Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Legislation Would Let Pence Have His Cake And Eat It Too

I personally have a problem with a state's governor running around the country almost full-time running for president when he or she already has a full-time job the voters of their respective state have a reasonable expectation they would perform when they ran for the office. Indiana, unlike some states, doesn't allow an existing state officer to simultaneously run for re-election to their state office and for election to a federal office. Under legislation proposed by Sen. Mike Delph (R-Carmel), the governor and state lawmakers would be permitted to simultaneously appear on the ballot for election to both their state office and a federal office, including president or Congress.

"I think it's good for the state of Indiana to have a sitting governor in the national conversation and because of that I think it's in our interest to make the obstacles and roadblocks for Pence as minimal as possible," Delph told the Indianapolis Star. Lawmakers like Delph would obviously benefit from the legislation as well should they choose to run for the U.S. House or Senate while running for re-election. A spokesperson for Gov. Pence says he's not behind the legislation. "This issue is not on the Governor's agenda, and as with all bills, should it reach the Governor's desk, he will review it and make a decision," Kara Brooks said. Pence is just returning from a 9-day trip to Israel, which he likely would not have taken if he wasn't planning to run for president.

The Star story notes legislation was passed in 1988 to allow Indiana's federal lawmaker to run for re-election and for president simultaneously. That legislation was intended to benefit former Sen. Richard Lugar (R) and former U.S. Rep. Lee Hamilton, who were both touted as presidential timber at one point earlier in their careers. Senate President Pro Tempore David Long and House Speaker Brian Bosma declined to say whether they would support passage of the legislation. As I see it, voters will be cheated out of deciding who holds a candidate's state office if he or she succeeds in winning both their federal and state races. That reason alone is enough to oppose it. We already have too many state officials resigning their offices prematurely and allowing their successors to be chosen in the backrooms.

AirAsia Victim Recovery Footage: Real Or Not?

The mainstream media began playing this bizarre video of what is represented as a rescue worker retrieving dead bodies found floating in the Java Sea amidst a debris field supposedly from the missing AirAsia Flight #8501. Internet sleuths think the video is fishy (no pun intended). A floating body shown in the video looks more like one of those cadaver dummies used by rescue workers in practice drills or like those used as props in movies. Some may recall Internet sleuths calling out the media for using video footage of cadaver dummies used in the LAX shooting last year, which you can view on YouTube here and here, just like law enforcement use in their training drills. It's not to say there weren't victims recovered from the sea. What CNN and other media outlets have been caught doing is using stock footage and playing it as if it represents actual events playing out in a current news story.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Adam Livvix To Remain Jailed In Israel While Awaiting Trial

Adam Everett Livvix
Adam Livvix, 30, formerly of Marshall, Illinois, has been ordered held in custody by an Israeli magistrate while he awaits trial on charges he acquired weapons for the purpose of blowing up holy Muslim sites in Israel. Livvix, who has a number of outstanding warrants for his arrest here in Indiana and Illinois, is the brother-in-law of former Indianapolis Motor Speedway CEO Tony George. Livvix was indicted earlier this month after being taken into custody by Israeli authorities in November.

Livvix's attorney, Gal Wolf, told the Jerusalem Post the government doesn't have much evidence against his client. Wolf said his client came to Israel because he's a Christian. "I'm a Christian, I love Jews very much and I think they are getting a raw deal," Wolf said quoting Livvix. He said Livvix believes "the state of Israel is an important country." Excuse me if I have trouble believing those are the sincere words of the same kid from my hometown.

The Post earlier reported that Livvix arrived in the country in March 2013 as a tourist. That was about a month before the latest criminal charges against him, a felony theft charge in Morgan County, was filed by the Morgan Co. Prosecutor. Livvix also served time in the Hamilton Co. jail for felony drug possession charges where there was an outstanding warrant for his arrest for violating the terms of his probation.

Livvix supposedly left Israel and crossed into the Palestinian Authority's West Bank for a period of time where he was allegedly approached by a Palestinian and offered an opportunity to participate in an assassination plot against President Barack Obama during a scheduled visit to Israel. Livvix, who allegedly tried to pass himself off as a Navy Seal, turned down the offer and later illegally re-entered Israel and began sharing an apartment with an Israeli soldier from whom he acquired the weapons that are now the subject of the criminal charges against him.

According to the Post, the unidentified Israeli soldier, who is also a U.S. citizen, was charged with taking weapons from the army's possession, illegal weapons transactions and other charges. The soldier allegedly sold the stolen weapons taken from the army base where he was stationed, including explosive bricks and stun guns, to Livvix, who authorities say openly discussed his plans to use the weapons to blow up Muslim holy sites with friends and acquaintances. Livvix has been deemed fit to stand trial after being subject to a psychiatric evaluation. The date of his trial has not been reported.

Hogsett Raises More Than $916,000 From The Usual Suspects For Mayoral Campaign

It's little wonder Joe Hogsett dumped every major public corruption investigation handed to him by the FBI in the waste basket during his tenure as U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Indiana just like his useless, political hack predecessors. All of the usual suspects engaged in operating the City of Indianapolis as their personal profit centers lined up to contribute more than $916,000 to the campaign committee he just formed months ago to launch his bid to become Indianapolis' next mayor. With expenditures of fewer than $50,000, Hogsett will begin the year with a cash-on-hand balance of at least $871,000. [Note: This only includes reporting through the end of November.]

Two of the Simon daughters were among his largest campaign contributors. Cindy Skjodt and Deborah Simon each kicked in $100,000. Barnes & Thornburg's Jeffery Mallamad, kicked in $110,000. If you weren't among the dozens of city contractors, consultants, engineers, attorneys and lobbyists who kicked in a minimum buy-in of at least $5,000, you hardly register as a big supporter. Developer Joe Whitsett forked over $11,400, while developer Michael Browning gave up $5,000. Lobbyists Doug Brown, Kenny Cragen, Greg Hahn, Lacy Johnson and Sam Odle each spared $10,000 to the cause. Hogsett's law firm, Bose McKinney & Evans, chipped in $10,000. Engineer James Schellinger dropped $10,000. There were a couple of labor unions who mistakenly contributed $10,000 of their members' money under the false perception the candidate sides with workers and not big business in the Evan Bayh tradition.

You can check out Hogsett's campaign finance disclosure report here to confirm why the views of average folks aren't represented by government.

Cyber Intelligence Experts Tell FBI Disgruntled Employees Behind Sony Hack: U.S. Government Still Blames North Korea

The U.S. government was very quick to blame the North Korean government when Sony Pictures was the victim of a major computer hacking meant to embarrass the company as it prepared the launch of its incredibly terrible movie, "The Interview," which will no doubt generate far higher box office receipts than it otherwise would have generated but for the hacking incident. Independent cyber security experts reportedly briefed the FBI yesterday on its findings the hacking of Sony's computer systems was an inside job carried out by disgruntled employees. Faced with the fact the North Koreans lacked the capabilities of carrying out such a sophisticated attack, the FBI is sticking to its original story, suggesting the North Koreans contracted out the work.

It's starting to look an awful lot like our government's phony claims accusing the Syrian government of carrying out chemical weapons attacks on its own people as an excuse for launching yet another war in the Middle East or the non-existence of Saddam's weapons of mass destruction. Our government stood by its Syrian chemical weapons story for months even after being confronted with embarrassing evidence that any chemical weapons attack that occurred in Syria was done by the hands of the very rebels covertly funded, armed and trained by the U.S. government. The government then shifted to a narrative that the supposed good guys morphed into something bad called ISIS which had to be eradicated. Who wins and who loses when our own government repeatedly perpetrates false flag attacks?

Flashback: Lawrence County Judge Ordered City Of Mitchell To Pay Salary To Council Member Who Never Lived In City

If you don't believe Charlie White got a raw deal, then let me remind you of the recent case of a Mitchell city council member in Lawrence County who sued city officials who withheld his pay because he did not reside in the council district to which he had been elected in 2007. Everett Ferrel not only never lived in his council district, he wasn't even a resident of the city.

Ferrel mistakenly believed he lived in the city limits and successfully ran and got elected to the council without anyone challenging his residency. As a council member, he earned a salary of $4,900 a year. After the council learned Ferrel didn't live in his district well into his four-year term, the remaining members voted to withhold his salary. Ferrel never resigned, and the city never took formal action to remove him from office. He also wasn't charged with vote fraud for voting and running for office in a municipal election in which he wasn't legally permitted to participate.

Ferrel sued the city for his unpaid salary under Indiana's Wage Payment statute, which entitles an employee to recover up to double the amount of their wage claim as damages, plus their attorney's fees. Judge Andrea McCord ruled in Ferrel's favor and ordered the city to pay the $12,250 of salary the city withheld from him. Judge McCord followed the reasoning of a long line of cases holding an officeholder duly elected and sworn into office holds that office under color of law until legally removed from office.

In Charlie White's case, the Town of Fishers never challenged his residency. Rather, he voluntarily resigned from his town council seat to which he had been duly elected after questions were raised about his residency. Even though he attended all town council meetings and otherwise performed his duties, he returned the salary he earned during a several month period in question. Yet he was still charged and convicted of a felony theft charge. The Court of Appeals' opinion yesterday rejected White's argument that he legally held the office until removed through a formal civil proceeding and, therefore, could not be found guilty of theft. The Court of Appeals reasoned that the town was not required to take formal action to remove him under state law in order to find him guilty of theft. It also upheld his conviction for registering and casting a vote in the 2010 primary election using his ex-wife's home while he was in between homes.

Many readers will also recall the case of former Indianapolis City-County Councilor Patrice Abduallah, who claimed a residence at an uninhabitable, vacant home in the district at which he never resided during the more than three and a half years he served on the council and drew about $15,000 a year in salary. When I called him out on it in a blog post in August 2007, he abruptly resigned from the council. He was never charged with theft and vote fraud like White, and he never returned any of his salary. All of his votes as a council member, including his vote in favor of the 65% increase in the local income tax rate, were deemed valid because he had been duly elected and sworn into office. The Marion Co. Election Board had even discovered the fact that he had listed an address other than one located in his district when he filed for re-election in 2007 but still allowed his name to be placed on the Democratic primary ballot.

The Marion Co. Election Board also opted against recommending criminal charges against Sen. Richard Lugar and his wife, Charlene, after it found the couple had been voting at a precinct in Wayne Township for 35 years in which he had no claim of legal residency after he sold the home he owned there in 1977 and moved his family to Virginia. Lugar was allowed to move his voting residence to an old farmhouse he owned in Decatur Township where he doesn't physically reside. When he lost re-election in 2012, he never returned home to Indianapolis. He kept his home in Virginia but continues to cast absentee ballots using that same farmhouse.

Evan Bayh, an attorney like White, is no better. He voted in multiple elections years after leaving the state of Indiana while he worked full-time for a law firm in Washington, D.C. where he and his wife resided, registered their automobile, obtained a driver's license and paid their taxes. That didn't stop him from running for Secretary of State and getting elected, or running for governor two years later when he was challenged for meeting the state's five-year residency requirement. The Supreme Court enunciated the infamous Bayh residency rule that afforded leniency in its interpretation of the state's residency law to permit him to legally run for governor. It built upon a similar lenient residency interpretation it announced in the case of Judge David Evrard, who was allowed to file and run for judge in Perry County while working full-time as a patent lawyer in Washington, D.C. where he and his wife lived, and his step-children attended school. Evrard had the added twist of marrying a woman he was not legally permitted to marry because she was still married to her first husband.

The Indiana Constitution required Gov. Mitch Daniels to reside in Marion County. He built a luxury home in Hamilton Co. to keep his wife happy where the couple lived during his two terms as governor. Nonetheless, he registered and voted using the governor's residence on North Meridian Street in Indianapolis despite the fact he never resided there. He had the audacity to demand White's resignation from office over questions of his voter residency. The same media which castigated White made light of Daniels' fictional residency. Was Daniels prosecuted for vote fraud? Of course not.

All of you Charlie White haters can hate on him all you want, but there is no mistaking the fact that the laws of this state were unfairly applied to prosecute and persecute him. He faced seven felony charges for his actions. The trial court jury found him not guilty of mortgage fraud, but found him guilty of the six remaining felony counts. He lost the statewide office to which he had been overwhelmingly elected by the state's voters and the salary it paid, along with his reputation. The Court of Appeals agreed that two of the four vote fraud-related charges of which he was convicted constituted double jeopardy. It also agreed to toss a felony perjury charge for allegedly lying on his marriage application about his address. Yet he remains convicted of three felony charges, two for vote fraud and one for theft, more than enough to justify the Indiana Supreme Court to strip him of his law license at least temporarily. If that's equal treatment under the law, I learned nothing in law school.

Monday, December 29, 2014

IPL Seeking Another 8% Rate Increase

Indianapolis Power & Light is already increasing your electric bills 3% a year until at least the year 2019, but that's not stopping it from seeking authorization to hike your bills another 8%, or about $8 bucks a month more. It also has a separate 1% hike pending before the IURC to pay to convert its Harding Street plant from coal to natural gas. Utilities always get what they want in Indiana because the members of our regulatory commission were all bought and paid for by the industry. Anyone not in their back pocket is disqualified from service on the IURC--yet another benefit of living in the most corrupt state in all of America.

Pence Groveling At Netanyahu's Feet For Permission To Run For President

Gov. Mike Pence knows who his true master is, and it's not the people of Indiana or the United States of America. Watch your state's governor's slobbering remarks written by his in-house Israeli agent, Tom Rose, to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seeking his blessings to run for President. Ask Gov. Pence what those billions of dollars in annual foreign aid to Israel have done for you lately. Will we ever live to see the day when a single American leader will stand face-to-face with an Israeli leader and demand an apology for their unprovoked and deliberate attack on the U.S.S. Liberty on June 8, 1967 that killed 34 American sailors and seriously injured 171 others, representing the longest and most deadly sustained attack on a U.S. Navy ship since Pearl Harbor by our so-called ally?

Key Investor In Winning Criminal Justice Center P3 Once Fined By British Authorities For Bid-Rigging

The City of Indianapolis knows how to pick a winning team to build a more than half billion dollar criminal justice complex. Advance Indiana earlier reported that Cofely Services, the French-based international facilities management company the winning bidder, WMB Heartland Justice Partners, LLC, designated as its team member responsible for managing the criminal justice center complex to be built at the site of the former GM Stamping Plant for the 35-year term of the P3 agreement, was at the center of a massive public corruption scandal in Spain in which dozens of local government officials have been charged with accepting bribes for the awarding of public contracts which primarily benefited Cofely Services. You read only hear that Walsh Construction, the construction arm of The Walsh Group, which will construct the new criminal justice center and hold a 15% investment stake in it, has been the subject of an ugly federal race discrimination lawsuit brought on behalf of a dozen black employees whose allegations were substantiated by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Now you will only read here that another key investor in the winning bid group was fined five years ago by the British government for bid-rigging.

The British government's Office of Fair Trading ("OFT") levied fines against more than 100 construction companies in 2009, including Balfour Beatty, for artificially inflating the cost of public building projects by colluding with other bidders. Balfour Beatty received a fine equivalent to a little more than $8 million dollars for infringements occurring from 2000 for Balfour Beatty Construction and from 2003 for Mansell Construction Services, for infringements occurring after it was acquired by Balfour Beatty. It was the sixth-highest fine issued by the OFT. The OFT said the fines came after the government had concluded its "largest ever Competitions Act investigations." The OFT stated the following in its Statement of Objections ("SO") it filed against the 112 construction firm charges with bid-rigging:
The OFT formally alleges that the construction companies named in the SO have engaged in bid rigging activities, and in particular cover pricing. Cover pricing describes a situation where one or more bidders collude with a competitor during a tender process to obtain a price or prices which are intended to be too high to win the contract. The tendering authority, for example a local council or other customer, is not made aware of the contacts between bidders, leaving it with a false impression of the level of competition and this may result in it paying inflated prices.
Cover pricing arrangements have previously been found by the OFT and the Competition Appeal Tribunal to be illegal and in breach of the Competition Act 1998 due to the restrictions on competition that arise.
In addition, the SO formally alleges that a minority of the construction companies have variously entered into one or more arrangements whereby it was agreed that the successful tenderer would pay an agreed sum of money to the unsuccessful tenderer (known as a 'compensation payment'). These more serious forms of bid rigging are usually facilitated by false invoices.
The construction companies under investigation carry out general building work including construction of housing, as well as commercial and industrial construction both in the public and private sector. The SO allegations cover a diverse range of projects, including tenders for schools, universities and hospitals.
The OFT's investigation originated from a specific complaint in the East Midlands in 2004, but it quickly became clear from the evidence that the practice of cover pricing was widespread. The SO's formal allegations therefore cover neighbouring areas including Yorkshire and Humberside and also elsewhere in England. The OFT has also received evidence of cover pricing implicating many more companies on thousands of tender processes, but has focused its investigation on approximately 240 alleged infringements which are being pursued in the SO.
During the course of the investigation, the OFT carried out site visits at the premises of 57 firms. The OFT received 37 leniency applications in the investigation leading to this SO, and all other parties received an offer of a reduced financial penalty (see OFT press notices 49/07 and 50/07), which led to over 40 further companies subsequently admitting participation in some bid rigging activities . . . 
According to news reports at the time, the fines imposed against Balfour Beatty and the other offending construction companies was described as "a minor inconvenience." The average fine represented a mere 1.14% of the companies' global annual turnover. "For my clients it's a result," one of the attorneys representing the accused companies said of the fines." "One of them has got a bloody good deal." "He claimed that the OFT did not want to set the fines too high for fear of triggering a mass appeal by companies." The companies were allowed a period of three years to pay the fines instead of the usual two-month period because of the worldwide recession at the time.

Union leaders complained at the time that the fines were too small to discourage cartels. "The employers have admitted cover pricing is far more widespread than is covered in the OFT report," said Alan Ritchie, general secretary of UCATT. "Given those facts, these fines have got to be seen as lenient," he continued. "Many of the companies involved will see the fines as little more than a minor inconvenience." We probably shouldn't be surprised to learn that Balfour Beatty competed against Meridiam Infrastructure on the Long Beach, California courthouse P3 project awarded to Meridiam before successfully partnering with Meridiam to win Indianapolis' P3 project.

For those of you unfamiliar with the procurement processes here in Indiana, bid-rigging is a common practice among those companies feeding at the government trough who lavish large campaign contributions and gifts on our corrupt public officials. Like other widespread public corruption in this state, these are not matters that concern either our federal or state prosecutors. Public crimes that are commonly prosecuted in other states are rarely prosecuted in this state. It's why corrupt businesses from Chicago are flocking to Indiana to feed off the government largesse our public officials are more than happy to share with them if the price is right.

I doubt this fact will bother anyone in this lousy, corrupt city and state, but WMB Heartland Justice Partners has yet to register with the Secretary of State as a business authorized to conduct business in the state of Indiana. Yeah, a company that has hired a team of high-priced lawyers and lobbyists to win one of the state's most coveted public works' projects can't get around to doing something as simple as registering with the Secretary of State and paying a measly $85 filing fee.

Indiana Court Of Appeals Splits The Baby: Only Tosses Three Of Charlie White's Six Felony Convictions

I didn't anticipate former Secretary of State Charlie White would find complete justice in this state, and the Indiana Court of Appeals' decision proves me partially correct. An opinion rendered by Judge Nancy Vaidik today only overturns three of the six felony counts White was found guilty of by a Hamilton Co. jury, which resulted in his removal from office. The Court's opinion only vacates the most obvious glaring errors of judgment made at the trial court level that not even this three-judge panel could ignore and save face.

White's felony count of perjury for using his ex-wife's address on his marriage license application was deemed immaterial to support a conviction for perjury. That represented the first time in the state's history a prosecutor charged a person with such an invented crime. The Court also found that two of the vote fraud-related charges on which he was found guilty violated his constitutional protection against double jeopardy. The Court vacated both of those convictions.

What is very alarming is that the Court criminalized an act of lawfully casting a vote, which basically tells you that the powers of the state of Indiana can be used to destroy your career for casting a lawful vote in this state, something that has never before happened in the history of the state of Indiana. White's alleged wrong of casting a vote in one precinct instead of another nearby precinct has never been prosecuted as a crime in this state. If it had been, Evan Bayh, Richard Lugar and Mitch Daniels would have all been prosecuted and convicted of felony vote fraud. The charitable residency standard afforded to these men and Judge Evrard did not apply to Charlie White. The Court ignored all of those decisions. It's as if those long line of opinions were never written as the Court made no attempt to distinguish White's case from any of those opinions. All three judges would never have been appointed to the Court of Appeals had our state's Supreme Court not enunciated a charitable residency standard for their beloved Evan Bayh. Moral to this story--don't vote and give them yet another excuse for prosecuting innocent persons they want destroyed.

The Court also for the first time in the state's history ruled that a person can be charged with theft for drawing a salary for an office to which he was legally elected and sworn into office if he later moves out of that district and does not immediately stop drawing his salary. This has occurred dozens of times over the past several decades, and no public official has ever been prosecuted for theft. No civil proceeding required under state law for his removal from office was ever initiated; rather, he voluntarily resigned his office.  This Court said the state could legally prosecute him for drawing a salary as a Fishers town council member for a several month period the jury concluded he had moved outside his district, even though he performed the duties of his office, and never mind the fact that he was elected at-large by all of the town's voters. That runs counter to a long history of cases in this state providing for the removal of a person from office through action of the town council or a civil quo warranto action.

Charlie White is not entitled to any benefit of the doubt like Bayh, Lugar, Daniels et al. The corrupt powers ordered his political career destroyed, and they want his law license taken away from him. The result of today's decision upholds this miscarriage of justice. The decision lends support to the criticism that there is no such thing as equal treatment under the law in this state. The rules are bent to protect the ruling elites, while they are used like a hammer to crush folks the elites have determined must be destroyed. This prosecution and persecution of a duly-elected statewide officeholder is another sad chapter in this state's long and sordid history. Charlie White could always appeal today's decision, but I highly doubt he will get any better results from the Supreme Court.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

San Diego Courthouse Project Not A P3

California officials liked their P3 experience so well in Long Beach, California they've opted against that controversial approach for building a brand new courthouse in San Diego. The central courthouse, which will house 71 criminal and civil courtrooms, will cost $555 million to build and be paid for by court fees and fines. It is scheduled to open in 2016. The same San Francisco-based architect which is serving on the design team of the winning bidder for Indianapolis' proposed criminal justice center project, Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, designed San Diego's new courthouse.

The downtown mafia in Indianapolis insisted it was bad economic development to keep the criminal courts and jail in downtown Indianapolis, but in San Diego a shimmering 22-story skyscraper will stand right smack in the middle of downtown because of the concentration of legal and law enforcement activities there. It will sit across the street from a luxury W Hotel. A tunnel connecting the courthouse to the jail has been on hold for the time being due to its $25 million cost, but it might be added later if a new parking garage is built.

Here's how San Diego's new courthouse will look floor-by-floor according to the U-T San Diego:

1: Court business, felony arraignment courtrooms and lobby with radiant heat flooring
2: Court business and misdemeanor arraignment courtrooms
3: Jury assembly, cafe and outdoor public terrace
4: Family law business offices, and judges chambers on Floors 4-22
5-8: Family law courtrooms
9-10: Civil law courts
11-22: Criminal courts
Lower basement: 80 parking spaces for judges and court vehicles
1st basement: Sallyport for prisoner transportation vehicles, about 40 multiple occupant cells; showers and changing rooms for bike commuters and electrical vehicle charging stations on one or both levels.

Officials are also considering what to do with the old courthouse built in 1961. California officials hope a developer will be willing to buy the courthouse property, demolish it and build a new high-rise development on its site. Real estate experts believe a private developer might pay as much as $36 million to acquire the two prime downtown blocks. In Indianapolis, the downtown mafia is already cutting deals to have the City of Indianapolis give away the prime real estate on which the county jail sits for free to a developer, along with tens of millions in subsidies from the downtown TIF fund to redevelop the site. Downtown Indianapolis is such a great place to build that only real estate developers who are given the land for free and receive 20-25% of the development costs as a subsidy are willing to build there.
San Diego's existing central courthouse

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Indianapolis Taxpayers Paying $1.5 Million To Losing Criminal Justice Center Bidders

One aspect of the controversial Long Beach, California courthouse public-private partnership agreement ("P3") upon which the administration of Mayor Greg Ballard has based its plan to construct a more than half billion dollar criminal justice center at the site of the former GM Stamping Plant that critics belatedly learned about was a requirement the losing bidders be paid a stipend for participating in the RFP process, a requirement some critics of the project found "most unusual." The stipend was discovered when judges were reviewing the construction costs and learned there were two figures provided, a lower figure of $317.2 million referred to as "unadjusted construction cost," and a higher figure of $346.7 million. Among the more than $18 million in additional charges added to total construction costs was $1 million paid to the unsuccessful bidders.

A review of the RFP document the Ballard administration illegally withheld from public disclosure until after it announced the winning bidder reveals a provision allowing for a stipend payment of $750,000 to each unsuccessful offeror. The two losing bids are allowed to submit an invoice to recover their respective $750,000 stipends for participating in the RFP process no earlier than 30 days following the announcement of the winning bid, which must be paid by the later of 60 days following the submission of the invoice, along with a waiver and release of all claims against the City, or 45 days following the closing on the P3 project with the winning bidder, which is scheduled to occur on March 15, 2015. If the City cancels the procurement, which could happen if the Indianapolis City-County Council turns down approval of the 35-year P3 agreement, then the City will be on the hook to make the stipend payments to all offerors at a total cost of $2.25 million.

By all appearances, the Ballard administration knew it was going to award the project to the Meridiam-led bidding team from the outset. Many of the same lawyers and advisers involved in the Long Beach courthouse project were also being utilized to advise the City of Indianapolis on the criminal justice project as I've previously reported. With the guaranteed payments to the two losing participants in the supposedly competitive bidding process, it's further evidence the entire bidding process was nothing more than a sham from the get-go. Seriously, what kind of a bidding process requires participation payments to the losers? It renders the non-collusion requirements in our public bidding laws meaningless.

In the case of the Long Beach courthouse project, more than $10 million was paid out for nonconstruction-related costs associated with the project. An independent building expert was paid $4.6 million on the Long Beach courthouse project. Earlier this year, we learned the Ballard administration awarded more than $12 million in contracts for professional fees to lawyers, financial advisers, engineering firms and a lobbying firm to assist the City with the RFP process and selling the project to the council and the public. These expenditures were made without seeking an appropriation from the City-County Council. The administration diverted funds intended for use elsewhere to pay for the contracts. All of these costs, along with the $1.5 million paid to the unsuccessful offerors will be added to the total construction costs upon which the winning bidder's nearly $50 million a year annual service payments are based. If the City-County Council kills the project, taxpayers will be out at least $15 million, a cost the Ballard administration will no doubt blame on the council for rejecting the deal.

According to the financial plan submitted by WMB Heartland Justice Partners led by the French-based equity firm, Meridiam Infrastructure, which also won the Longbeach courthouse project, the Marion County criminal justice center project will be comprised of about $525 million in debt raised through private placement, or 90% of the cost, and $58 million in equity investment, or 10% of the cost, for a total of a little more than $583 million.

The Bank of Nova Scotia is acting as WMB's financial adviser, while Barclays is acting as the private placement agent for the project. Both banks are the subject of a lawsuit filed in New York federal district court accusing five large banks of conspiring to fix the price of gold. Barclays paid a fine of $298 million for doing business with countries sanctioned by the U.S., such as Iran, Cuba and the Sudan. The Bank of Nova Scotia also worked with Meridiam's equity investor, Walsh Investors, on the Ohio River Bridges project brokered in a backroom deal by the Daniels administration that will wind up screwing Hoosier taxpayers and motorists badly to the tune of billions of dollars for decades to come. About 20 private placement investors of unknown identity have been lined up to invest in the project. The interest those investors will be paid on their senior secured debt was not disclosed.

As the lead investor in the Long Beach courthouse project, Meridiam Infrastructure invested $48 million in the project. The debt was financed by several banks, including the Bank of Nova Scotia, BBVA, RBC, Credit Agricole, Deutsche Bank and BNP Paribus. The banks used a blended LIBOR swap rate to set the interest rate which determined the cost of the annual service fees paid to the state of California. Critics of the deal complain that little was ascertained by the state's Judicial Council in determining the honesty of the investors. In addition, Meridiam was not required to disclose the source of its funding for the project.

One particular cause for concern of many in California with the Long Beach courthouse project was the state's checkered past with P3 projects. California relied on a P3 deal to finance construction of a tolled roll along Route 91, a $130 million project. The private partners received a 35-year concession to operate the toll road in order to recoup their investment in the construction of the highway. The project turned out to be an utter failure, and the Orange County Transportation Authority was forced to purchase it for $208 million in 2003. A second P3 highway project, the San Diego South Bay Expressway, became a colossal failure after the private partner went bankrupt. Federal highway authorities had to abandon about $80 million in claims against the bankrupt company.

Another project in which Meridiam was one of the P3 partners, the Presidio Parkway in San Francisco, will cost taxpayers about $1.1 billion to build a highway 1.5 miles in length. A later legislative study confirmed traditional financing should have been used instead of a P3 agreement. According to the New York Times, the European investors realized a 14.2% return on their investment in the project. The P3 partner is being paid $173 million upon completion of the project next year and payments close to $30 million annually over a 30-year period to maintain the 1.5 mile stretch of highway. Critics of the Long Beach project complained that the state's Judicial Council did not consider these historic failures with P3 agreements before opting to use it is the means of financing the project.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Marion County GOP's List Of Mayoral Candidates Down To Olgen Williams And Scott Keller

Howey Politics' Brian Howey is reporting that Deputy Mayor for Neighborhoods Olgen Williams and former City-County Councilor Olgen Williams are mulling potential runs for Indianapolis mayor next year as Republicans.

Williams is an ex-felon convicted of stealing money from the U.S. Post Office where he formerly worked, a crime he blamed on a drug addiction problem. He was later pardoned by President George W. Bush so he could run for the Indianapolis Public School board, a position he resigned after Ballard named him a deputy mayor. Some in the Ballard administration blamed Williams for bringing to the administration a couple of city employees, John Hawkins and Reggie Walton, who were later charged by federal prosecutors in a kickback scheme related to the City's Land Bank program.

Keller served one term on the City-County Council after narrowly defeating Democrat Karen Celestino-Horseman in a highly competitive, near southeast side district. Keller, a champion of gay rights as the sponsor of the City's Human Rights Ordinance, lost re-election to Democrat Brian Mahern in 2007, the same year Ballard won his upset victory over Bart Peterson and Republicans regained control of the council. Some blamed Keller's loss for antagonizing Republican voters with his support of Peterson's 65% increase in the local income tax after many property owners faced massive property tax increases. Keller also endorsed and campaigned for the re-election of Peterson in 2007 over his party's candidate for mayor. Keller lost a bid for state representative in 2012 to Democrat Dan Forestal.

Howey reports that former City-County Councilor Jeff Cardwell, now a top aide to Gov. Mike Pence and the owner of Cardwell's Do It Best hardware store, is considering a run as is Public Safety Director Troy Riggs, who only recently moved to Indianapolis from Texas after his predecessor, Frank Straub, left the Ballard administration to become Spokane's new chief of police.

UPDATE: Add to the list of potential Republican mayoral candidates Councilor Jose Evans. He's a Democrat-turned Republican who is now in the same district with Councilor Angela Mansfield, an opponent he would have a difficult time defeating.

Washington Post Obtains Tens Of Thousands Of Former Gov. Jeb Bush's E-Mails

The Washington Post managed to obtain through a Florida public records request something you will never obtain through a public records request in Indiana--tens of thousands of e-mails former Gov. Jeb Bush wrote during his two terms as Florida's governor. Bush earlier said he would release the e-mails early next year, but the Post didn't wait until then. The pro-Bush Post describes the e-mails as underscoring "two constants present from the beginning of his political career: the challenges he faced with conservatives in his own party and an intense, detail-oriented engagement as an executive."

The Post said the e-mails show Bush personally responding to job applicants, pressing staff assistants on the list of invitees to events and frequent e-mail exchanges with constituents. His primary policy focus was on education, taxes and health care during his tenure as governor from 1999 to 2007. The Post describes Bush as a sometimes-flip writer who frequently used words like "awesome," "my bad," and "chill out." The e-mails do not include any communications Bush made concerning legal or personnel matters, which are specifically exempt under Florida's public records law.

As Bush wrote e-mails, he was mindful state law would force their disclosure at some point. In one e-mail early in his administration, he admonished two staffers discussing vacation time, saying their communications might some day become fodder for a newspaper article. "I suggest that you guys have a verbal conversation about it rather than create a public document.:)." Bush reportedly spent as much as 30 hours a week reading and writing e-mails, frequently sending them in the wee hours of the morning.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Westminster Pedophile Investigation Threatens To Expose British Elites

Whistle blowers in Britain have been demanding for years an investigation of an international pedophile ring based in London that involves many top British officials, including members of the Royal family, businessmen and entertainers. British authorities now concede the accounts of sexual abuse of young boys by VIPs dating as far back as the 1970s and 1980s are "credible and true." At least six members of parliament have been implicated in the scandal which threatens to expose the powerful elite's serial raping and exploiting of young boys. One conservative member of parliament was even witnessed murdering a young boy.

According to the Chicago Tribune, John Mann, a member of parliament, has presented Scotland Yards with evidence against 22 high-profile figures, including three currently serving in the House of Commons and three members of the House of Lords. None of those six currently serving members are accused of murdering their victims. The evidence implicates 14 Conservative politicians, five Labor politicians and three from other political parties according to Mann, who says there were up to five separate pedophile rings operating at one point during the 1970s and 1980s, and that at least two whistle blowers had been murdered to silence them. The only prominent politician named to date is Liberal Cyril Smith, who died in 2010.

Allegations of an alleged Westminster pedophile ring operating near Parliament have gained currency recently when a number of high-profile TV and media personalities were either prosecuted or accused of molesting young boys, including Sir Jimmy Savile, which was made public shortly after his death in 2011, and Rolf Harris, who started serving a more than 5-year sentence he started serving this year in Australia at age 84 for molesting at least four juvenile girls over a 20-year period. British pop star Sir Cliff Richard denied allegations he had sexually molested a young boy at an event sponsored by the Rev. Billy Graham in 1985 after police searched one of his homes and questioned him. One of the alleged victims told authorities he was molested by prominent men when he was between the ages of 7 and 16 at a posh London apartment complex in Dolphin Square near Parliament. The victim identified as "Nick" says he witnessed a Conservative member of parliament strangle to death one of his young victims. Investigators say the victims account is "credible and true."

Closer to home, an Elkhart school teacher and high school wrestling coach has been arrested on 13 felony charges of child exploitation and voyeurism. James Iannerelli, 33, is accused of placing a hidden camera in the boys locker room and making recordings of boys in various states of undress. Iannerelli's teaching contract with Elkhart Community Schools has been terminated. A wedding announcement in the Elkhart Truth indicated Iannerelli planned to marry a fellow school teacher on July 6, 2013. It's those straight married men you have to keep your eye on.
Jim Iannarelli Memorial Wrestling
Iannerelli shown watching a wrestling workout (Elkhart Truth Photo)

Media Gets It Wrong On Sullivan Hardware Zoning Dispute

There's been much made of a unanimous decision of the Board of Zoning Appeals to deny a variance sought by Sullivan Hardware for its midtown location on North Pennsylvania Street in the Meridian-Kessler neighborhood. Virtually none of what I've read in local media reports or the musings of Star political reporter Matt Tully's column this week have accurately described why the store's owner, Pat Sullivan, found himself before the BZA with his attorney pleading for relief from the city's zoning laws. In particular, those media reports have unfairly criticized affected neighbors who complained about Sullivan's repeated, serial violation of city zoning laws as "miscreants" and impugned the motives of city officials who simply enforced the laws they took an oath to uphold.

To be fair, Pat Sullivan is unquestionably a valued local business owner on the City's north side. Many of us have come to enjoy listening to his very informative Saturday morning radio talk show "Home & Garden," on WIBC-FM, which he co-hosts with Dick Crum. About 20 years ago, Crum opened a small, neighborhood hardware store at 4838 N. Pennsylvania Street, which at the time was a vacant lot where a gas station had previously been located with the encouragement and support of the neighborhood. The addition of his business to what had become a blighted street corner was a welcomed improvement to the neighborhood to be sure.

The lot on which Sullivan developed his hardware store was zoned C3, a zoning designation for neighborhood commercial districts within fully-developed neighborhoods. The designation is limited to retail, personal and professional businesses that will not burden the neighborhood with unusually high volumes of traffic. The C3 designation specifically prohibits businesses which require outdoor displays, sales and storage of merchandise, or which requires outdoor operations. From the outset, Sullivan was unable to operate his business within the constraints of the C3 zoning restrictions without running afoul of city inspectors.

Sullivan got an initial zoning variance to keep city code inspectors off his back. One of the key variances he obtained was permission to operate the business with parking for 19 spaces, about half of what the zoning ordinance required of a business this size. Later, his hardware store morphed into a home and garden business that had not been anticipated. An enclosed gardening center became a greenhouse, neither of which was permitted by his original variance. Sullivan successfully obtained a second zoning variance for his greenhouse in 2009, and he also apparently agreed to build a sidewalk along one side of his property.

The sidewalk he agreed to build as part of his 2009 variance never got built. The 19 spaces he agreed to provide shrank by several more spaces to about 14 to 15, including required parking for disabled persons, as he expanded outdoor storage and sales for seasonal merchandise, including mulch, flowers, pumpkins, rock salt and Christmas trees, along with other outdoor displays, all in violation of his C3 zoning, as amended by his previously-approved variances. To make a long story short, city code inspectors began citing Sullivan for multiple code violations, none of which stopped him from continuing operations in violation of city zoning laws. This resulted in the City instituting a lawsuit against him, seeking injunctive relief and fines, at the urging of the closest neighbors most directly impacted by his business operations.

Faced with a certain loss in the civil proceedings, Sullivan hired an attorney and turned to the zoning variance process once again to escape the restrictions of his C3 zoning. This time, Sullivan wanted a parking variance to reduce the number of required parking spaces from the 19 previously authorized to 14. He also sought approval for seasonal outdoor display and storage of goods, approval of a trash enclosure he built in violation of zoning requirements, and an allowance for the display of products within the clear site triangle area adjacent to the intersection.

By coincidence or not, Sullivan hired a well-known disabled attorney, Greg Fehribach, who doesn't generally practice zoning law but has a history of filing nuisance complaints against businesses he says fail to make federally-mandated accommodations for persons with disabilities, to represent him before the BZA. Apparently the fact Sullivan's business didn't accommodate parking for persons with disabilities like himself was of little concern to Fehribach when there was a fee for services. The gist of their argument for the latest variance request is that when Sullivan opened the hardware store, he didn't know a big box Lowe's would be opened up nearby, posing stiff competition to his neighborhood hardware stores. An expansion into gardening-related sales Sullivan said was necessary to compete with the big box stores. Of course, the big box stores aren't located within neighborhoods and are built on large lots with C4 zoning that permits outdoor storage and sales.

The BZA's staff sided with neighborhood remonstrators described as miscreants by news reports in opposing Sullivan's latest variance request for the most part. The staff pointed out that two other gardening stores in the neighborhood, Habig's Garden Center and Damman's, were similarly competing against big box stores within the confines of their C3 designation. The Meridian-Kessler Neighborhood Association, of which Sullivan's Hardware is a platinum member, supported his request for a variance, notwithstanding the opposition of the neighbors most affected by his business' operations or the conflict their position had with their own written development standards for the neighborhood. The four members of the BZA panel had little choice but to deny Sullivan's petition based upon the evidence placed in the record by staff and remonstrators.

Apparently all of the negative media coverage of the BZA decision stirred people to contact the Mayor's Office and City-County Council members seeking relief for Sullivan, who claims he will have to shut down his business if the variance is not granted, a claim I find dubious. I wonder where all of these people were when the Metropolitan Development Commission approved without debate a $300,000 give-away to Carson Pirie Scott courtesy of the taxpayers in exchange for a commitment from that national retailer to remain in Circle Centre Mall a couple of more years while the City finds a long-term financial solution to their claims they can't afford to operate a store in the booming downtown area where more than a $2 billion dollars in public subsidies have been doled out for new development over the past couple of decades? I don't see the City handing out subsidies to other locally-owned retailers to operate their businesses. I guess when it affects Simon Property Group's bottom line, it also affects the City's bottom line, but I digress.

WRTV is reporting this evening that Sullivan has been provided assurances from Mayor Ballard's office that the City will find a way of undoing the BZA's decision, which by law Sullivan would have to appeal to the superior or circuit court to overturn. "There's always ways around stuff and that's what the city has committed to find a solution," Sullivan told WRTV. "You know everything doesn't fit tightly into a nice zoning code. You gotta hand it to the neighbors. They want this store to stay here, and they lit up the phone lines. It gave the city the strength to find a solution," Sullivan said. I don't doubt there are changes that could and should be made in the local zoning ordinances. What I detest is how people with clout like Sullivan always seem to find a way of skirting the rules, while you can watch ordinary citizens time after time seek variances from restrictive and sometimes unfair zoning laws and always have the door slammed in their faces without recourse.

Council Democrats Threaten To Delay Vote On Criminal Justice Center Until ROC Answers Provided

The corrupt Ballard administration has stonewalled a council investigating committee for the past year in providing documents and answers requested about a one-sided 25-year lease it entered into with a politically-connected campaign contributor for the Regional Operations Center. Even after the council went to court and obtained an order from Marion Co. Circuit Court Judge Louis Rosenberg in July compelling it to turn over all relevant documents, the administration has furnished only part of the documents in drips and drabs. Still missing from the production are invoices documenting all expenditures made to date to support the troubled facility.

The latest documents turned over to the council confirm at least part of what the administration has been hiding for the past year. Former Public Safety Director Frank Straub, former Controller Jeff Spalding and other key city officials expressed grave doubts about the suitability and cost of locating the ROC at the former Eastgate Mall site. Former EMS Director Jim White likened the condition of the property to buildings he encountered during his tour of duty in war-torn Iraq. Despite valid concerns raised about the site, Mayor Greg Ballard exerted so much pressure on Straub, he relented and reversed his decision to choose another location. Documents also establish that City-County Council members were provided misleading information about the project's costs and sustainability in order to obtain their approval. An oft-repeated claim by the administration that the City's agreement to host the 2012 Super Bowl required the ROC be built turned out to be a patent lie.

Several council Democrats who serve on the ROC Investigating Committee now say they will seek to delay any action on the Ballard administration's proposal to award a public-private partnership agreement to a foreign-led consortium to build a new criminal justice center complex at the site of the former GM Stamping Plant, which could cost upwards of $1.75 billion over 35 years, until the Mayor forces his staff to turn over all court-ordered documents and provide answers to lingering questions about the problem-plagued ROC that Public Safety Director Troy Riggs at one point ordered vacated for months because of the unsafe conditions of the building. City employees moved back into the ROC more than six months later after numerous repairs were made but only after the Mayor's Office signed a settlement agreement holding the City liable for the costs of most of those repairs and reaffirming the "hell or high water," one-sided terms of the long-term lease favoring the landlord, which essentially leaves no out for the City.

We will not allow the City to be fooled again," the Indianapolis Star quoted Councilor Joe Simpson as saying at a press conference called by him and his fellow councilors, Vop Osili and Monroe Gray." "It would behoove all of us to learn how we got into this, to learn the processes that ensure we don't repeat these actions, and then to move forward with a clean set of guidelines and understanding of how we consider long-term contracts," Osili added.

Incredibly, Republican council members still don't get it. "I don't know where they think they got bamboozled," said Councilor Jack Sandlin, a Republican member of the ROC Investigating Committee. It's particularly troublesome to hear those words from Sandlin, a retired Indianapolis police officer who makes his living as a private investigator. Whether you believe the council got bamboozled, Republicans and Democrats alike who voted for the ROC lease, the fact is the public got bamboozled. Nonetheless, the Republican members can only chastise the Democratic members for trying to get to the bottom of the matter, as if the blatant misappropriation of public dollars is perfectly okay as long as it's benefiting a large Republican campaign contributor.

UPDATE: Radio talk show host Amos Brown has uploaded a segment of his show today in which he interviewed Councilors Simpson and Gray, as well as the council's financial adviser, Bart Brown, which you can hear by clicking here. They have an interesting discussion of the ongoing ROC debate and the criminal justice center project, which includes a discussion of some of the topics I've raised on this blog.

Chicago-Based Walsh Will Play Big Role In Criminal Justice Center Project

The Chicago-based Walsh Group will score big on yet another Indiana project if the Indianapolis City-County Council agrees to approve a 35-year, $1.75 plan to build a new criminal justice center project. Walsh Construction, a family-owned business with close ties to former Chicago Mayor Richard Daley and the Democratic Chicago machine, has been awarded numerous high-profile construction projects in Chicago and elsewhere over the years, including Millennium Park, John Stroger Cook County Hospital, O'Hare International Airport terminal expansions, the James R. Thompson Center and the recently-opened Maggie Daley Park in honor of the former mayor's late wife, to name just a few.

The WMB Heartland Justice Partners winning bid chosen by Mayor Greg Ballard is led by a French-based firm, Meridiam Infrastructure. This weekend, Advance Indiana reported that one of the leading partners in that winning team, Cofely Services, is at the center of a massive public corruption scandal in Spain in which dozens of local officials have been arrested for allegedly taking bribes in consideration for the awarding of more than $300 million in government contracts, most of which benefited Cofely Services, an international facilities management company which will hold the keys to Indianapolis' new criminal justice center if the City-County Council approves the proposed public-private partnership agreement.

Under that 35-year deal, city taxpayers will begin making payments of just under $50 million a year to Heartland Justice Partners. Meridiam holds a 70% equity stake in the project, while Walsh Investors, LLC, an affiliate of The Walsh Group splits the remaining 30% equity stake with Balfour Beatty Investments, LLC. The Walsh Construction Company, a subsidiary of The Walsh Group, will also serve as lead contractor on the project.  The winning team says it will meet or exceed the City's goals for local workforce utilization and minority participation. Heartland Justice Partners says it has hired Indiana Strategic Resource Group, which is owned by Aleta Mungal, to assist it in reaching out to minority contractors. [Note: Balfour-Beatty is a British-owned investment firm and construction industry titan that focused in a Texas debate a few years back when Gov. Rick Perry signed into law legislation written by lobbyists for Balfour-Beatty, which allowed it and other private investment firms to purchase public assets through deals in which the state would also act as lender under yet another P3 scheme.]

In addition to numerous Indiana highway projects awarded to Walsh over the past few decades, the administration of former Gov. Mitch Daniels awarded a bidding team led by Walsh Construction to construct two new bridges over the Ohio River in Louisville costing over $4 billion. The bridges are being built as part of a bi-state agreement with the state of Kentucky and will rely on tolls paid by motorists who use the bridges to pay for them. Although Indiana and Kentucky are splitting the costs, at least 70% of the costs for constructing the bridges comes from Kentucky's side of the border, and more Hoosiers travel daily into Louisville than Kentuckians travel into Indiana, meaning Hoosier motorists will pay a majority of the toll revenues. Even with the tolls, Indiana officials expect to come up close to a half billion dollars short in paying for the cost of the bridges, which will come out of state highway funds. In addition to the bridge projects, Meridiam and Walsh are among the finalists chosen by Indiana to build that totally unneeded Illiana Expressway, a tolled highway connecting I-65 in northwest Indiana with Illinois' I-57.

Walsh has not been without controversy. In 2012, the company settled a whistle blower lawsuit for $6.4 million in which one of its former construction managers accused the company of over-billing the federal government by falsely submitting inflated bills from subcontractors. The City of Chicago recovered about $36 million from Walsh after suing it and other contractors for defective construction work on the O'Hare International Terminal expansion project that experienced huge cost overruns.

Walsh and its subcontractors have been sued in the past by black employees over claims of race discrimination related to working conditions and assignment of overtime work. The lawsuits accused managers of referring to blacks as "niggers" and "coons" and being subjected to derogatory graffiti in workplace bathrooms. An EEOC investigation of the black employees' complaints concluded "there was reasonable cause to believe that Walsh and its subcontractors had discriminated" against a dozen employees who filed suit against the company through its hiring and layoff practices, and by subjecting its black employees to harassment and different terms and conditions of employment. The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, however, denied class action certification which had been granted in the case by the district court in Chicago.

There's Lucre In Serving On School Boards

Sun-Times photo
Forget the days when people served on school boards out of a sense of civic virtue. I've told you about how IPS' school board has been taken over by people who are merely puppets for the education profiteers. Their days jobs are the only reason big money poured into the district from out-of-state to elect them to the school board. The mainstream media in Indianapolis has ignored these glaring conflicts of interest. In Chicago, where they have two daily newspapers competing against one another, such matters aren't ignored.

Investigative reporters for the Chicago Sun-Times revealed yesterday that a woman appointed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel to the Chicago Public Schools board has invested in numerous businesses that are vendors with the system's schools. The business that those vendors got from the school district since Deborah Quazzo was appointed to the board has tripled since her appointment in June 2013 according to the Sun-Times analysis. The five companies in which Quazzo had invested earned $930,000 in district contracts between 2010 and 2013, but they earned an additional $2.9 million from school district contracts following her appointment.

The businesses in which Quazzo invested were not widely-traded companies; rather, they were five specialty software companies, including Academic Approach, Dreambox Learning, MasteryConnect, Think Through Math and ThinkCERCA. Quazzo earns a living as a venture capitalist. The Chicago Teachers Union and at least one of Mayor Emanuel's opponents want Quazzo to resign from the board. Mayor Emanuel was out-of-town on vacation and did not respond to questions about Quazzo. The board's president defended her, insisting she had not personally taken part in matters that benefited any of the companies and had always recused herself from votes in which she has a personal conflict of interest. A loophole in the district's ethics rules meant that she really only had to disclose her financial interest with two of the companies since the other three had contracts with individual schools within the district, not through the district office.

The CTU has called for the election of school board members rather than their appointment by the mayor. In Indianapolis, that has been no impediment to outside education profiteers funneling hundreds of thousands of dollars into the school board elections to buy board members of their choosing. The editorial board of the Indianapolis Star has actually supported the purchase of these board seats by outside interests because it believes the so-called education reforms they advocate for the benefit of these board members' employers will improve the quality of the schools, the conflicts of interest be damned. It's remarkable how differently the media in Chicago views these same matters. It's just more evidence we've lost any objective news media in Indianapolis willing to look out for the public's interest.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Guess Who Really Pays Big Bank Fines?

Nothing the Obama Justice Department does surprises me so I guess I shouldn't be surprised to learn this little factoid over at Jonathan Turley's blog. The Obama Justice Department has yet to prosecute a single one of the bank fraudsters who ripped off the American people and got rewarded handsomely in doing so during the 2008 financial meltdown from which average American have still not recovered from declining incomes and net worth. According to Lawrence Rafferty, buried deep in the settlement agreements the Justice Department reaches with banks is a provision allowing them to take a corporate tax deduction for the fines they agree to pay for breaking the law. In other words, the American taxpayer is actually footing the bill indirectly to pay for large bank fines that help fund a nifty slush fund the Justice Department operates.
. . . Under Attorney General Eric Holder, whose agency has not prosecuted a single major bank or executive in the aftermath of the 2008 meltdown, the Justice Department has been criticized, not least by Democrats, for believing banks are too big to fail and their top brass too big to jail. But here’s the twist. It turns out that banks are also too big to tax: Windfall tax deductions set against the civil settlements imposed by the Justice Department total more than $44 billion, according to Newsweek estimates.”
It may also be quite shocking to learn that the reason that the Big Banks agree to the large settlements is that they know that a large percentage of the fines are tax-deductible. Would it surprise you to learn that even the Justice Department can gain from these large multi-billion dollar “settlements”?
“But there’s another, more self-serving reason for the Justice Department to hike civil settlement payments while allowing for most of the sum to be tax-deductible. The agency receives a cut of up to 3 percent of its share of the total settlements for its Working Capital Fund, a slush fund common across major government agencies . . . 
When the Banksters and financial companies are allowed to “pay” civil fines and penalties that can be deducted from their corporate taxes, just how is this process providing any incentive for the banks to stop breaking the law? Since the Justice Department itself can profit from the settlement designed to allow for the deduction of these fines, where is the incentive for the Justice Department to actually prosecute these Banksters on criminal charges? . . . 
According to Rafferty, the SEC has disallowed "guilty" financial companies from taking tax deductions for the fines they're ordered to pay since 2003. On a brighter note, Rafferty says legislation has been introduced in Congress called "Truth in Settlements," which would require the Justice Department to disclose hidden tax deductions in settlement agreements. The House Committee on Oversight and Reform has asked the Justice Department to explain why civil settlements have been reached with every single bank found to have broken the law instead of bringing criminal charges against the guilty parties, like it does with ordinary Americans who lack the political clout of the banking industry.

Key Partner In Winning Criminal Justice Center Bid At The Center Of Major Public Corruption Scandal In Spain

A week ago, Mayor Greg Ballard proudly announced his administration had picked WMB Heartland Justice Partners as the winning team to build, operate and maintain a nearly half billion dollar criminal justice center project after a nearly year-long process shrouded in secrecy, including the administration's refusal to release in advance the Request for Proposal ("RFP") document state law mandated it make public when it initiated the formal bidding process last April. The winning partnership is led by a French-based private equity firm, Meridiam, which includes several other significant partners. One of those partners is Cofely Services, an international facilities management company that is a subsidiary of a giant French energy company, GDF Suez, and that is at the center of  a massive public corruption scandal in Spain that has already led to the arrests of more than 50 officials. If the City-County Council approves the deal proposed by Ballard, Cofely will be responsible for managing the new criminal justice center for the next 35 years.

Cofely Espana is described as the leading beneficiary of public contracts now under investigation by Spanish authorities. The investigation, dubbed Operation Punica, is looking into allegations that bribes were paid to local officials, including several mayors, in exchange for the awarding of public infrastructure contracts. News reports out of Spain indicate local officials skimmed two to three percent from public contracts valued at $318 million. "The collusion between local councillors and civil servants, with builders and energy service companies, and the corruption of middle-men and key companies, has helped them to secure contracts worth around 250 million euros ($300 million) in the last two years alone," said a Reuters report quoting a local prosecutor. The report claimed one of the more than 50 officials arrested, a former deputy president of the Madrid region, Francisco Granados, had millions of Euros stashed in a Swiss bank account. The wide-ranging investigation has issued search warrants on 259 properties and 400 banks, companies and insurers.

The premises of Cofely Espana were searched and key officials questioned by police in late October according to Bloomberg. Cofely relieved its Spanish manager, Didier Maurice, of his duties, along with four other employees ensnared by the investigation. The company says it has ordered an audit following the arrests. The investigation has put considerable pressure on the ruling governing party, People's Party, which is led by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy. News that members of his party may have been taking bribes while he carried out the largest budget cuts in the country's history is not sitting well with the public. “I understand and share fully the indignation of so many Spaniards at the accumulation of scandals,” Rajoy told parliament in the week following Granados' arrest. “In the name of the People’s Party, I want to apologize to all Spaniards for having appointed to positions for which they were not worthy those who would seem to have abused them.”

One news report said the contracts in question primarily involved those aimed at bringing down electricity costs for municipalities. "It’s curious to see that during these two years of an incredibly tough crisis for citizens and the municipal coffers, when there wasn’t even any land around for rezoning or construction, the suspects managed to find a way to take money out of methods that were aimed at creating savings," said Civil Guard sources. Cofely and its affiliates in Spain were the primary beneficiaries of the contracts according to news reports. A Spanish newspaper reported Cofely had removed a link to its website touting one of the contracts for a suburban Madrid town, Parla, after arrests were made in the investigation. A deleted entry on the firm's website read: "This is the third contract of this kind that Cofely has signed with the Madrid regional government in recent months. As such, Cofely is consolidating its position as a service provider in energy efficiency for public groups and is taking a further step in its ambitions to drive the creation of sustainable cities for the future in our country."

Operation Punica involves the investigation of many crimes, in addition to bribery, including money laundering, tax avoidance, traffic of influence, miss-investment of public funds, falsification of documents, revelation of police secrets, fraud against public administration, participation in business forbidden to public servants and criminal organization. In addition to Granados' arrest, other significant officials arrested included Parma's Mayor Jose Maria Fraile and his predecessor, Tomas Gomez, as well as other mayors from several Madrid communities, a large number politicians, local councilors, officials and businessmen from both those and other parties in Murcia, Castile, Leon and Valencia. 

Mayor Ballard traveled last year to Barcelona, Spain on one of about nine overseas junkets he's taken with his fellow campaign contributors (who pay for Ballard's overseas trips) to accept an award from the electric car industry. Mayor Ballard recently announced the awarding of a fleet contract to Vision Fleet, an untested business from the electric car industry. "I ran into Ballard at the big EV show, EVS 27, in Barcelona, Spain last year, and he pointed out that it can cost $400 to deliver a gallon of gasoline to troops fighting in Afghanistan," Brylawski told Mother Nature Network. "Ballard said he’d convert the entire fleet of 3,500 by 2025, so he’s off to a good start."

Do you trust a decision made by Mayor Ballard regarding this 35-year, $1.75 billion endeavor? You better hope our City-County Council does more than just the cursory review they've grown accustomed to doing when deals of this sort are put before them for approval. While there is no evidence any bribes, kickbacks or payoffs were made in connection with this deal, it has commonly occurred with past projects. Lucky for our corrupt politicians, our federal and local prosecutors in Indianapolis seem more preoccupied with covering up rather than investigating public corruption. The Regional Operations Center corruption is a case-and-point. Besides the work of this blog, the media has shown little interest in delving into that corrupt mess. Despite all of the new information the council's counsel, Fred Biesecker, publicly disclosed at a public meeting last week, the media has had little to say about those new disclosures. One of the interesting items he disclosed was a $70,000 kickback real estate commission paid to Dana Carroll, wife of the ROC's owner, Alex Carroll, from the $9.6 million disbursed from the loan proceeds for the 25-year, $18 million credit-tenant lease agreement. Does anyone actually believe Dana performed any services for that commission?

As a postscript, I want to draw attention to the fact that no other influence peddler accompanied Mayor Ballard on more of his overseas junkets than Ice Miller's Melissa Proffitt Reese. When Ballard first formed his transition committee following his upset victory in 2007 over former Mayor Bart Peterson, job seekers in his new administration were dumbfounded to learn that in order to apply for a job in his administration, you were required to submit your most personal, confidential information about your employment background, including your social security number, to Ms. Reese at her law firm. Nobody could get a job in his administration without first being subjected to a background check by Reese and her law firm. Just imagine all of the one-on-one conversations she had with Ballard on all of those overseas junkets, including private dinners at lavish restaurants where you know Mayor Ballard wasn't picking up the tab. Her law firm billed taxpayers $1 million for the legal work it performed in drawing up the cut-and-paste P3 agreement for the City's parking meter assets.

Reese's law firm, by no coincidence, has landed the job as counsel for the winning bidder for the criminal justice project, WMB Heartland Justice Partners. One of her fellow partners is Tom John, the former Marion Co. GOP Chairman, who was never prosecuted or investigated by the Supreme Court's disciplinary commission despite his admitted role in forging his ex-wife's name on a loan document. John recently registered as a lobbyist seeking to influence the decision-making process. Curiously, the registration didn't appear in online records until about the time the announcement was made. During last week's ROC Investigating Committee meeting, an e-mail from Homeland Security Director Gary Coons to former Public Safety Director Frank Straub revealed that John had contacted city officials urging them to consider the Eastgate Mall property for the ROC, noting his role as the GOP chairman. Don't expect any help from the Indianapolis news media in investigating all of the corruption behind this or the ROC deal. They've been on board since this latest deal was announced a year ago, and they've done everything they can to obstruct and dismiss critics of the deal.

New York Police Blame Mayor De Blasio For Execution-Style Killing Of Two Police Officers

A large number of New York City police officers gathered at a hospital in Brooklyn where two of their fellow officers had earlier been declared dead after a lone gunman shot them dead while sitting in their patrol car in an apparent retaliation for the recent police-action killings of Eric Gardner and Michael Brown turned their backs on New York Mayor Bill De Blasio and his entourage as he arrived at the hospital. Mayor De Blasio approached a group of cops at the Brooklyn hospital and attempted to reassure them by offering them , "We're all in this together."  "No, we're not," replied one of the officers. The Patrolmen's Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch was equally as blunt. "There's blood on many hands tonight . . . That blood starts on the steps of City Hall, in the Office of Mayor."

The intense relations between police and the mayor, who is married to a black woman, escalated after he publicly criticized the actions of police later cleared in the death of Garner, who died while police were attempting to take him into a custody for a misdemeanor charge of selling loose cigarettes on the street. A video capturing his arrest showed one officer placing Garner in what appeared to be a choke hold as he repeatedly said, "I can't breathe." A grand jury decision not to charge any of the police officers involved in Garner's death, along with a similar result reached in the police action shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, has set off protests nationally, some of which have turned violent.

Yesterday afternoon at 3:00 p.m., a crazed lone gunman approached two New York police officers sitting in their marked cruiser in a Brooklyn neighborhood and opened fired on them, killing both of them. According to the New York Post, Officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos were working overtime as part of an anti-terrorism drill when they were shot in the head by Ismaaiyl Brinsley, a 28-year old Brooklyn man, who was suspected of shooting an ex-girlfriend at her residence in Baltimore early Saturday morning at 5:45 a.m. An Instagram account supposedly belonging to Brinsley had anti-police postings on it hours before the shooting. "I'm Putting Wings On Pigs Today," said one post. "They Take 1 Of Ours . . . Let's Take 2 Of Theirs." The post continued, "This May Be My Final Post."

Baltimore police sent an alert to New York police warning that Brinsley might be headed back to New York, but the warning came just five minutes before the two police officers were shot. Witnesses say Brinsley stood in shock for a few minutes after shooting the two police officer by firing through the passenger-side window. Witnesses saw him run into a subway as the sound of arriving police officers could be heard. Brinsley reportedly turned the gun on himself on a subway platform after being pursued by police, where he died. Brinsley had several past arrests according to the Post in Georgia where he formally lived, as well as a robbery charge in Ohio, which had later been dismissed.

See this amateur video taken above the chaotic scene of yesterday's shooting while emergency workers performed CPR on the two police officers before loading them into ambulances for transport to the hospital.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Jury Awards Fired Catholic School Teacher $2 Million: Indiana Taxpayers Will Likely Pay

A Catholic school teacher in Fort Wayne sued her former employer, St. Vincent de Paul, for discrimination based on her sex and disability in federal court after she was fired because she underwent in vitro fertilization, which violated her employer's religious doctrine. Yesterday, a jury sided with Emily Herx and awarded her a $2 million judgment for her lost wages and pain and suffering. Her annual salary as a teacher had been about $28,000.

The Catholic Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend is likely to appeal the jury's decision if the federal district court doesn't dismiss the judgment on the basis that it is exempt from Title VII's reach as a religious organization. The district court previously granted summary judgment against Herx's ADA claim. Under Title VII, prevailing plaintiffs are also allowed to recover attorney's fees.

If the judgment stands, it is Indiana taxpayers who will likely wind up footing at least part of the bill. That's because St. Vincent de Paul is one of many Catholic schools across Indiana which are financed with taxpayer dollars under the state's Choice Scholarship program. The state-sponsored program allows qualifying parents to pick a school of their choice, including private church schools like St. Vincent de Paul, to educate their children. The state, in turn, provides vouchers to the parents to pay their child's tuition, which in reality is a direct transfer payment to the participating schools.

The ACLU of Indiana previously challenged the constitutionality of the Choice program, but the Indiana Supreme Court sided with the state because the vouchers are theoretically paid to the parents, not the religious schools and, therefore, didn't violate the constitution's prohibition against public monies being spent for religious purposes. To win on appeal, the church will claim it is exempt from Title VII because it's a religious organization. The district court denied the school's summary judgment motion based on the ministerial exemption after concluding Herx played no role in religious education as a teacher. Witnesses for the school testified Herx had signed a contract with a morals clause under which she promised to uphold the church's religious teachings.

Lawrenceburg Olympic Star Nick Goepper Admits Vandalizing Cars

An Olympic bronze medal winner from Lawrenceburg, Indiana confessed to local police his responsibility for causing more than $8,000 in damages to several cars during a vandalism spree this past August according to the Cincinnati Enquirer. Nick Goepper, who won a bronze medal in skiing at the 2014 winter Olympics, told Lawrenceburg officials he vandalized the cars during a return trip home this summer by throwing rocks at them after suffering an anxiety attack and a bout with depression.

Police say they attempted to stop and question the 19-year old Goepper last August on suspicion of committing the vandalism, but he fled into a wooded area and escaped before they could question him. Feeling remorse for his actions, Goeppler met with an attorney, who advised him to remain quiet about his actions and wait to see if police ask to question him. In October, Goepper met with local law enforcement officials against his attorney's advice and confessed his role in the crime spree. Goepper repaid the victims for the damage to their cars and agreed to plead guilty to criminal mischief charges under a diversion program commonly offered to first-time offenders. The charges will be dismissed if he completes one year of probation and stays out of trouble.

Goepper released the following statement following today's announcement:
"I apologize to my family, fans, sponsors and fellow athletes for my actions. Through this experience I have learned more about myself, including my responsibility as a role model athlete. I'm deeply appreciative of the support provided by those around me. I have had the opportunity to apologize to those affected by my actions in person, but please allow me this opportunity to apologize publicly to those affected by my actions. I assure you that what I did was completely out of character and will not happen again. Again, I am truly sorry for what I have done."

Friday, December 19, 2014

Ballard Explodes In Anger Under Questioning About ROC Lease: Everybody Wanted It!

Fox 59 News' Liz Gelardi tried to question Mayor Greg Ballard about e-mails finally produced under court order by his administration that showed former Public Safety Director Frank Straub strongly opposed locating the Regional Operations Center ("ROC") at the former Eastgate Mall due to cost and suitability concerns and only relented in choosing the site after enormous political pressure was placed on him by Mayor Ballard's office, City-County Councilor Ben Hunter and State Sen. Jim Merritt to choose the site, one of whose owners was politically-connected to the Mayor and the local Republican Party. Ballard erupted in anger at Gelardi's questions.

"What happened? . . . The ROC is working," Ballard angrily shouted at Gelardi. "Everybody wanted it at Eastgate. That's why I wanted it at Eastgate," Ballard claimed, ignoring questions raised by the e-mails proving Straub and others had serious doubts about the Eastgate site. The City's former controller, Jeff Spalding, doubted the fiscal sustainability of the project relying only upon existing revenue sources. He and the city's corporation counsel both refused to sign the lease despite legal authority requiring them to sign off on a long-term agreement like the 25-year, $18 million lease obligation represented by the project. "There's always something that goes wrong," Ballard said. Incredibly, Ballard referred to the long-term costly lease agreement as merely "a small local lease to a local landlord." See the video clip of Gerardi's interview with Ballard by clicking here.

Advance Indiana first reported more than a month and a half ago that newly released e-mails disclosed the depth of Straub's opposition to the Eastgate site before being forced by the Mayor's Office to go along with it. The ROC Investigating Committee held its first meeting in months Thursday evening at which the council's counsel, Fred Biesecker, gave committee members a summary of what the newly-disclosed documents show about the background and mechanics of how the one-sided lease agreement came to be.

Biesecker traced the first talk of the Eastgate Mall site all the way back to a March 2010 e-mail from Councilor Ben Hunter to Straub making a pitch for the Eastgate Mall site. Later e-mails from Homeland Security Director Gary Coons noted then-Marion Co. GOP Chairman Tom John, the same lobbyist hired by a French-led consortium to press for approval of a $1.75 billion, 35-year agreement to build a new criminal justice center, also contacted him to put in a good word for Carroll's property, along with other e-mails from State Sen. Jim Merritt pitching the site. Straub, who had only started his new job two months earlier, immediately expressed doubts about the site after viewing it, noting there were more suitable sites already under consideration. Biesecker played a clip of the testimony of former EMS director, Jim White, discussing a much more suitable site identified near the airport and his grave concerns about the poor conditions of the property, which he likened to the war-torn conditions in Iraq where he had recently returned from a tour of duty.

The e-mails reviewed with the committee by Biesecker traced Straub's repeated doubts about the Eastgate site, which had led him to rule out the site by early 2011. Straub had decided the City would either stay in the existing location of the EMS operations on State Street or choose an alternative site, such as an E. Washington Street site still in Hunter's district where the City's traffic court was already located. Hunter, Merritt and the Mayor's office immediately pounced on Straub's decision, placing enormous pressure on him to reconsider. It was clear Hunter, in particular, was not interested in the E. Washington Street site in his district; he was insisting upon the Eastgate Mall site regardless of the financial and logistical challenges it posed. It's worth noting that all of the Republican council members in attendance at last night's meeting, including Hunter, walked out of the meeting early, except for Councilor Aaron Freeman, who used the closing minutes of the meeting to chastise Democrats for continuing what he dismissed as a pointless investigation.

The actual moment Straub reversed his decision is not clear, other than e-mails in March 2011, one month before the proposal went to the council's Administration and Finance Committee for approval reflected a final decision had been made to go with the Eastgate site as proposed lease terms started to circulate among DPS staff members. That original lease called for more than 210,000 square feet of lease space. A DPS analysis showed a financial hole being created of at least $1 million annually in DPS' budget. Homeland Security Director Gary Coons warned of potentially deep cuts elsewhere in public safety to make up the difference. Coons and DPS' counsel, Jonathan Mayes, made the first presentation to the Administration and Finance Committee, which went badly when the officials lacked answers concerning key questions council members had about the proposal. After the committee postponed consideration until the next meeting, the lease deal was drastically reworked.

The amount of lease space dropped substantially from over 210,000 square feet to a little more than 75,000 square feet, or about a third the original size. In between meetings, Spalding candidly admitted that he was anxious to see a fiscal analysis of how the lease would be funded despite his role as the city's chief financial officer. As Biesecker explained to committee members, a Coons e-mail to Merritt had described the financial terms of the agreement with Carroll were made more workable for the City by effectively taking on the role as Carroll's financier under a credit-tenant lease agreement, which allowed Carroll to get his $1.4 million outstanding mortgage with M&I Bank paid off and a much larger sum refinanced under much more favorable, long-term 5% mortgage backed by the City's credit. Unfortunately, Biesecker said council members were only told about the upside of a credit-tenant lease and not the less favorable, "hell or high water" terms that essentially locked the City into a long-term lease with no recourse or remedies in the event it became dissatisfied with the landlord's performance. In addition, a development agreement inked between the City and Carroll's company in March was never disclosed to the council prior to its approval of the lease.

It was not only the downside of the credit-tenant lease arrangement that was not disclosed to the council prior to approving the lease. Biesecker pointed to financial information the administration shared with council members which omitted substantial costs required to sustain the project, including IT capital costs and ongoing IT maintenance agreement costs, which had been included in its earlier financial analysis it provided at its first committee meeting, to make the sustainability of the project appear more palatable.

Biesecker also bemoaned the fact that under the terms of the lease agreement, the City relied on Carroll's financial advisers, architects and construction company for fulfillment of the project. When defects were later uncovered that forced Straub's successor, Troy Riggs, to order DPS employees evacuated from the ROC property, Carroll used the one-sided terms of the lease to his full advantage. The City eventually entered into a settlement agreement with Carroll under which the City absorbed a substantial amount of the costs to repair the defective work. Biesecker noted the administration had still not turned over invoices detailing all of the costs the City has incurred to date on the project despite last July's court order compelling the administration to produce those documents.

The ROC Investigating Committee plans to reconvene early next month to begin hearing testimony from key officials within the administration. Unfortunately, Straub is now living in Spokane, Washington where he serves as that city's chief of police and won't return for a hearing. Straub's chief of staff now resides in Florida and will also be unavailable for testimony. Councilor Freeman criticized the Democratic leadership for scheduling meetings early next month when he said several members won't be able to attend. Freeman also took a shot at Biesecker for relying upon another outside counsel, Andy Mallon, to assist him in his work. Biesecker explained that Mallon had already been under contract with the council for other matters and no additional costs would be incurred under his contract for the work he provided to the committee.