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Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry declines to sign City Council’s campaign finance ordinance, citing legality concerns (Documents)

Mayor Tom Henry has sent a letter to Fort Wayne City Council members saying he won't sign the campaign finance ordinance council passed recently because of concerns about its legality. Saying he supports their intent, Henry asked council members to rework the ordinance to make it legal. (News-Sentinel.com file photo)

Mayor Tom Henry has sent a letter to Fort Wayne City Council members saying he won't sign the campaign finance ordinance council passed recently because of concerns about its legality. Saying he supports their intent, Henry asked council members to rework the ordinance to make it legal. (News-Sentinel.com file photo)

While he agrees campaign finance rules need to be addressed, Mayor Tom Henry sent a letter to Fort Wayne City Council members Thursday saying he is declining to sign their recently passed campaign finance ordinance because he believes it violates state and federal law.

“However, since I do agree something needs to be done to make the campaign donation process more transparent, I would prefer to return the ordinance to you, unsigned, for further discussion, debate and modification,” Henry said in a copy of the letter provided to news media.

“Therefore, I am formally requesting you revisit the ordinance, make the appropriate adjustments and return the proposed statute to me for further examination,” the letter said. “Again, I support the intent but struggle with the legality and enforcement components of the ordinance.”

In a 6-2 vote, City Council gave final approval Nov. 28 to ordinance G-17-11-12, which would allow firms doing business with the city to donate no more than $2,000 to any one candidate.

In his letter, Henry said the ordinance “seems to be flawed in several specific areas”:

“It sets campaign finance limits as a condition for contracting eligibility that do not exist in state law.”

“It sets contribution limits for contract eligibility on business entities that state law does not limit.”

“It restricts campaign finance activities in ways state law does not.”

“It imposes campaign finance reporting requirements inconsistent with state law.”

“It is a violation of the free speech and association rights of candidates and donors, especially for spouses and children of business owners who are not themselves seeking office.”

With the letter, Henry said he included for council members the legal opinions on the ordinance from four leading law firms in Indiana, which all found problems with it.

“One of my biggest concerns is that, at a minimum, the ordinance could be challenged in court for a determination that the city exceeded its authority under both the state Home Rule Act and the U.S. Constitution,” Henry said in the letter.

A legal challenge could force the city to pay for its own defense, and possibly pay damages and attorney’s fees to the person or organization filing the lawsuit if the city lost the case in federal court, the letter said.

By returning the ordinance unsigned, Henry said he activated a “veto by operation of law,” so city council members now must decide whether to rework the ordinance or to override the veto and risk legal action against the city.

If council member want to rework the ordinance, Henry said in the letter that his administration is ready to work with them to ensure the reworked ordinance complies with state and federal law.

• MAYOR TOM HENRY LETTER REGARDING CAMPAIGN FINANCE ORDINANCE:

• FAEGRE BAKER DANIELS LETTER ON LEGALITY OF ORDINANCE:

• ICE MILLER LETTER ON LEGALITY OF ORDINANCE:

• KROGER, GARDIS AND REGAS LETTER ON LEGALITY OF ORDINANCE:

• TAFT LETTER ON LEGALITY OF ORDINANCE:

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