In part one of this series we looked at the events leading up to the FBI’s raid of the Muncie City Hall building and the Muncie Sanitary District in July of 2016. The events leading up to the raids included the firing of a Community Development official who tried to blackmail Muncie’s previous mayor Dennis Tyler, and a contracting company suing Muncie’s building commissioner, Craig Nichols, son of former Democratic Party Chairman Phil Nichols.
Part one of this story covers events back to 2016, but the article linked here from the Muncie Star Press shows a pattern of corruption “spanning decades.” According to Douglas Walker, reporter for the Star Press, questions about Nichols possible involvement in corruption started when a former Delaware County prosecutor launched a gambling investigation back in 1991.
Two individuals were arrested as a result of the FBI’s raids in 2016, Nikki Grigsby, administrator for the Muncie Sanitary District who confessed to playing a role in a bid rigging scheme for MSD contracts, and Tony Franklin, owner of Franklin Building and Design LLC. Former Muncie Police officer Jess Neal was later arrested and confessed to carrying envelopes of cash between local contractors and then Democratic Party Chair Phil Nichols.
Neal was sentenced to two years in federal prison and according to his sentencing memo, as reported in the Muncie Star Press, the corruption scheme commonly referred to as “The Program” also involved former MSD director Tracy Barton and included mowing contracts for a local levee. Tony Franklin, however, was involved in a bid rigging scheme for demolition contracts.
Public records requests have been filed for demolition contracts agreed to by the Terre Haute Redevelopment Commission and currently unidentified local contractors. According to THRD annual reports, several hundred abandoned homes have been demolished in Terre Haute over the past five years. However, as mentioned previously the contractors involved in the demolition are not named in the reports.
In another, much more recent connection, a recent article in the Muncie Star Press revealed that the city of Muncie took out a $1.6 million dollar loan from Terre Haute based Garmong Construction. Todd Donati, former Muncie Redevelopment director under previous mayor Dennis Tyler, is quoted as saying Garmong was chosen because of their “good working relationship.” The details of the White River Lofts project are complicated to say the least, but the following article, by Todd Smekens linked here talks about some of the major players and their possible motives.