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Head of Indiana business agency gets ethics advice

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Indiana's top business-recruitment official has been advised by the State Ethics Commission to separate himself from tax-credit decisions that could benefit a company he co-owns.

The commission told Indiana Economic Development Corp. President Eric Doden on Thursday that a "wall of separation" is needed to safeguard him against any conflict-of-interest accusations. Doden, who was appointed to lead the group in January by Gov. Mike Pence, had sought an advisory opinion from the ethics panel.

Doden is on leave from Domo Ventures LLC, a company he co-owns with a Michigan resident, The Journal Gazette reported. Domo Ventures is a minority partner in Domo Development LLC.

Doden is concerned that Domo Development might offer a bid to develop a site in Fort Wayne that's adjacent to Parkview Field, where the city's minor-league baseball team plays. If Fort Wayne expands a revitalization district adjacent to that property and Doden's company wins a contract, it would be eligible for a state tax credit that would have to be approved by the economic development agency.

If granted the tax credit, the company, and therefore Doden, would benefit financially.

"We wanted to make you are aware of this potential," Doden said in seeking the advisory opinion.

Expanding the city's revitalization district requires approval from the State Budget Committee. But under normal procedures, Doden would be the one who would have final say on whether an investment made in the district qualified for the tax credit.

Stephen Akard, general counsel for the Indiana Economic Development Corp., told the ethics panel Thursday that Secretary of Commerce Victor Smith would handle the matter instead if it came up in the future.

Ethics Commission member Peter Nugent said, "we can't put (Domo) in a position where they can't do business."

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