T.H. Re-Development claims City misused funds; Mayor says “That’s false!”

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTHI) The head of Terre Haute’s Re-Development department accused the city administration of misuse of funds. This comes on the heels of a new state law that puts the city controller in charge of redevelopment’s finances. He goes as far as to say the administration has committed a felony.

At the center of this controversy is a new Indiana law; with Terre Haute re-development’s monies combining with other city accounts.

Cliff Lambert the director of redevelopment alleges the city is using their TIF dollars to pay city bills. Mayor Duke Bennett says that’s false.

“The state law absolutely prohibits use of TIF funds to pay for anything other than TIF capital projects,” Lambert said Wednesday. “It is a code 5 violation, Indiana code, a felony 5 violation.”

Terre Haute Re-Development meetings normally might not carry such heavy language, but since last month, that’s changed. The director claims the city administration is to blame.

“In this case on May 15th they had to make payroll somehow so they took $600,000 out of one of the TIF construction accounts to meet their shortfall on payroll,” Lambert said.

The mayor is out of town, but we reached him by phone to get his response.

“That’s simply not true,” Mayor Duke Bennett said. “Before we took over these funds we checked with the state board of accounts about pooling cash, like we pool cash for everything else.

“As we take money and we move money from the re-development funds, like we do any other funds, we move them through cash account and then we place them in other accounts.

“So every cent of money that belongs to re-development is still available to them.”

During the meeting the commission claimed they no longer have a gauge on their funds.

“We have committed to the Meijers folks that we’ll have 1,033 foot road way that beginning of that New Margaret East Phase One that we talked about, going all the way to Hulman road,” Lambert said.

“We’ve committed to having that roadway built by November 30th. We’ve got the bid documents ready to go. We are ready to advertise and send those bids out the first of July. If we don’t have the money we can’t do that.”

The mayor countered with:

“Everything can be moved forward. Every single thing that they’ve got on their agenda, if they submit a voucher for payment, it will be paid.”

The Re-Development Commission voted on a resolution to request bank statements directly from the banks to view their accounts.

The mayor told us, the state board of accounts has gone over all the city’s records on this issue and found them in compliance.

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