NIRPC fights Everybody Counts charges

2014-01-22T10:30:00Z 2014-01-22T17:40:11Z NIRPC fights Everybody Counts chargesBy Keith Benman keith.benman@nwi.com, (219) 933-3326 nwitimes.com

The Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission has fought back against a local disability-rights group's charges that it is not complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act and a 2006 federal consent decree.

NIRPC has filed a brief in U.S. District Court in Hammond that it has afforded the group Everybody Counts the chance to shape its public participation plan and has made it possible for people with disabilities to attend annual meetings on the consent decree.

It also takes broader aim at Everybody Counts' decision to drag NIRPC back into court, saying the group did not follow a dispute resolution procedure the consent decree requires before matters can be brought back before a judge or magistrate.

"NIRPC remains steadfast in its belief it's in full compliance with the provisions of the 2006 consent decree," said NIRPC lawyer David Hollenbeck on Wednesday.

Everybody Counts Executive Director Teresa Torres said the NIRPC filing does not accurately portray what has been going on, in particular challenging NIRPC's claim it has made every effort to include her group in the formation of its public participation plan.

She said Everybody Counts was only given a chance to fully participate after more than half a dozen people with disabilities showed at a May 23 NIRPC meeting and protested their exclusion. That was the meeting at which Portage Mayor James Snyder called police officers to stand guard at the meeting, which generated its own controversy between the two sides.

"The amount of energy that NIRPC dedicates to twisting the truth and finding excuses could be much better spent recognizing and respecting the rights of persons with disabilities," Torres said Wednesday.

The NIRPC court filing states a special ad-hoc NIRPC committee met with Everybody Counts five times to help form its new public participation plan. That plan has not yet been passed by the full commission.

Everybody Counts in 2006 obtained a federal court consent decree ordering NIRPC and several local public transit agencies to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. NIRPC remains bound by the terms of the consent decree.

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