Friday, July 03, 2015

More Blue Indy Madness

One has to wonder if Mayor Greg Ballard has a financial stake in the financial success of Blue Indy given the mountains he's been willing to move, not to mention the laws he's broken, to ensure the French-owned electric car sharing business gets everything it wants, affected businesses and neighborhoods be damned. He initially tried to force IPL ratepayers to pay tens of millions of dollars in infrastructure improvement required to install power charging stations around the city for the service. When the IURC shot most of that plan down, he stuck the rest of the tab to city taxpayers by illegally accessing $6 million from the parking meter fund without council approval. The process of siting the location of those power charging stations have raised yet more questions, including the violation of local city ordinances.

Based on reaction of affected business owners and neighborhood associations, the Ballard administration had zero public dialogue with anyone other than Blue Indy about the siting of those power charging stations, which consume valuable and scarce public parking spaces in some of the City's most popular destinations. Business owners and neighborhoods have discovered metered spaces, no parking zones and neighborhood parking spaces were being converted to exclusive parking/charging zones for the Blue Indy cars only after construction workers showed up and began tearing up sidewalks. The Ballard administration is in a mad dash to get at least 25 charging station sites in place as part of phase one of the project. It plans a total of 190 charging station sites to service a fleet of up to 500 electric rental cars. Forget the fact that the cars themselves cannot even be legally operated on American streets and highways, or the fact that the charging stations lack UL certification as required by the city ordinance the administration had written.

Not surprisingly, the administration is unilaterally choosing only prime areas to locate the charging stations. The first stations being installed in downtown, Fountain Square and Broad Ripple are clearly geared towards out-of-town visitors, not city residents. Restaurant owner Martha Hoover learned the City was grabbing prime parking spaces in front of her Café Patachou and Napalese restaurants only when construction crews arrived and began work. "They're taking up very valuable spaces in an area where parking is at a premium and is a commodity," Hoover told WTHR's Mary Milz. "There's something remarkably inhospitable about not bringing people into the process," she said.

Former City-County Council Susan Williams had a similar reaction when workers showed up one day recently and began construction work on charging stations near the corner of East and Walnut Streets in the Chatham Arch neighborhood next to the popular Mass Avenue business district where parking spaces are becoming increasingly difficult to find. The City has appropriated six parking spaces adjacent to the Nestle Inn bed and breakfast. "This move effectively strangles a small business while further exacerbating an already untenable parking situation," Williams wrote. "And, who knew? Not the neighborhood, not area businesses, and certainly not the land-locked Nestle Inn whose business depends on on-street parking."

It's always been my understanding that ordinances adopted by the City-County Council controlled public parking designation. Because the council never passed any ordinance giving Mayor Ballard authority to appropriate any public spaces anywhere in this city for the exclusive use of a private company that was awarded a monopoly electric car sharing enterprise that is being subsidized to the tune of tens of millions of dollars by IPL ratepayers and city taxpayers, I have to conclude Mayor Ballard's actions are unlawful. It's time for the council to step up to the plate and act like it did with Mayor Ballard's sweetheart, 7-year, $32 million lease agreement with Vision Fleet to lease a fleet of more than 400 electric and hybrid cars for city workers. Going to court and having his illegal acts declared void is the only remedy. Why our federal and local prosecutors sleep while this corrupt mayor steals money by the tens of millions of dollars for the benefit of his political cronies is beyond me. A stop would have been put to this madness long ago in any other major city in America with appropriate criminal indictments.

Thursday, July 02, 2015

ACLU Uses RFRA Law It Opposed To Allow Sex Offenders To Enter Churches Attached To Schools

The ACLU of Indiana jumped on the bandwagon this year in opposing the enactment of Indiana's RFRA law, even though the national ACLU organization was a key backer of the original RFRA legislation passed overwhelmingly by Congress and signed into law by President Bill Clinton twenty years ago. The day Indiana's new RFRA law took effect, the ACLU of Indiana filed a lawsuit in Elkhart County Superior court, which relies upon the new law to assert rights of persons convicted of serious sex offenders who are barred under another state law from entering schools. The ACLU claims the sex offender law , which also just took effect, prevents serious sex offenders from entering churches with schools attached to them and this unduly burdens those sex offenders right to exercise their religious freedom.
"This is a prime example as a place where people's religious rights are being burdened, and therefore under RFRA the state has to justify that," said ACLU of Indiana legal director Ken Falk. "It makes no sense to ban people on a Sunday if there are kids there on a Thursday . . .
The ACLU of Indiana opposed RFRA, arguing that the law would allow discrimination against gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender individuals. But Falk said the lawsuit uses RFRA "as it was originally contemplated" to protect religious freedom. 
"We're not going to pretend it doesn't exist now," Falk said. "It does exist. The legislature said it wants to protect religious liberties, and that's exactly what we're trying to do."
This is a case where the ACLU of Indiana is clearly playing politics with the state's new law. The claim it asserts could have been brought in federal court under the federal RFRA law long before now. The ACLU has not shied away from using the federal law to go to bat for Muslim inmates at Terre Haute's federal prison to force prison officials to allow the inmates to conduct group prayer meetings on a daily basis as opposed to the weekly basis prison officials had traditionally allowed for inmates of different religious faiths. The ACLU of Indiana has traditionally been run by leftist, partisan Democrats and things haven't changed.

Advance Indiana wonders if the ACLU of Indiana would take up the cause of a state lawmaker fired from their private sector job because he or she supported RFRA. Rumors have been circulating in the Terre Haute area and around the State House that State Rep. Alan Morrison (D-Terre Haute) was separated from his long-time employment with Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology where he had worked since 2001 because some university supporters complained about his support of the RFRA legislation during this past session. University officials and Morrison did not respond to requests by the Terre Haute Tribune-Star on the reason for his termination. Advance Indiana reached out to a House Republican spokesperson for Rep. Morrison earlier today for comment on those rumors but has not yet received a response. Anti-RFRA activists have been engaged in organized Alinsky-style attacks on a number of politicians, in addition to Gov. Mike Pence, who supported RFRA, which have included efforts at harming their business interests and pressuring their employers to fire them from their jobs.

Indianapolis' State Sen. Scott Schneider's ice business was negatively impacted after RFRA opponents began contacting his customers threatening to boycott their businesses unless they stopped doing business with Schneider's business. Several businesses with long-time ties to Schneider's Mr. Ice cut their ties to the business because of Sen. Schneider's role in sponsoring RFRA and the vocal pressure they were under from gay rights and other left-wing activists to stop doing business with Mr. Ice.

Hogsett's Second Ad More Of The Same

Joe Hogsett's campaign has released its second ad for his Indianapolis mayoral bid. If you saw the first one, you've already seen this one.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Democrat Convicted Of One Of Largest Absentee Ballot Fraud Cases In State's History Files To Run For North Vernon Mayor As Independent

A former Democratic state lawmaker and prominent campaign operative from Jennings County who pleaded guilty to three felony charges involving the operation a massive absentee vote fraud scam has filed paperwork to run for North Vernon mayor as an independent candidate according to the North Vernon Plain Dealer. Mike Marshall told the Plain Dealer he decided to run for mayor because of his opposition as a business owner to North Vernon's Stellar Community projects, which includes the closing of Short Street. Marshall says business owners were lied to about the street closing and will be adversely impacted by it.

The Jennings County Democratic Party chair, Karen Snyder, is not pleased by Marshall's decision. "I don't know why Mike filed for office. He hasn't talked to us," said Snyder, Jennings County Democratic Party chair. "He has a right to do that, though, and that is a freedom I appreciate." Or does he have a right to run for public office in Indiana? Indiana law seems to suggest he does not have a right to run for public office because of his past three felony convictions.

Marshall agreed to plead guilty to three felony charges rather than fight dozens of felony charges filed by state prosecutors against him. He served an 18-month sentence, and his attorneys were successful in getting those three felony convictions reduced to misdemeanor charges earlier this year after he served his sentence. State law says a person is disqualified from becoming a candidate for office if he pleaded guilty to a felony charge, even if a court subsequently reduces the felony conviction to a misdemeanor offense. Presumably, someone will contest his candidacy citing that state law.

Grand Poobah Of First Cannabis Church Serves Hite And City With Notice Of Defamation Claim

An attorney representing Bill Levin, the Grand Poobah of the First Church of Cannabis, has served IMPD Chief Rick Hite and the City of Indianapolis with notice of a tort claim for defamation, alleging his client's reputation was harmed when Chief Hite compared Levin to Rev. Jim Jones, the infamous leader of the People's Temple cult whose more than 900 followers were killed in a heavily-guarded prison camp in Jonestown, Guyana operated covertly by the CIA as a human mind control experiment. Followers of Rev. Jones assassinated former Rep. Leo Ryan, the CIA's most vocal critic in Congress at the time, along with several members of his party, as they attempted to board a plane at a nearby airstrip after concluding a fact-finding mission to Jonestown.

"As Jim Jones once did within our state, he led a group of people into a place of no return," Chief Hite said at a press conference last week announcing arrests would be made if Levin's church used marijuana during its first church service today as advertised by Levin. "We don't want that to happen again in this state," Hite said. "Chief Hite's statements were defamatory per se in that he imputed to Mr. Levin's character the same or similar traits as those of Jones, one of the most prolific mass murderers in history," Levin's attorney said in his tort claim notice Actually, Rev. Jones killed nobody; it was agents of our own government who did the dirty clean-up work and conveniently blamed Jones for the horrific massacre to block public disclosure of the Nazi-like prison camp it had established for its mind control experimentation run amok on land the CIA originally leased from the Guyanese government as part of its Operation Shalom where guerrilla fighters were trained for a civil war in Angola, but I digress.

Small said Hite's comments were "false" or made "with reckless disregard of whether one or more of the statements were false or not." Small said the statements were "a slur to Levin's character and good name." Small's letter also claims that Chief Hite violated Levin's First Amendment right to "freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of conscience and right to assembly." The letter indicates Levin intends to file a separate claim under 42 U.S.C. 1983. Small's letter claims his client has suffered damages between $25,000 and $50,000 "though the full extent of the injuries, medical expenses, and pain and suffering is not known at this time."

Nearly thirty IMPD cops are reportedly present at Levin's church today as it prepares to conduct its inaugural service, although Levin said the church would heed Chief Hite's warning and not smoke marijuana during today's service as originally advertised. A large gaggle of reporters from all over have flocked to the church to cover today's event. Media captured images of an IPL truck installing a new surveillance camera on a utility pole across the street. Someone set up a Kool-Aid stand as a mocking reference to Chief Hite's comparison of Levin to Rev. Jones, who historically has been accused of having his followers drink cyanide-laced Kool-Aid as part of a mass suicide. The Indianapolis Star appears to have a team of reporters on hand to cover today's event, or act like cheerleaders of the cause, you be the judge. The Star is actually streaming the church services live. Follow their live updates here.

Bobble heads of Grand Poobah Bill Levin are on sale
Levin is marketing bobble heads of himself at his church (Star/Michelle Pemberton photo)

The Face Of Mike Pence's Opposition

Kevin Warren says despite having signs stolen and burned, his truck egged and his house under surveillance, his feelings and message for Mike Pence will never change.
Indianapolis realtor and gay activist Kevin Warren (Nuvo/Mark Lee Photo)

Nuvo story here.

UPDATE: This seems to be a popular trend among gay activists. In the images below, several gay activists are shown flipping the middle finger to portraits of Republican presidents at the White House.
Gay Activists Visiting White House Take Photos of Themselves Flipping Off Reagan Portrait
Philly Mag Photo

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Ballard Illegally Transferred $6.8 Million Out Of IMPD Fund For Spite

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UPDATED: The man who ran for mayor saying "public safety is job one" has sure moved to a different place. Despite raising  income taxes this year for the supposed purpose of providing more money to hire additional police officers Ballard promised to hire when he was first elected in 2007, he vetoed a $4.7 million appropriation approved by the City-County Council to purchase 75 replacement police cars for an aging fleet, and to make repairs and capital improvements at the department's firing range and  the police academy. Council members rebuked Ballard by overriding that veto by an astonishing 28-1 vote.

Ballard was then caught transferring $6 million from the parking meter fund to pay for his sweetheart exclusive electric car sharing deal with Blue Indy, a newly-formed company owned by the French company, Bollore. Ballard was also caught illegally transferring close to $300,000 from the storm water fund to pay for his illegal, 7-year, $32 million lease agreement with Vision Fleet to lease more than 400 electric and hybrid cars. The City-County Council has gone to court to void that lease agreement, and it's now raising questions about the legality of the Blue Indy car sharing program that utilizes French-made cars not approved for use on American highways and power charging stations that are not UL-certified as required by law.

Could it get any worse? Apparently the answer is yes. Council members have just learned that Ballard illegally transferred $6.8 million from the IMPD fund, effectively wiping out funds that would have otherwise been available to pay the appropriation approved by the council in April following its vote to override the mayor's veto and jeopardizing the ability to fully-fund a new class of police recruits. City-County Council President Maggie Lewis released the following statement this evening:
Very recently I was informed that Mayor Ballard unilaterally authorized a withdraw of $6.8 million dollars out of the IMPD general fund without consultation or approval from the Council. This is not how good municipal government works. The Council recently overrode the Mayor's veto to add appropriations to fund critically needed pursuit rated vehicles and necessary upgrades to IMPD facilities. His decision means many IMPD officers will continue to operate substandard vehicles and train at outdated facilities. We have too few officers on the street to begin with and this action by the administration may put at risk the city's ability to fund this Fall's final recruit class of 2015. I call on the Mayor to immediately reverse course and follow both the letter and spirit of Indiana law by returning the money to IMPD now."
I warned folks last year that Ballard had no intention of using the money raised from the latest income tax increase for public safety as it was sold to the public. By his recent actions, Ballard has removed any doubt concerning the accuracy of my prediction. The man is convinced he's above the law and can do as he pleases without any consequences. He's Rod Blagojevich on steroids without any fear of a prosecutor holding him to account for his actions as would have long ago occurred in almost any other state in this country.

UPDATE: The City's controller is claiming the money was needed to restore the City's fiscal stability fund's balance to maintain the City's bond rating. There are other funds which could have been tapped--namely the downtown TIF fund the mayor uses as a slush fund to financially reward his big campaign contributors. There are some saying Ballard is tapping the money to pay for his pre-K initiative, which is not in any way a responsibility of municipal government to provide. Campaign contributors before public safety. That's the take-away from this action.

Grand Jury Clears Two IMPD Officers Involved In Fatal Shooting Of Mack Long

Marion Co. Prosecutor Terry Curry's office announced today that a grand jury reviewing evidence received in the shooting death of Mack Long last April by two IMPD officers decided they should not face criminal charges. A vehicle in which Long was a passenger was stopped for a minor traffic offense. Police said Long fled on foot when the police officer asked the driver of the car to provide her license and vehicle registration. The officer reportedly pursued Long, who said he observed Long carrying a firearm at his hip. That officer fired one shot into Long after he caught up with him and he refused to comply with his order to drop to the ground. Long continued to flee after being shot once. The officer says he began wrestling with Long after catching up to him again, at which point a second police officer who arrived on the scene fired two more shots into Long, killing him.

An IMPD spokesman initially claimed that Long had fired at one of the police officers, who allegedly was injured when a bullet grazed him. Police later retracted that statement, agreeing that Long had fired no shots during the altercation. One of the police officers involved in the shooting was wearing a body camera. In addition, a nearby witness recorded the shooting on a cell phone. The police and prosecutor's office both refused to release the video to the public. Curry insisted Indiana law did not permit him to release the video because of an ongoing grand jury investigation. That's an inaccurate statement of Indiana law, which actually gives law enforcement the discretion of withholding the video as an investigative record. The law does not expressly prohibit the video's release. So why not release the video now? You can review the press release issued by the prosecutor's office here. There isn't much there to read.

Community Health Network Agrees To Pay More Than $20 Million Civil Penalty For Medicaid/Medicare Billing Fraud

Community Health Network ("CHN") agreed to repay a multi-million dollar sum to the federal government for Medicare and Medicaid billing fraud it committed over nearly a decade period between the late 1990s and 2009, but the question left unanswered by today's announcement by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Indiana is why the office is bringing no criminal charges against officials of CHN responsible for this not insignificant fraud on federal taxpayers.

According to a press released issued by the U.S. Attorney's Office, CHN contracted for free-standing ambulatory surgery centers ("ASCs") to perform outpatient surgery services for CHN patients. CHN would submit bills for Medicaid and Medicare reimbursement as if the surgeries were performed at a CHN facility instead of one of the ASCs which actually performed the outpatient surgery. CHN misrepresented the place of the surgery because CHN facilities generally received a higher rate of reimbursement for the same service performed at one of its ASCs. CHN continued this fraudulent practice for nearly two years after it had been put on notice that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services ("CMS") required hospitals like CHN to bill at the ASC rate, not the hospital rate.

As part of the settlement, CHN agreed to repay the federal government $20,324,902.22 for submitting false claims to Medicare and Medicaid. Under the False Claims Act, the government can collect up to three times the amount of the loss occurred, plus a fine of up to $5,000 to $11,000 for each false bill submitted. It's not clear just how much CHN defrauded the federal government out of since billing records no longer existed for the entire period during which the fraud occurred. The U.S. Attorney's Office could have also brought criminal charges against the individuals responsible for the fraudulent billing but it did not. The settlement agreement didn't even require CHN to acknowledge guilt.

There seems to be a pattern of the U.S. Attorney's Office to treat individual health care providers differently than it does hospital administrators. The office has not hesitated to bring criminal charges against individual health care providers involving far less sums of money. Last year, the office brought criminal charges against an Indianapolis man, Ronald Reed, whose company overbilled Medicare and Medicaid for medical equipment, including wheel chairs, scooters and hospital beds. Reed's company sold used, refurbished equipment but billed it at rates applied to new equipment. He faced a prison sentence of up to 10 years for the charges brought against him for overbilling the government by a little more than $400,000. Similarly, a Fort Wayne woman, Kateen Morris, who operated a transportation company, faced criminal charges for overbilling Medicare and Medicaid. She was sentenced to one year in prison and ordered to repay the government nearly $400,000.

The U.S. Attorney's Office handled a case involving Gibson General Hospital the same way it handled CHN's case. Gibson General stood accused of overbilling Medicare and Medicaid in precisely the same manner that CHN overbilled the federal agencies, albeit for a much small sum. Gibson General was only asked to repay double what it overbilled taxpayers, which amounted to a total fine of about $1 million. Twenty percent of the money went to a government whistle blower, a former hospital employee, as a reward for reporting the false claims made by Gibson General. No criminal charges were brought in that case either. Why are hospitals treated differently than persons operating smaller, health care provider businesses. Are hospital administrators too big to jail?

Monday, June 29, 2015

Levin Blinks: Won't Light Up At First Cannabis Church's Inaugural Service

The Grand Poobah of the First Cannabis Church won't risk arrest at his inaugural church service this Wednesday by lighting up and smoking marijuana as he earlier assured his followers and media folks would occur. Bill Levin now says his church will file a civil lawsuit against the state after the Religious Freedom Restoration Act takes effect on Wednesday. The Indianapolis Star quoted the attention-seeking Levin from a post he made on Facebook:
"Right now, we do not want to address this in criminal court, because it's not a strong hand," Levin said in an interview with The Indianapolis Star. "If we address this in civil court, we have a stronger hand."
"Due to the threat of police action against our religion I feel it is important to CELEBRATE LIFE'S GREAT ADVENTURE in our first service WITHOUT THE USE OF CANNABIS," Levin wrote on his Facebook page. "The Police dept has waged a display of shameless misconceptions and voluntary ignorance. We will do our first service without the use of any cannabis. CANNABIS WILL BE PROHIBITED ON THE FIRST SERVICE.
"We will not be dragged into criminal court for their advantage. We will meet them in a civil court where the laws are clear about religious persecution. We do not start fights. We Finish Them!
"One Love!"
Ignorance is bliss. Whether Levin's church could assert in a court of law a religious right to use marijuana as part of its religious ritual has absolutely nothing to do with the enactment of Indiana's RFRA law, which does little more than codify into state law a federal RFRA law that's been on the books for two decades and the associated case law interpreting that statute. RFRA re-affirms free exercise rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment. Mainstream news media reports and radical leftist organizations unfairly characterized the law as a license to discriminate against gays in an effort to demonize the long-accepted American tradition of religious freedom.