Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, in the midst of controversy
surrounding the private lease of the Indiana Toll Road, has announced his
appointments to a lease-compliance oversight board.
The appointments, like the toll road lease, have drawn fire
from critics, mainly Democrats who say the oversight board is “too little too
late,” according to the Indianapolis Star. The oversight board was not
part of the legislation that provided for the lease of the toll road, but was
created by Daniels after a group of Indiana residents filed a constitutional
challenge against the deal.
Daniels, according to a press release from his office, has
appointed three cabinet members to the board along with four constituents from
toll-road counties in the northern part of the state.
Daniels used an executive order to create the committee and
appointed his own chief of staff, Earl Goode, as board chairman. He also
appointed Indiana Department of Transportation Commissioner Tom Sharp and
Indiana Finance Authority Chairman Charles Schalliol to the board.
Constituent appointees include Aaron Carlberg, director of
the Indiana-Kentucky Regional Council of Carpenters; Kevin Kelly, president of
Welsh & Kelly Contractors; Leigh Morris, mayor of LaPorte, IN; and Kristin
Sine, principal of Hendry Park Elementary School in Angola, IN.
The board’s duties include ensuring a smooth transition for
toll-road employees during the changeover from state operation to private
management by Cintra-Macquarie, the Spanish-Australian consortium that is
scheduled to sign the lease June 30.
A constitutional challenge of Daniels’ “Major Moves” transportation plan has ascended to the Indiana Supreme Court on an appeal of a
preliminary motion. There could be a ruling by June 30, if the fast-tracked
timeline of the case so far is any indication.
Other duties for the oversight board include providing
advice, counsel and reports to the governor and the Indiana Finance Authority
relating to the “lease, maintenance, financing, planning tolling, construction
and operation of the Indiana Toll Road,” according to the governor’s press
release. The first report would be due Oct. 1.
Members will serve two-year terms and can be replaced by the
The Indianapolis Star reported that Carlberg, Kelly
and their respective unions have supported Daniels’ political campaign funds in
recent years, but added that they have contributed to funds supporting both
Daniels’ critics say the committee and the toll-road lease
go against the constituents.
“The overwhelming majority of Toll Road-area residents were
opposed to this,” Indiana Democratic Party Executive Director Mike Edmondson
told the Indianapolis Star. “The group clearly does not represent the
people of Northern Indiana.”
Lawyers representing the state and the group of residents
challenging “Major Moves,” including OOIDA Member Randy Nace and members of the
Citizens Action Coalition, are scheduled to appear in the Indiana Supreme
Court, Tuesday, June 13, for oral arguments to begin.
Daniels’ “Major Moves” transportation plan includes spending
the money from the $3.85 billion private lease of the Indiana Toll Road on 200
road projects around the state.
The plaintiffs believe the Indiana Constitution requires
that revenue from the lease go strictly toward paying down public debt.
The defense, upheld by a county judge in May, contends that
the lawsuit is “public” and that the Indiana Finance Authority is a “municipal” corporation. The judge ordered the plaintiffs to post a bond of $1.9 billion to
continue the legal challenge.
The point of the plaintiffs’ appeal is to overturn St.
Joseph County Superior Court Judge Michael Scopelitis’ ruling about the IFA
being considered “municipal” and, of course, the bond.
Daniels is preparing to embark on a road campaign on his
motorcycle to inform residents of Indiana cities and counties how the money
from the lease will be spent in their areas.
– By David Tanner, staff writer