Yesterday at 5:26pm ·
I still meet regularly with “the informants,” the people who touched off the federal investigation of the Muncie city administration, those persistent folks who doggedly kept pestering the FBI until agents concluded they were, indeed, onto something.
Since November of 2015, FBI agents talked to them dozens of times and until perhaps summer of last year continued to solicit information from at least one of them. As recently as six weeks ago, the FBI still was interviewing other people.
Provided that one day the investigation ends – hopefully with more indictments – I will ask permission to name the informants. They are heroes in my book and deserve the gratification of an entire community. Their relentless tenacity, perhaps obstinacy is a better word, won out.
I just found out about another development that I have to suspect is connected to the FBI’s investigation: as of two months ago, Arron Kidder is no longer part of the Dennis Tyler city administration.
Arron Mathew Kidder went to Elkhart Memorial High School and came to BSU, where he majored in political science and graduated December of 2012. While still in school, he interned for Brad Bookout’s consulting company and got involved in the Delaware County Redevelopment Commission. When Tyler took over the mayor’s office in 2012, Bookout did some consulting for the new administration and hired Kidder, who eventually handled most of the city’s grant-writing work. A year later, Kidder spun off his own consulting firm, Hawkins Consulting Inc., and contracted with the city to write grants.
In 2014, he earned $35,000 from the city, his only consulting client, who gave him an office next to the mayor’s. Kidder began assuming more and more duties that typically would have gone to a deputy mayor, a position Tyler has not filled. The next year, 2015, with a whopping contractual increase, Kidder earned more than $60,000, and in 2016, he got $55,000, an amount in excess of the salaries of all but a couple city department heads.
Kidder sat in for the mayor on a handful of boards. He regularly attended Muncie Board of Public Works meetings as the mayor’s emissary, bringing contracts Tyler wanted approved and other matters before the three-member panel, who exist to do the mayor’s bidding. Several times I recall Kidder telling the board that the city needed to tear down condemned houses under emergency conditions and that the administration had obtained quotes from two companies to do the work. The lower quote would invariably be from the private firm owned by the city’s Building Commissioner, Craig Nichols, who would have condemned the houses in the first place and declared the emergency.
I first wrote in February of 2016 that some of those houses Nichols’ firm was paid to demolish hadn’t existed: they were phantom demolitions. The administration quickly created a cover story claiming that all the addresses were mere clerical mistakes, but by then, the FBI, already probing into Muncie Sanitary District, had added Nichols’ billings to their investigation.
Six months later, The Star Press pulled the plug on my column-writing. Four months after that, the FBI raided the city building commissioner’s office and seized records. A month later, February of 2017, Nichols was indicted on 33 felony counts, almost all related to work he did for the city, including the phantom demolitions and the attempted cover-up I wrote about.
Kidder certainly was a rising star in the Tyler administration. Tyler put him on several local boards, including the Aviation Authority. Kidder lived in a house he rented from the vice-chair of the Delaware County Democratic Party and he involved himself in party activities. Last September, The Star Press wrote a glowing profile of Kidder in a section on up-and-coming Muncie leaders.
Then, two months later, Kidder was suddenly gone. No announcement.
Through November when he got his last check, Kidder had received $66,000 from the city in 2017.
Not many Ball State graduates in their first position out of college knock down $60,000-plus annual salaries, and I can’t imagine many young people in their mid-20s simply walking away from that kind of money. Not without a whole lotta motivation, that is.
Please share this with any Muncie people still hoping justice prevails.