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The Harrison House


Fort Wayne Reader


Some might accuse them of beating a dead horse, but three Fort Wayne City Councilman say they’re just seeking answers to constituents’ lingering questions about Harrison Square.

1st District Councilman Tom Smith (R), 2nd District Councilman Don Schmidt (R) and At-Large Councilman John Shoaff (D) were in the minority who voted against the $125-million downtown redevelopment project. Now they’ve sent a letter to the Redevelopment Commission, which purchased land for the project, asking for more information about the land buys. In the exhaustive questioning and pontificating that was done prior to voting on the project, council dissenters suggested that the Redevelopment Commission moved hastily and overpaid for some parcels of land, perhaps in violation of state statute.

“We hope the answers we seek will resolve any doubts on these points and will clearly establish that all actions that have been taken fall comfortably within the provisions and intentions of governing statutes,” Shoaff read from a prepared statement.

Despite already having answered some of these very same questions in dizzying detail, despite the fact that council members authorized the purchase of downtown property two years ago, and despite having already refuted false assumptions based on some council members’ misunderstanding of state law, attorneys for both the City and the Redevelopment Commission have promised to comply with the council trio’s request within the next week or so.

The Harrison Square project would be located downtown in the area bounded by Harrison Street, Jefferson Boulevard, Ewing Street and Baker Street. The development would include a new hotel, condos, retail shops, a parking garage and baseball stadium.

Democratic mayoral candidate Tom Henry is looking for a new campaign manager. After about a month on the job, Jason Ascher was asked to leave.

“Tom wants the best team possible... When you find out you don’t have the best fit, you address the situation promptly,” stated a news release issued by the Allen County Democratic Party.

Ascher, who previously managed city council races in New York City, joined Henry’s campaign right before Henry’s cakewalk victory in the May primary. However, Democratic Party Chair Kevin Knuth said Ascher’s style sometimes clashed with others on the campaign.

The search is on for Ascher’s replacement. Henry faces GOP candidate Matt Kelty in November.

In the meantime, both the Henry and Kelty campaigns have been relatively quiet. They’ve made minor campaign appearances here and there, but no major news conferences or news releases, no position statements, nothing big. And the reason behind the wall of silence from both camps might be the same - Kelty’s pending appearance before the Allen County Election Board.

The Election Board is investigating why Kelty claimed in official candidate filings that $158,000 in donations to his campaign were from monies that he personally loaned to his campaign. Under pressure from his own party, Kelty revealed that the funds actually originated from outside sources - $150,000 from Fred Rost and $10,000 from Glenna Jehl (Kelty’s campaign manager) and her husband. It was further revealed that Rost borrowed his $150,000 in order to loan it to Kelty. Since hiring election law expert James Bopp, Jr. to represent him, Kelty has been silent on this issue. So has Henry.

Part of Henry’s apparent reticence to issue major announcements about anything that might make headlines could be an effort to avoid diverting any attention from Kelty’s troubles.

Election board members will hold a public hearing June 19th to determine whether Kelty followed the law or whether the prosecutor should launch a criminal investigation. Knowingly filing a false campaign finance report is a felony punishable by up to three years in prison.

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©2018 Fort Wayne Reader. All rights Reserved.