News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Local & Bistate

June 19, 2014

Redevelopment Commission not able to see accounts

Only ‘signature card’ holders can access city bank accounts

TERRE HAUTE — At present, no one from the Terre Haute Department of Redevelopment is authorized to have access to Redevelopment bank accounts at three local banks, city officials said Thursday.

Leslie Ellis, city controller, told the Tribune-Star Thursday hers in the only name on Redevelopment accounts at Terre Haute Savings Bank and no one from Redevelopment is authorized for the accounts at Old National or First Financial banks.

The question of who might have access to the accounts arose Wednesday when the city’s Redevelopment Commission, an appointed body, passed a resolution asking local banks to provide “read only” access to the accounts. Cliff Lambert, executive director of the Redevelopment Department, said the resolution was needed because the city controller’s office was not providing timely or complete information to commissioners about the bank accounts.

Local bank officials, contacted Thursday, said federal regulations and bank policies limit account access to authorized account owners or those with names on signature cards. In the case of the City of Terre Haute accounts, only someone with a name on a signature card could have access to any account information, they said.

One member of the five-person Redevelopment Commission, Brian Dyer, is a senior vice president and trust officer with Terre Haute Savings Bank. He said he supported the resolution to promote “transparency.” Despite his employment with one of the banks, Dyer said he didn’t consider abstaining from a vote at the time it was taken.

“Transparency seemed to be the critical matter,” he said.

The resolution passed 4-0. Only three “yes” votes were needed for it to pass. One commission member, Jim Nichols, a vice president at First Financial Bank, was absent.

The other voting members of the commission are David Heath, an educator, Brian Conley, an appraiser, and Troy Helman a real estate professional. The commission’s non-voting member is Paul Lockhart, also a real estate professional and president of the Vigo County School Board.

If legally possible, when the Redevelopment Commission opens a bank account in the future, other names, in addition to the controller’s, will appear on the signature cards, Lambert said Wednesday. Despite the inability of the banks to grant the commission’s wish, Lambert said Wednesday he hopes the measure proves to be more than symbolic.

Of the voting members on the commission, three are appointed by the mayor and two by the Terre Haute City Council. The commissioners direct the city’s tax increment finance (TIF) districts and use federal dollars to provide low-to-moderate income housing and also infrastructure improvements in low-to-moderate income neighborhoods.

Going back to at least the 1990s, the Terre Haute city controller has also been the de facto “treasurer” of Redevelopment bank accounts and the only person with bank authorization to access the accounts, Lambert said Thursday.

Reporter Arthur Foulkes can be reached at 812-231-4232 or arthur.foulkes@tribstar.com.

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