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West Lafayette City Council again scrutinizes Rolls-Royce tax abatement

Councilmember David Sanders looks up at his PowerPoint during Tuesday's meeting (WBAA News/Ben Thorp)

Representatives with Rolls-Royce faced scrutiny again Tuesday over the company’s request for a five-year tax abatement as part of its plans to expand in West Lafayette.

In April, Rolls-Royce announced an over $200 million expansion of its facilities in West Lafayette. During May’s city council meeting, Councilmember David Sanders asked whether the company really needed an abatement.

That line of questioning eventually led Mayor John Dennis to stand up and tell Sanders, “enough is enough.”

During this week's meeting, Sanders reiterated his opposition, pointing to Rolls-Royce’s history of bribery.

“This is the largest bribery scandal in the history of the U.K. That should give people pause about giving them tax abatements,” he said.

Sanders pulled up a PowerPoint presentation outlining the history of the company. Council President Peter Bunder gave Sanders a handful of minutes on the slideshow before cutting him off and moving the meeting forward.

George McLaren, vice president of marketing and communications for Rolls- Royce, said the company has changed.

“The situation he [Sanders] was talking about was from over a decade ago. The company operates in a different way now,” he said. “We’ve made lots of changes to address that.”

McLaren said the questions asked of the company over the course of the two city council meetings will not change their relationship with Purdue University or their commitment to the expansion.

Rolls-Royce also provided reporters with a statement outlining the company's investment in the community, and underlining that “we have zero tolerance of business misconduct of any kind.”

“I have no evidence that these practices have continued, but it’s important to know the history of the company,” Sanders said. “If Enron were to come to West Lafayette and say hey, give us tax abatements, I don’t think there would be a lot of appetite for that.”

Mayor Dennis did not cut Sanders off during the council meeting on Tuesday.

“I appreciate what David is trying to articulate,” he said. “I just have no understanding of why.”

The three-package resolution on the matter passed.