A much-ballyhooed attorney general opinion that controversial Monroe Mayor Jamie Mayo claims authority for the secretive Interstate 20 Economic Development District Corporation to give tax money to Gardner Denver Thomas appears to do no such thing, according to documents obtained by Lincoln Parish News Online (LPNO).
In a 1/16/2009 letter to Louisiana Attorney General James “Buddy” Caldwell, Mayo cited a potential project located within the Monroe Regional Airport property.
The City is currently considering an economic development project in the undeveloped southeast quadrant of the Airport which will be located approximately 500 feet from the existing northern boundary of the Area. This project (“Project”) will consist of the construction of public improvements, including but not limited to buildings, structures, and other improvements, together with supporting works, utilities, and fixtures as permitted under Section 9035(5) of the Act.
See here the letter.
The Gardner Denver Thomas building, located at 4601 Central Avenue is clearly more than 500 feet from the I-20 District, the northern border of which is Millhaven Road. As the crow flies, the location is nearly a mile distant.
See here a map of the district.
Nothing in the request says anything about Gardner Denver Thomas, or any construction related to that business.
The opinion, authored by Assistant Attorney General Michael Vallans, uses the 500′ distance as cited by Mayo. Nor is there mention of Gardner Denver Thomas anywhere in the opinion.
Thus, it appears that the plain language of La. Rev. Stat. 33:9035 specifically allows the costs of construction “within or about” an economic development area to be included in the total costs of an economic development project. You have indicated that the proposed Projects will be constructed in close proximity to (approximately 500 feet of) the northern boundary of the Area and will directly benefit the citizens and businesses located within the Area through increased employment, increased spending and increase utilization.
See here the entire AG opinion.
In an email exchange in late 2012, City Attorney Nanci Summersgill inquired of Vallan about using I-20 money on construction of the airport terminal.
As discussed, the facts and the question presented in the most recent opinion request appear to be identical to the facts and question presented in the opinion request that gave rise to Opinion No. 09-0024. As such, our response would likely be the same in that costs related to construction within or about the designated geographical area may be included in determining the costs of an economic development project. Of course, this isn’t an official opinion and are only my thoughts on the matter.
Again, no where in the email exchange is reference made to Gardner Denver Thomas or any such related project.
See here the email.
Ever since this controversy first came up, the Monroe area “news media” has without question repeated Mayo’s assertion that this AG opinion is sufficient authority to do what he has proposed. We believe that anyone who reads what is written in the documents and applies normal logic would agree that they imply no such thing.
The Clown Circus at The (Monroe) News Star had a conniption fit, declaring that three city council members should be run out of office for daring to question what appears to be a highly suspect financial deal. Of course that newspaper has no curiosity whatsoever about a secret organization (the I-20 board) that controls millions in taxpayer dollars, but is free from public oversight.
So why didn’t the “real” media make an effort to dig up the documents? It took us about 15 minutes and three phone calls. It was the first thing we learned when we started our newsblog five years ago – never, ever believe without question what a politician tells you, especially when that politician’s reputation is suspect.
Whatever a politician says is of little consequence, but what is in the accompanying documents is all that matters. After all, if it isn’t in writing, it didn’t happen.