A new ordinance, written by Mayor Dan Ridenour and introduced by the Muncie City Council Jan. 6, aims to expand the Sanitary District Board of Commissioners from three to five members.
The City of Muncie’s Public Access Communications Director Jase Crehan said on behalf of Ridenour the overall goal of this ordinance is to increase the oversight over the Muncie Sanitary District.
“[Ridenour] wants more eyes on the operation,” Crehan said.
Ordinance 4-20 aims to prevent illicit activities in light of the previous members’ indictment of fraud, the mayor told the council.
As part of a multi-year, ongoing investigation by the U.S. Attorney's Office and the FBI into illegal payments associated with public works projects in Muncie, seven individuals have been arrested — two from Muncie Sanitary District.
In July 2019, the former district administrator for the Muncie Sanitary District Debra Grigsby and a local contractor were arrested by the FBI and indicted on charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, making false statements and falsification of documents.
Tracy Barton, former superintendent of sewer maintenance, was arrested in September 2018 on charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and falsification of documents in a federal investigation and witness tampering.
Since 2017, the city’s former building commissioner, a local businessman, another local contractor and former mayor of Muncie Dennis Tyler were also arrested as part of the federal investigation.
“I think we need to cleanse this department,” Ridenour said to the council.
Raising the number of people on the sanitary district’s board, he said, would help have “more eyes and more controls in place” at the sanitary district meetings.
Managed under the provisions of Indiana Code 36-9-25, the district is governed by a three-person Board of Sanitary Commissioners, who act as its executive and fiscal bodies, the sanitary district’s website states.
It states each member of the board is appointed for a term of four years by the mayor.
IC 36-9-25 states the board should consist of three to five commissioners. No more than two commissioners can be from the same political party unless the board has five members, in which case no more than three commissioners can be from the same party.
“There are many, many problems that have to be addressed in the sanitary district,” Ridenour said. “This is just going to be the very first step that this council is going to be asked to do to cleanse that department and put light on the situation going forward.”
The ordinance will be voted on at the next City Council meeting Feb. 3.
The Muncie Sanitary District’s Board of Commissioners were not available for comment.
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