Local units of government may engage in preliminary talks or solicit prospective public-private partners before those units of government have adopted legislation enabling such agreements, the Indiana Supreme Court ruled Wednesday in a challenge to Logansport’s efforts to overhaul a coal-burning power plant.
“In this case we address whether Indiana’s Public-Private Agreements statute requires a local legislative body to first adopt the statute before it may issue a request for proposals or begin contract negotiations as provided for under the statute. We hold it does not,” Justice Robert Rucker wrote for the court in Julie Kitchell v. Ted Franklin, as the Mayor of the City of Logansport, and the Common Council of the City of Logansport, 09S00-1307-PL-476.
Kitchell sued the city of Logansport over plans to convert a coal-burning plant to one that would generate electricity by burning refuse. The trial court dismissed her claim that sought to invalidate a city ordinance, arguing that before the city could issue an RPF for a public-private agreement, it was required to have an ordinance in place allowing such agreements.
But justices noted that the city had reached no agreements prior to adopting enabling legislation. Referring to I.C. 5-23-5-2, -5, -9, Rucker wrote, “nowhere does the Act require a political subdivision to ‘adopt’ the Act before taking any further action consistent with the Act.”
Justices rejected the city’s request that Kitchell pay attorney fees.