Aug. 2008

Bridgers loses civil case, ordered to pay county
The Shelbyville News
August 6, 2008
By Bettina Puckett
Staff Reporter

The owner of the Olde Geneva Dairy scrapbooking retreat has been ordered to pay more than $9,000 in fines and fees after losing a civil case to the Shelby County Plan Commission and the Shelby County Board of Commissioners.

Craig Bridgers, 44, represented himself in a May 15, 2008 bench trial before Shelby Superior No. 2 Judge Russell J. Sanders.

At the same time the three hour civil trial was being held, Bridgers was serving six months in prison on an unrelated tax evasion conviction. He was allowed to wear street clothes during the trial, rather than his inmate’s uniform.

In August of 2007, Shelby County officials sued Bridgers over code violations and for operating a business illegally in an agricultural district. Bridgers ran the Olde Geneva Dairy for at least 101 days – from April 3, to July 13, 2007 – according to court documents. The business located at 2801 East Vandalia Road in Flat Rock, was not a permitted use of the property.

Amy Dillon, executive director of the Shelby County Plan Commission, said she was happy with the ruling.

“I appreciate Judge Sanders’ consideration of the case,” Dillon said. “I thought it was a fair ruling.”

Bridgers who was released from prison on July 16, 2008 has an unlisted telephone number and could not be reached for comment Tuesday night.

According to Sanders’ ruling, evidence that the Olde Geneva Dairy scrapbooking retreat existed including internet and other advertising, a sign at the location and phone complaints to the plan commission office.

“The Court find that even though evidence of specific scrapbooking sessions is limited to three occasions, the advertising, planning and promoting of the business was ongoing during the period noted, in violation of the zoning ordinance,” Sanders wrote in his July 23, 2008 ruling.

Anyone who violates the Shelby County Zoning Ordinance shall be subject to a fine of up to $300 for each day a violation occurs, he wrote.

Bridgers violated the Shelby County code by remodeling the scrapbooking retreat, which also served as his home and installing a new bathroom, electrical, facilities and plumbing – all without the appropriate permits.

Sanders ordered Bridgers to pay $900 for violating the county zoning ordinance, $1,500 for violating the county code and $6,921.45 for attorney’s fees, for a total of $9,312.45.

The Shelby County Plan Commission hired Brady Rife as a special counsel in the Bridgers case. Rife is an attorney with the Shelbyville law firm of McNeely, Stephenson, Thopy and Harrold.

In order to live in the house, Bridgers has been ordered to acquire all necessary building, electrical and plumbing permits and be in full compliance with Shelby County code provisions, as confirmed by inspections of Shelby County authorities within 90 days of Sanders’ order.

In the unrelated tax evasion case, Bridgers was convicted of ailing to pay $52,510 in withholding tax. He was arrested in 2004 after an investigation into his business practices by Indiana Department of Revenue. Bridgers is the former owner of Bridgers Manufacturing Corporation in Shelbyville.

According to Shelby County Chief Deputy Prosecutor, Brad Landwerlen, Bridgers withheld the tax, but did not forward it to the state, as is required. Bridgers made one payment of $695 in 2005, but paid nothing in 2007, Landwerlen said in a Shelbyville news article last January.

During a probation revocation hearing in January Bridgers was sentenced to one year for failure to remit taxes but received credit for time served and served six months of the sentence.

After he was released on the tax evasion conviction, Shelby County officials had a hold on him for resisting law enforcement charge from February 2007, in which he was sentenced to 60 days. He served 30 days of that sentence before recently being released, jail officials said.

Bridgers is free now, but remains under house arrest and wears a monitoring ankle bracelet.

A hardcopy of this article can be found at the Shelbyville, Indiana Library’s Genealogy Services located at 58 W Hendricks Street, Shelbyville, IN 46176 or you can call 317.398.8144

Consumer complaint case still open at AG office
The Shelbyville News
August 6, 2008
By Bettina Puckett
Staff Reporter

While Craig Bridgers was serving six months in prison for tax evasion, complaints continued to pour into Indiana Attorney General Steve Carter’s office regarding Bridgers’ illegal scrapbooking retreat. To date, 34 complaints have been field with Carter’s office regarding Bridgers’ former operation called the Olde Geneva Dairy.

“There has not been an action filed,” said Staci Schneider, a spokeswoman for Carter. “It is still an open case.”

Before the scrapbooking retreat was declared an illegal business, hundreds of women – many of whom lived out of state – had gone to the retreat to spend the weekend with friends and enjoy their hobby of scrapbooking.

But dozens of the women filed complaints with Carter’s office and the Better Business Bureau of Central Indiana because they claim they were led to believe they were going to spend the weekend at a quaint former dairy, only to be directed to a hotel. One woman called Bridgers’ tactics a “bait and switch”.

Several of the women are still hoping that Carter’s office will eventually rule on the case and refund their $75 deposits that were lost when they learned about the code violations involving the retreat and canceled their reservations.

The women have an extensive email network and have placed several websites on the Internet to warn future customers about Bridgers’ practices.

A hardcopy of this article can be found at the Shelbyville, Indiana Library’s Genealogy Services located at 58 W Hendricks Street, Shelbyville, IN 46176 or you can call 317.398.8144