This evening the Newton Citizen has released the following article. Obviously, the JDA either discussed these issues in executive session or came out of executive session and voted on this demand at their meeting last night.
Joint Development Authority demands retraction of Watchdog blog
—January 27, 2016—6:00PM
COVINGTON — Members of the Joint Development Authority of Jasper, Morgan, Newton and Walton Counties on Wednesday sent a signal that false information about the authority and its operation will not go unchallenged.
Authority members on Tuesday night signed a letter of demand for retraction and correction to Mary Patrick, a self-described taxpayer watchdog in Jasper County, in connection with a blog that Patrick posted online on Jan. 19. (taxdogs.wordpress.com)
In the letter to Patrick signed by all eight of the authority members, the authority demands that Patrick “immediately retract and correct the false statements made in the Jan. 19, 2016 article … and publish the corrections on the Taxpayer’s Watchdog Group’s blog and Facebook page and in any other written or electronic media outlet… ” The authority also demands that a copy of its letter accompany Patrick’s publication of correction and retraction.
In her blog post, titled “Nine men lied and deceived the four counties of Jasper, Newton, Morgan and Walton,” Patrick claimed that the JDA purposely withheld information that $1 billion in bonds would be issued for the construction of Baxalta and that the bonds could become an obligation for the four counties to repay.
In response, the JDA wrote Wednesday that “the authority has acted with integrity and transparency throughout its endeavors to fulfill its purpose of bringing quality jobs and tax revenues to the four counties. False allegations to the contrary not only harm the reputation of the authority members and the four counties, but they also harm the economic development opportunities in the region. The authority will not stand silent in the face of malicious, false statements accusing it of dishonesty.”
The letter goes on to explain that the JDA issued $1.1 billion in Industrial Development Revenue Bonds to support construction of Baxalta’s biomedical facility in Stanton Springs. “There is nothing unusual, secretive, dishonest or illegal about the authority’s issuance of Industrial Development Revenue Bonds in connection with Baxter (now Baxalta),” the authority wrote.
The Authority’s letter also refutes Patrick’s claim that the four counties might one day be responsible for repaying the bonds.
“The authority, Jasper County, Morgan County, Newton County and Walton County have no liability for the payment of the Industrial Development Revenue Bonds issued by the authority in connection with Baxter,” the authority members wrote. “In accordance with state law, the bonds do not constitute a general debt or obligation on the counties, are not supported by a pledge of the counties’ full faith and credit and may only be paid by lease payments received from Baxter (now Baxalta).”
The authority maintains that the bonds were discussed in numerous public meetings that were attended by local officials and members of the public, and that accounts of those meetings were published in newspapers in the four-county area.
Patrick, who was a member of the Jasper County Board of Commissioners in 2012 when the bonds were issued and the meetings held, said Wednesday afternoon she had not had time to read the letter from the JDA.
“I will address it after I read it,” she said. “I’m not going to put something up (online) that I don’t believe is true just to make them feel better about themselves.”
Regardless of what the JDA wrote, Patrick said she still believes that JDA members avoided telling the public that $1 billion in bonds would be issued. In a May 2, 2012 meeting at Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center to go over the deal with Baxalta, Patrick said officials from the four counties were misled about the bonds.
“I was a commissioner; I went to the Charlie Elliott meeting,” Patrick said. “I know what I heard at that meeting, and it was nothing about a lease and $1 billion in bonds.”