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Letter To The Editor - Sewer Project

 

John Gastineau

Ft. Wayne, IN

 

To the Editor:

     I am the attorney for the LaGrange County Regional Utility District. However, I write as an individual and not in my role as the District’s attorney. Neither the District Board of Trustees or the District staff asked me or paid me to write this letter, nor did anyone associated with the District tell me what to say.

     I write because Robert Fiedler’s letter to the editor of the LaGrange Standard, published on May 7, 2012, simply should not go unanswered. In his letter, Mr. Fiedler insinuated that the District had committed a criminally fraudulent act by sending property owners in the Shipshewana Lake service area a bill before the construction project in that area had been completed and sewage collection service had begun. He asked someone to “clarify exactly where the point is.” If Mr. Fiedler is actually looking for an explanation, rather than an opportunity for demagoguery, here it is:

     Ind. Code 13-26-11-5, a statute enacted by the General Assembly, authorizes a regional sewer district to “bill and collect for the services to be provided after the contract for construction of a sewage works has been let and actual work commenced in an amount sufficient to meet the interest on the revenue bonds and other expenses payable before the completion of the work.” In other words, Indiana law says that the District may charge property owners in the Shipshewana Lake service area an amount sufficient to pay the interest charges that will accrue on the loan for the project as well as the administrative costs that will occur while the project is under construction. The amount of the bill that Shipshewana Lake service area property owners recently received was the amount that the District’s financial consultant had computed was sufficient to pay those interest and administrative costs.

     Indiana common law generally holds that two of the three elements of fraud are: 1) a material misrepresentation of a past or existing fact; 2) made with knowledge of or reckless ignorance of the falsity of the representation. The District’s bills were authorized by state statute and implemented for lawful purposes. To insinuate that they are otherwise by drawing some reed-thin connection to alleged abuses in the federal Medicare program, as Mr. Fiedler did, seems to misrepresent facts with at least reckless ignorance of whether the innuendo is false. The question then is: Which act comes closer to being fraudulent, the District’s bill or Mr. Fiedler’s letter?