Board of Trustee member Thomas Bracken gestures to portraits of his family members in the Bracken House on March 15 during the house tour. Bracken is now suing the city of Muncie and other municipal agencies for funding for the Madjax project downtown.
Board of Trustee member suing city over Madjax project
Ball State Board of Trustee member Thomas Bracken is suing the city of Muncie and other municipal agencies over funding for the Madjax project downtown.
The parties listed in the lawsuit are the City of Muncie, the Muncie Redevelopment Commission, the Muncie Economic Redevelopment Commission and the Common Council of the City of Muncie.
Bracken is filing for an injunction to stop the city from going forward with additional Madjax project funding.
A $4.5 million loan for the Madjax project was approved at a September meeting by the Muncie Common Council. Madjax, originally opened in 2015, is intended to be used as a hub for entrepreneurs and other business development opportunities, similar to Launch Fishers in Hamilton County.
Steve Runyan, Bracken's attorney, released a statement:
"Our client Mr. Bracken and other community members have expressed concern about this use of public funds and public credit by the City of Muncie for a very questionable deal that lacks transparency and includes what may appear to be conflicts of interest. We felt it was appropriate for an independent review of what procedures followed by the City and to shine a spotlight on this use of public funds under the available public lawsuit statues designed to review government action."
Although the statement said Bracken will not be making any public comments, Bracken submitted a letter to the editor to The Star Press on Sept. 9 voicing his concerns.
In the letter, Bracken wrote:
"MadJax is not something that the public should be asked to salvage. ... The true damage that a project like MadJax causes goes well beyond the immediate financial loss. It broadcasts a message that we don’t know what to do with money, that we have contempt for our taxpayers, and that our community lacks that most essential ingredient upon which good decision making is based. When heard, the effect will be to wave off those whom our city needs most of all, the true makers of yore."
Bracken originally wanted the space to be used as for a park that would cover a little more than four blocks of Muncie between Main and Jackson Streets.
Dan Ridenour, a city councilman representing Muncie's second district, voted no during the
September meeting on the additional funding.
Ridenour said his vote was based on the fact that the project did not prove to be self-sustaining and the additional funding was going to force the city to take $200,000 away from other projects every year for the next 20 years.
"We can do a lot better with our money in fighting drugs, helping school systems and rebuilding the infrastructure," Ridenour said.
Bracken has been the secretary of the Board of Trustees since 2014. Bracken also serves as the president of the George and Francis Ball Foundation.
UPDATE: The date of the preliminary hearing and the judge for Bracken's case have been changed. The case will now be overseen by Judge Kimberly Dowling with the preliminary hearing scheduled for October 12th at 1:30 p.m.
Allie Kirkman contributed to this story.