never hired, as administration officials have taken on the main responsibilities for running the organization along with the UEZ board.

A petition was filed by local businessman Randy Smith to have the New Albany Ethics Commission review the matter, and specifically Duggins’ actions. Duggins and Mayor Jeff Gahan said they welcomed the review, but the ethics commission declined to hear the complaint because the actions took place before it was formed.

The contract issue specifically lingered for more than two years because the administration was unwilling to fulfill its obligation, Ladd told the News and Tribune last week. City leaders also tainted his name and hurt his ability to garner gainful employment because of the public statements made about him, Ladd continued.

“This was an effort by allegedly honorable people to solve a problem that should have never come up, and it’s always been their side that hasn’t shown up,” Ladd said.

Considering the lawsuit was filed in January, a resolution for the case in July was actually expedient, said Shane Gibson, an attorney with the city’s legal department.

“The process is the process,” he said. “When you go to court and sue the city or anybody, it’s going to take time.”

Gibson acknowledged the settlement amount likely wasn’t everything Ladd wanted, but he added the city and UEZ didn’t want to be involved in a court case over personnel decisions either.

Ladd’s attorney, Jack Vissing, asked the city to settle the matter out of court at the onset of the case.

“This is one of those lawsuits that never should have been filed because it never should have occurred,” he said Friday. “I respect [Ladd], and I respect the city of New Albany. I’m sorry this was an issue that got lost.”

There appears to be a pattern with how the administration deals with organizations and individuals that it doesn’t agree with, Ladd said. He mentioned the city’s multiple disputes with Floyd County, the administration’s disagreements with Keep New Albany Clean and Green and the legal actions between the police union and city over contracts. Ladd said he thought he was in good standing with Gahan and his administration when he took office in 2012.

Duggins, when reached by phone, declined to comment on the issue.

Ladd provided copies of background checks filed on him by potential employers that showed the city was limited in its cooperation about confirming his employment dates after he was fired.

“I don’t know why suddenly this is all so personal,” Ladd said.

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