UPDATE: Chamber leaders clashed on transit strategy

A turf battle over mass transit may have fueled Roland Dorson's apparent departure from the Greater Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce.

Dorson, a longtime chamber executive who has been its president since 2006, is on a leave of absence, but neither he nor board leaders will explain why.

Roland Dorson Dorson

Dorson referred questions to his attorney Michael Blickman, a labor lawyer at Ice Miller. Blickman could not be reached for comment.

The chamber board's executive committee also has enlisted counsel. Board Chairman John Neighbours, a lawyer at Baker & Daniels who took the post at the first of the year, did not reply to multiple requests for comment.

Board member Brian Sullivan, managing partner at local contractor Shiel Sexton, said he expects the executive committee to clarify the situation with Dorson in a few days. "I'm trusting that there are reasonable people making good decisions," he said.

Others on the chamber board, which has more than 100 members, said they were notified several weeks ago that Dorson was on leave for health reasons. More recently they received an e-mail from the executive committee, followed by a letter from Blickman, indicating that there was a dispute with the president. 

People familiar with the chamber's work on a regional mass transit plan said Dorson was at odds with Neighbours and Mark Miles, CEO of the Central Indiana Corporate Partnership.

Miles' group, the chamber and Central Indiana Community Foundation co-founded the Central Indiana Transit Task Force, a private-sector group that created a regional transit proposal. The release of the plan in February 2010 kicked off the Indy Connect public feedback campaign, which led to revisions unveiled in November. The task force is working with public-sector officials to produce a final proposal and will seek legislative and public approval in 2012.

Last month, CICP named ex-Indy Partnership CEO Ron Gifford executive director of the transit task force. Gifford, a former government affairs attorney with Baker & Daniels, oversaw the March 1 merger of regionally focused economic-development group Indy Partnership and Develop Indy, the city's economic-development arm.

Miles could not be reached for comment.

Dorson made $208,164 in salary and bonus pay in 2009, according to the most recent tax filings available. With benefits, his total compensation was valued at $238,370.

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