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Our view: Scrutiny needed for Gary EDC

THE FIRST AMENDMENT

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Updated: February 12, 2013 6:10AM



Leaders of Gary’s Economic Development Corp. are proving adept at creating economic opportunities ... for themselves.

Last month, the quasi-government agency refused to share details about its proposed 2013 budget that contained requests for generous raises for a handful of EDC employees.

The administrative assistant’s salary would increase from $4,845 to $25,000 and the assistant director’s salary would jump from $37,000 to $50,000. J. Forest Hayes, Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson’s pick to head up the new Commerce Department, is slated to receive $15,000 from the EDC, in addition to his $90,000 city salary.

Hayes said in October after businessman Tom Collins II resigned as the EDC’s director after just 10 months, that he would not receive a salary or compensation. Collins was set to receive $1 a year.

Michael Tolbert, the attorney for the EDC, said the private, nonprofit agency, doesn’t have to share its financial information with the public due to the sensitive nature involved in wooing businesses to the city. Refusing to release budget information is poor public policy and should cause concern.

The stench from a past agency, the Gary Urban Enterprise Association, still lingers after its leaders were convicted of fraud in connection with long-running schemes to tap into GUEA’s pot of money. GUEA wasn’t transparent, either.

Gary’s EDC meets at City Hall where its paid staffers work. It has a duty to share its financial information with the public, not hide it.



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