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I-69 passes MPO vote, faces conflict of interest challenge




By a narrow 7-6 vote, the policy committee of the Bloomington/Monroe County Metropolitan Planning Organization agreed to include construction of Interstate 69 to Indiana 37 in their Transportation Improvement Program.

The decision, which came after hours of debate Friday, will allow the Indiana Department of Transportation to use federal funds for the interstate’s construction within the MPO’s jurisdiction.

But if one member of the MPO Citizens Advisory Committee succeeds, this decision could be reversed.

Controversy has surrounded the interstate in Monroe County for decades. The MPO delayed its final vote on whether or not to include construction in their TIP for several months.

Now that a final decision has been reached, controversy continues.

During Friday’s MPO meeting, several community members approached the board with concerns of conflict of interest. Bill Williams, Monroe County Highway Department director, was their concern.

Williams’ son works as a subcontractor for INDOT, specifically working on construction of I-69. During the meeting, chairperson Kent McDaniel, representing the Bloomington Public Transit Corp., said no conflict of interest existed because Williams does not benefit directly from his son’s employment.

Ultimately, Williams voted ‘yes’ to include I-69 in the TIP.

Monroe County Commissioner Mark Stoops disagrees.

“I will be contesting the vote,” Stoops said. “The MPO violated the requirements of the Indiana Code when they’re confronted with a conflict of interest.”

According to sate law, when the MPO was notified of a conflict of interest they were required to receive an opinion from an outside source not on the committee. They would then have been required to submit a written review of the conflict of interest and decide whether or not the perceived conflict of interest existed.

This was not the only procedural flaw, Stoops said. When the Monroe County Commissioners appointed Williams to the MPO, Stoops said they should have been notified of the conflict of interest before appointing Williams to the MPO.

“Indiana Code specifically states that if an immediate family member has a financial interest, that represents a conflict,” Stoops said. “The vote by Bill Williams, it was a ‘yes’ vote, will be void and not valid. So that means, technically, I-69 is not included in our TIP because the vote to include it in our TIP failed."

Stoops plans to challenge Williams' vote Monday.

— Mark Keierleber

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