In 2004 Carmel proposed to annex Southwest Clay Township over the opposition of a significant majority of its citizens. According to Carmel’s fiscal plan, Carmel would receive revenues of about $5 million per year more than it would cost to provide all services to the area.
Carol Schleif was one of a number of residents of the area, who at significant sacrifice to themselves joined the board of NOAX, the committee of citizens opposing the annexation. During the petition process NOAX promised the residents to resist the annexation and to try to negotiate a fair compromise for the citizens of Southwest Clay Township if the annexation took place.
As it had promised, NOAX did negotiate a good faith compromise that was approved in a referendum and that was ultimately upheld by the Indiana Supreme Court.
Indiana statute provides that if a city does not live up to its promises in an annexation, any property owner who pays taxes in the annexation area may bring a legal action to enforce those promises. NOAX, as an organization, could not file a complaint if promises were not kept. Only taxpayers could file, so consequently all members of the Board of NOAX were listed as plaintiffs.
In the years since the settlement agreement, NOAX has been looking out for the interests of the residents in Southwest Clay Township to be sure that Carmel did what it promised in the settlement. Over time, it became apparent that Carmel was not following the agreement.
Carmel committed to fixing drainage issues, road resurfacing and other promises within specific time periods. The lawsuit was brought because those things have not occurred.
If the suit had not been filed, the residents of Southwest Clay Township would have lost their rights to challenge Carmel’s breaches.
Additionally, under the terms of the settlement agreement, Carmel promised to “commit up to $40 million” to finance the promised improvements, recognizing that the Southwest Clay Township residents would pay a significant part of the taxes that would cover any required bond issues.
Carmel has attempted to count unrelated expenses, and double count monies from other governmental units to satisfy its $40 million commitment.
One of the commitments Schleif made to her constituents in her campaign for city council was to make sure that Carmel kept the promises made in the settlement agreement.
As a member of the city council, Schleif has continued to urge the mayor to comply with the dates and substance of the agreement, through emails, letters and meetings. The city council has generally been supportive, but ultimately only the mayor and his administration could implement the terms of the agreement.
City Councilors Ron Carter and Sue Finkam have both asserted that Schleif “stands to personally receive a cash payment” from the lawsuit. NOAX has committed that the only remedies it will seek are (1) enforcement of the settlement agreement; (2) obtaining an injunction against the collection of taxes until the terms have been fulfilled or (3) disannexation; whichever the court believes is most appropriate under the circumstances.
The statute does allow a plaintiff to recover 1¼ times the property taxes they have paid, but neither Schleif nor the other NOAX board members have ever sought any benefit that is not extended to all Southwest Clay Township residents.
Schleif and all Carmel residents should be asking the mayor to perform the commitments made by Carmel in-full and complete good faith.
If Carmel had kept its promises, there would be no need for this litigation.
Fred Yde, NOAX president