GFW chief’s meeting gives council pause

October 10, 2018

Several Fort Wayne City Council members expressed concern Tuesday with the optics of a recent meeting between Greater Fort Wayne Inc. CEO Eric Doden and 2019 mayoral candidate Tim Smith. 

The meeting in question involved a trip to Indianapolis with representatives of the Barnes and Thornburg law firm. Andrew Thomas, Greater Fort Wayne’s board chair, confirmed the Indianapolis meeting during Tuesday’s council session and that Doden had shared contacts and introductions with Smith. 

Greater Fort Wayne’s involvement in politics has been a source of contention between the economic development agency and the City Council, who in 2016 withheld half of Greater Fort Wayne’s yearly $250,000 appropriation until organization officials made a commitment to not use public money for lobbying activities. Some council members have also in the past taken exception to what they called aggressive and intimidating lobbying tactics by the agency’s CEO. 

“When the CEO of Greater Fort Wayne takes someone planning to run for mayor to Indianapolis to meet with a registered lobbyist and a managing partner of a large legal firm that does city work and has been a campaign contributor to mayoral campaigns here in Fort Wayne before, it is not perceived as a trip to discuss economic development or no one would have noticed and no one would have cared,” said Councilman John Crawford, R-at large

Crawford is running against Smith for the Republican mayoral nomination next year.

Greater Fort Wayne was created with the 2013 merger of the Greater Fort Wayne Chamber of Commerce and the Fort Wayne-Allen County Economic Development Alliance.

“I asked (Doden) if those were fundraising events. I asked him if he’s been doing it ongoing and those answers were no,” Thomas said, answering questions from the council. “I think Eric’s been forthright. I think he’s even said this in the media as well.” 

Thomas, honoring a commitment made two years ago, said Greater Fort Wayne would not try to intimidate the council on issues the two groups appear to disagree on.

The council will consider its annual $250,000 appropriation for Greater Fort Wayne next spring.


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