South Bend, Ind.--- The bidding process for the former Transpo site in South Bend has hit a snag after new information regarding illegal closed door meetings has surfaced.
According to a complaint filed by Karen Schefmeyer, Transpo officials held several meetings over the last two years without giving proper notice and without enough members of the board present. Indiana requires all meetings held by public agencies to be accessible to the public. According to Schefmeyer, Transpo did not abide by this law.
“Throughout this whole process we’ve realized there hasn’t been an open process,” Schefmeyer, Secretary of Howard Park/East Bank Village Partnership said. “It’s been done quietly and somehow we thought the right thing would be done here and public officials would make the right decisions and include us. But at some point, it feels as if we were in the dark so we asked for an investigation into this.”
At Transpo, they are letting the process play out.
“We’re cooperating and moving forward. It’s in the hands of the process it’s been entrusted to,” David Cangany, GM at Transpo said. “At the end of the day, Transpo has a prime piece of property on the river that we’re trying to sell and that’s our mission.”
Coincidentally, Transpo released a statement on Aug. 1, about an extension of final bid offers. This means the three companies bidding for the property, The Place Group, Matthews LLC and Century Builders, will have until Aug. 22, to submit their final bids. While this process has been lengthy, the developers are staying positive.
“We’re ready to go. It’s Transpo’s show, it’s their property,” Dave Matthews of Matthews LLC said. “They get to run the process and we’re happy to participate but we’ve been working on this for a couple of years. We’ve talked to community members, tweaking the design and making improvements to make sure it’s realistic. When they make a decision, hopefully it’s us and we can move forward. But it’s Transpo’s show so we need to let them go at their own pace.”
While the developers are eager to get things under way, the problem with the closed door meetings remains an issue.
“Things done in a vacuum are not good,” Schefmeyer said. “Absolute power creates absolute corruption. Not that that’s the case here but there appears there isn’t transparency so we’re asking the state of Indiana to come up and take a look to see if violations have occurred. Maybe we have to start the process again but with absolute transparency.”