Indiana Governor Eric J. Holcomb today issued a pardon to Keith Cooper, declared a disaster emergency in East Chicago and announced the termination of contract discussions with Agile Networks, among other actions.
Keith Cooper Pardon
The governor signed an executive order this morning to pardon Keith Cooper for his 1997 felony robbery conviction in Elkhart County. Mr. Cooper served nearly 10 years in prison for the crime but was released early for time served in 2006. All eye witnesses in the case have recanted their testimony, and DNA evidence does not implicate Mr. Cooper in the crime. Further, the Indiana Parole Board unanimously recommended that a pardon be issued.
“My decision is based on a review of the facts,” Governor Holcomb said. “Keith Cooper has waited long enough and is deserving of a pardon.”
While in prison, Mr. Cooper was also sentenced for a charge of battery and pleaded guilty. Mr. Cooper requested a pardon for that felony conviction, as well. However, the Governor’s executive order does not pardon this battery conviction, because Mr. Cooper has never claimed innocence or a defect with the prosecution of that case.
East Chicago Emergency Declaration
The governor also announced that today he will sign an executive order declaring a disaster emergency for the East Chicago Superfund Site—322 acres of land in northwest Indiana that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has identified as having lead contamination.
The State of Indiana has already taken steps to help address and respond to the situation, with coordinated efforts by Indiana’s State Department of Health, Housing and Community Development Authority, Family and Social Services Administration, Department of Insurance, and the State Board of Education.
This 30-day emergency declaration is focused on helping to relocate nearly 100 residents who remain at a housing complex within the affected area and engaging with agency leaders in the new federal administration.
“After months of local and state action to meet the safety, health and housing needs of these East Chicago residents, I’m declaring this disaster emergency in hopes that we can accelerate, coordinate and focus local, state and federal efforts and resources where they will have the greatest benefit,” Governor Holcomb said.
The governor’s executive order also calls for the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority to create and maintain a web page that provides status updates, progress reports and other information on local, state and federal efforts. Finally, the order requests that City of East Chicago Mayor Anthony Copeland provide a written assessment by March 5 of additional resources and services the city believes are needed—and any other federal resources that may be available—to assist with the area.
Agile Deal Status
In addition to these two executive orders, the governor announced his decision to terminate contract discussions between the Indiana Finance Authority (IFA) and Agile Networks to manage, operate and market the state’s communications infrastructure—including cell towers. IFA and Agile Networks have been unable to come to an agreement on the terms of the contract.
“I have asked the Office of Management and Budget to assess how best to move forward and to develop alternatives we might pursue,” Governor Holcomb said. “Enhancing broadband availability in rural parts of our state will be an important part of my consideration.”
Jim Atterholt Selected to be IURC Chairman
Governor Holcomb announced his selection of Jim Atterholt to serve as chairman of the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission. Atterholt was chief of staff to former-Governor Mike Pence and previously served as IURC chairman from 2009 to 2014, state representative from 1998 to 2002, and Indiana’s Commissioner of Insurance from 2005 to 2009. He was also director of government affairs for AT&T Indiana from 2003 to 2004.
A nominating committee of four Republicans and three Democrats was selected and convened to interview and make recommendations to the governor for selection. The committee presented its recommendations to the governor on February 3.
“Jim Atterholt’s history of service and depth of knowledge on utility issues make him the best choice to lead the IURC, particularly over the next four years,” Governor Holcomb said. “IURC’s work will be central to my focus as governor to provide great customer service for Hoosiers in every corner of the state.”
· Executive Order 17-12: Keith Cooper Pardon
· Executive Order 17-13: Declaration of Disaster Emergency for the East Chicago Superfund Site
Press Release, Office of Gov. Eric J. Holcomb