Members of Fort Wayne City Council are expressing concern over a meeting between Greater Fort Wayne, Inc. CEO Eric Doden and 2019 mayoral candidate Tim Smith.
The meeting, confirmed by Greater Fort Wayne board chair Andrew Thomas Tuesday night, took place in Indianapolis, where Doden reportedly shared contacts with Smith. Representatives from the Barnes & Thornburg law firm were also reportedly there.
Thomas defended the meeting as an economic development meeting.
“We have been advocates for projects and policy, again and again and again and we have a history to prove that,” Thomas said. “And I think moving forward, that’s what you’ll see.”
But that explanation likely didn’t sit well with Council.
Greater Fort Wayne was formed in the 2013 merger of the Greater Fort Wayne Chamber of Commerce and the Fort Wayne-Allen County Economic Development Alliance.
In 2016, Council questioned the agency over using some of $250,000 in annual public funding for lobbying efforts, withholding half of it until Greater Fort Wayne assured the body they would end the practice. To Council, the meeting looks to break that promise.
Republican councilman at-large John Crawford says optically, the CEO of Greater Fort Wayne taking a mayoral candidate to meet lobbyists with a law firm he notes has given to previous mayoral campaigns is just a bad look.
“It is not perceived as a trip to discuss economic development,” Crawford said. “Or, nobody would have noticed or nobody would have cared.”
Crawford is also running for mayor in 2019.
Council will consider its annual appropriation to the Greater Fort Wayne in the spring.