ELKHART – Monday, Feb. 10, was a tough day for at least 85 full-time Monaco RV workers who reported for work only to learn they had lost their jobs because the business was being sold.
Property taxpayers could also be hurt by Allied Specialty Vehicles' decision to shut down the plant, which had produced towable recreational vehicles under the R-Vision and Holiday Rambler brands. If Monaco had been operating under a property tax abatement, in which it pledges to create a minimum number of jobs in exchange for property tax relief, the company would have violated the agreement by closing down during its time span. Violating the terms requires the property owner to repay any property taxes discounted by the abatement.
But a policy of Elkhart Mayor Dick Moore prevented The Elkhart Truth from reporting on the abatement Tuesday, Feb.11, so the effect on taxpayers remained unclear.
In other Indiana cities, such as South Bend, economic development officials routinely provide news media information from public records they keep about the abatements, without requiring a formal public records request. This public information includes a Statement of Benefits the property owner receives in exchange for creating a specified number of jobs, and the CF-1 form, a brief report detailing job creation progress that the company must file annually with the city.
The Elkhart Truth began asking the city for information about Monaco's abatement Monday. A reporter was told he needed to file a formal public records request. On Tuesday morning The Elkhart Truth filed the request, but Moore's policy, implemented in the fall of 2013, requires such requests to be reviewed by the city's legal counsel, then receive approval from the mayor's office before it can be released by the city's economic development department.
The city had not completed that review process by the end of the day Tuesday. The Elkhart Truth will continue its efforts to obtain the public information and will report on it, regardless of how long the city takes to disclose it.