The idea that certain Fort Wayne city contracts might be awarded as favors for political donations made in municipal campaigns is the reason behind a new ordinance proposal, seeking to cut out the practice.
We talked with a Republican city council member who authored the proposal, and with a Democratic counterpart, who thinks the charge of "pay to play" is overblown.
Architectural and engineering firms can get paid lots of cash for professional services agreements with the city of Fort Wayne on big street construction or public works projects.
The possibility that companies might secure such contracts, following contributions made in local political races, is something that rubs Republican Dr. John Crawford the wrong way.
"I just think that's unseemly. I think that looks bad to the public," Crawford said.
He has no beef with contracts won in competitive bidding, but he mainly wants to eliminate the perception of companies having an unfair advantage in agreements without bids.
A new ordinance he crafted would tell companies, their owners, spouses and top officers, if your organization makes political contributions in excess of $2,000 to the city, you are out of the running for competitive contracts in that calendar year.
"I think it would give the public more faith in their government, if they didn't think people were giving large donations that were competing for contracts," Crawford said.
The proposed ordinance would apply to companies from anywhere, but the authors are really concerned about limiting the influence of firms from outside the city and state.
We pulled up a list of contributions to Democratic Mayor Tom Henry's 2015 re-election campaign, and found a number of them exceeding $2,000, including several from other locales.
"I always say it's kind of hard when the fox volunteers to guard the chicken house," said Democratic council member Glynn Hines, who believes this ordinance proposal wouldn't be happening if Crawford wasn't exploring a run for mayor in two years.
"There's no vendor coming forward to the city saying, hey, they're not playing fair. I mean, if you had that kind of complaint at a level where you said, aw, we need to look into this, I could see, but there's been no complaint," Hines said.
It will take five votes for passage through council with a preliminary vote by the legislative body possible next Tuesday.
A final vote couldn't take place until Tuesday, November 28th.