Monday, September 29, 2014

So Just Who Is This Brian Howard Guy?

FAA fire suspect Brian Howard (FACEBOOK/April Howard Connor) The 36-year old Naperville, Illinois man accused of sabotaging the FAA's Air Route Traffic Control center in Aurora last Friday and effectively shutting down all flights in and out of Chicago's O'Hare and Midway airports made his first appearance in court today. Until late today, little had been reported about the man who set fire to sensitive equipment at the traffic control center before he attempting to take his own life. Initial reports told us only that Brian Howard was a contract worker at the center who had allegedly become disgruntled after learning he was going to be transferred to Hawaii. Family members contacted authorities early Friday morning after seeing a Facebook posting Howard had made warning of his intentions of causing harm to the traffic control center and himself, but their call came too late to stop Howard. The FAA is relying on traffic control centers in Indianapolis, Cleveland and elsewhere to route traffic through Chicago while repairs to the Aurora center are being made.

Typically when these high-profile events happen, one of the cable news stations like CNN or news rags like the Daily Mail almost immediately have access to family and friends close to the culprits or victims to weave a narrative for our absorption, along with plenty of pictures. To my surprise, that didn't happen in this case despite the havoc Howard managed to wreak on the nation's air travel for several days. A couple of days ago, the Northwest Indiana Times revealed that Howard was a 1996 graduate of Highland High School. Nobody from the Highland area offered information about him, but they did manage to find a U.S. Marines officer who lives and works in North Carolina who claimed to know him in high school. "Maj. Michael Kaniuk of the U.S. Marine Corps grew up with Howard and played soccer with him at Highland High School," the Times reported. "Kaniuk, who now lives and works in North Carolina, said Saturday he was surprised to hear of the allegations against Howard, which he deemed a “terrible tragedy." “I would never have pegged him as a guy that would do something like he is alleged of doing,” Kaniuk said. Isn't that what they always say?

According to the Times, Howard joined the U.S. Navy in 1996 upon his graduation from high school. He graduated a year later from the Naval Submarine School in Groton, Connecticut. The U.S. Navy issued a press released upon his graduation in which military officials said "as a graduate of the course, Howard demonstrates his ability to excel in an elite underwater force." The training program for the Navy's nuclear submarines is limited to male candidates only and requires passing a physical and mental screening. CBS 2 in Chicago reported that Howard served in the Navy until 2000. He earned a good conduct medal and other awards before being honorably discharged. CBS 2 also released the first photograph of Howard that I could find anywhere on the Internet.

Earlier news reports mentioned the fact that Howard was a contract employee at the air traffic control center in Aurora but did not name that contractor. CBS 2 identified his employer for the past eight years as Harris Corp. Do you remember that name? You should. The Florida-based technology company is a major defense and national security contractor. It's been in the news a lot lately because of the Stingray technology it has developed for use by the National Security Agency and law enforcement agencies across the country to illegally capture all of our cell phone communications. Details about the devices are not made available on the company's website. Marketing materials contain a disclaimer that anyone caught distributing the product to anyone outside law enforcement agencies or telecommunications companies could be committing a crime punishable by up to five years in jail. The Indianapolis Star reported earlier this year that both the Indiana State Police and the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department have acquired Stingray technology, although neither would comment publicly on how they are using the technology. Harris Corp. had been hired to modernize communication systems in FAA centers.

During a brief court appearance today, Howard was described as wearing hospital green scrubs after being transported from a suburban Chicago hospital to the Dirksen federal courthouse in Chicago with a bandage around his neck where he had supposedly used a knife to cut himself. Howard is represented by Ronald Safer, a prominent white collar criminal defense attorney and managing partner at the Chicago law firm of Schiff Harden. Safer typically represents high-profile corporate clients. He previously spent ten years working as an assistant U.S. Attorney in Chicago. "He made a tragic mistake," Safer said of his client. "Only someone who’s deeply troubled would do that." Safer described Howard's actions as a cry for help. "Friday morning, Brian tried to take his life. That he did so in a way that inconvenienced — and more — many, many people is unacceptable, and he deeply regrets that,” Safer told reporters. The judge ordered Howard held without bond. He faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted of the charges federal prosecutors filed against him.

Digital Sign Permits Courtesy Of Mayor Rahm Emanuel Provide Prime Advertising For GOP Gubernatorial Candidate

The Illinois Republican primary for governor could not have turned out better for Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, a Democrat. Emanuel owed that cool $16 million he earned in his very brief career as an investment banker despite having no prior business experience to billionaire venture capitalist Bruce Rauner, the first-time candidate who snatched the GOP nomination away from veteran GOP elected officials in this year's primary. In the past, Rauner has contributed more than a half million dollars to Democratic candidates like former Mayor Richard Daley, along with generous contributions to Republicans. Rauner's wife even contributed to Obama's 2008 presidential campaign.

It turns out that Emanuel has done his part to repay Rauner. Shortly after Emanuel became Chicago's mayor in 2011, Rauner started up a new company, Digital Greensigns, and applied for 107 sign permits from City Hall after a new law allowed sign companies to obtain permits for digital signs. Emanuel's administration awarded 37 permits to Rauner's company, which has put up 23 digital signs so far according to the Sun-Times' Tim Novak, making it one of Chicago's largest digital billboard sign operators. Rauner's gubernatorial campaign has been using the signs throughout the city for campaign advertisements that alternate messages 24x7, including images depicting Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn's alter ego, Quinnochio, who has a very long nose because he keeps telling lies. Campaign finance reports show that Rauner's company has provided $215,000 of free advertising to his campaign to date.

The City subsequently tightened the regulations on the placement of digital signs after people started complaining about them being too big, too bright and too close to residential neighborhoods, but it waited nearly three years before doing so to the chagrin of the critics of digital billboard signs. Naturally, all of Rauner's signs were exempted from the new regulations, although enforcement action has been taken against a couple after aldermen complained that proper approvals weren't obtained for the signs. Novak says the Rauner's signs are 40% larger than what the current regulations allow. Rauner's signs located in neighborhood business districts are also larger than what current regulations allow, and he has signs less than 125 feet from residential neighborhoods. Emanuel's campaign committee returned a pair of $5,000 campaign contributions it received from two of Rauner's business partners shortly after the new regulations went into effect. The Chicago Combine as the Chicago Tribune's John Kass describes the relationship between Democrats and Republicans in Illinois is alive and well.

Colts Let Player Go Following Drunk Driving Arrest

Da'Rick Rogers. (Provided Photo/Marion County Jail)

The Indianapolis Colts wasted no time in releasing wide receiver Da'Rick Rogers from the team following an early morning arrest for drunk driving. Rogers was stopped by IUPUI police early this morning following the Colts blow-out win over the Tennessee Titans yesterday for suspicion of driving while intoxicated. Rogers' blood alcohol level registered between .08 and 0.15 according to the arrest record. The Colts management announced their decision to release Rogers from the team this afternoon. Ironically, Rogers was released by the Titans before he joined the Colts after he failed three drug tests. Colts owner Jim Irsay received a 6-game suspension and a $500,000 fine by the NFL after he pleaded guilty earlier this month to operating a vehicle while under the influence of controlled substances.

Ballard Administration Blames Council For Failure To Fix Pothole-Riddled Streets

I'm not sure why Mayor Greg Ballard needs so many high-paid, full-time people being paid at taxpayers' expense to serve as spokespersons for him. The Indianapolis Star pretty much writes press releases for his administration on a daily basis and calls them news stories. City beat reporter John Tuohy has a story explaining why so many streets riddled with potholes from last winter's harsh weather remain unrepaired despite the council approving $24 million for emergency repairs last spring. In short, it's all the council's fault.
This summer’s rocky ride on pothole-strewn streets could get even bumpier next year.
Streets were ravaged by the record-breaking sub-zero weather last winter. The cold froze the ground for long periods, and when it thawed, water seeped under surfaces, causing them to fall apart.
City officials said Wednesday that none of the “worst of the worst” streets targeted for repairs with $24 million in emergency funding has been fixed yet. And only about 15 percent to 20 percent could be revamped before the construction season ends.
That means yawning, leftover potholes and those that have been patched could resemble lunar craters when spring rolls around next year.
Blame it on the sometimes slow wheels of the legislative process and a bit of politics.
“There is no way to get 200 lane miles resurfaced in one month,” said Stephanie Wilson, a spokeswoman for the Indianapolis Department of Public Works. “All things being perfect, we expected to get 15 to 20 percent done.” . . .
Republican Mayor Greg Ballard’s office said the council moved too slowly to approve the 200 lane miles of repairs to get all the roads done this year.
“They waited for months to pass the funding, so late in the construction season, that DPW can’t guarantee they’ll get them all fixed,” said mayoral spokesman Marc Lotter. “The council waited while playing games with the money.” . . .
Of the streets targeted with the $24 million, contractors have been hired to repair just four stretches so far, with the other 125 segments expected to be bid out by Oct. 16.
The department has received guarantees that the first four stretches will be completed by year’s end. They are:
• Washington Street from Southeastern Avenue to Emerson Avenue. 
• Westfield Boulevard from Meridian Lane to Kessler Boulevard East Drive.
• Westfield Boulevard from 75th to 79th streets.
• Kessler Boulevard from Illinois Street to Allisonville Road.
Department Director Lori Miser said council members seemed to underestimate how long it takes to line up firms for construction projects — a process that can take four to six months . . .
One of the biggest complaints I've heard is that the City has repaved certain streets repeatedly over the years that weren't in need of repaving work at all while ignoring streets that have received nothing but patchwork repairs for more than a decade. Leah Orr is quoted in the story as asking why North Alabama Street near downtown was repaved yet again despite being in relatively good shape. Miser told Touhy that it was scheduled as part of DPW's regular maintenance plan and was not included in the emergency repair list. That should tell you everything you need to know. If you live on a street that hasn't been repaved for a very long time, it's not because the City lacked money for the repairs; it's because the administration had other spending priorities. When the administration spent the hundreds of millions in Rebuild Indy money like drunken sailors, it made sure that every street or sidewalk that was anywhere near the downtown area was repaved or rebuilt for the umpteenth time just to impress the out-of-town folks coming into town for the Super Bowl.

If someone wanted to complain about something, they should be complaining about the piss-poor job the contractors hired by the city to perform the repaving work do. I don't know how many times I've noticed a newly-paved street have standing water every time it rains because the contractor didn't take the time to do the work right so water could drain into the storm water drains, which causes the pavement to deteriorate more quickly. As long as the contractors are making their pro-rata share of contributions to the mayor's campaign committee, the contracts will keep flowing regardless of how poorly they perform their work.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Workers Still Reeling From Sen. Brent Waltz' Failed Business

State Sen. Brent Waltz' (R) personal affairs are becoming a public issue for him again. Problems surfacing from a failed business he founded in 2003 with four other men continue to work its way through the legal system, and it doesn't paint a pretty picture for Waltz, who stands accused of defrauding former workers of the company out of hundreds of thousands of dollars of wages owed to them when the business closed in 2009. The litigation is the subject of a front-page story in today's Indianapolis Star titled, "Did Sen. Brent Waltz fail to pay his workers?"

The company in question is Indianapolis Diversified Machining, which occupied space at the former United Airlines maintenance hub at the Indianapolis International Airport. Records obtained by the Indianapolis Star show that Waltz formed the company with four former United Airlines employees--Carl Jacobson, Paul Schnulle, Tim Tosh and Tony Shevchenko. Each owned a 20% stake as shareholders of the company. Records showed Waltz served as a director and its chief financial officer. Despite corporate records showing otherwise, Waltz told the Star's Tony Cook that he only had an option to purchase shares through his investment firm, The Baron Group, was not a director or officer and only acted as a business advisor to the company. He was paid $68,000 a year for his services.

What is clear is that when IDM closed its doors in 2009, more than 40 employees were owed more than $220,000 in unpaid wages. Marion Superior Court Judge Tim Oakes has already entered a partial summary judgment against IDM for the unpaid wages, double that amount in liquidated damages and $50,000 in attorney's fees, or a total judgment of more than $720,000. It's interesting that Sen. Waltz, who is the ranking member of the Senate Pensions and Labor Committee, and some of his Senate colleagues supported legislation this year that would have gutted that very statute--the Wage Payment Law--that allows employees to recover treble damages and attorney's fees from their former employer for unpaid wages. The Senate later killed the bill after it passed the House only after this blog began sounding the alarm bell about the harmful effect it would have on employees who are beat out of their wages by unscrupulous employers.

What's disturbing is the claim that IDM made payments to Waltz of at least $148,000 after it told the employees it didn't have money to pay them when it shut its doors. IDM also failed to pay withholding taxes to the federal government despite withholding the money from the employees paychecks according to the Star. Waltz claimed the money paid to him was for investment banking services and ongoing services related to the company's closure and efforts to sale it. Waltz told the Star it was not his decision to prioritize payments to him over payment of the workers' unpaid wages and taxes owed to the federal government. Issues yet to be resolved in the ongoing litigation include fraud and RICO charges against Waltz and the Baron Group since it will be next to impossible to collect any of their judgment from the failed IDM.

The Star's story today neglects to mention the earlier problem detected years ago when former employees of IDM attempted to apply for unemployment benefits. WRTV's Rafael Sanchez reported back in April, 2009 that the former employees learned IDM had never paid into the state's unemployment insurance trust fund and were ineligible to draw unemployment benefits. When Sanchez contacted Waltz at that time, he told him much the same he is now telling the Star's Cook--that he was only a financial advisor who helped start the company. He insisted he had nothing to do with the day-to-day operations of the company. "I am absolutely appalled that the company did not pay these employees," Waltz told Sanchez. "I am doing everything I can to make sure people get paid the money they deserve."

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Star's Tim Swarens Starting To Like Pence Because He's For Pre-K Education

Former U.S. Rep. Mike Pence consistently opposed funding for Head Start, a federal program that provides early childhood education for children who come from low-income families as a member of Congress. Not unlike Paul's conversion on the road to Damascus, Gov. Mike Pence had a change of heart and now thinks the state should become involved in funding pre-K education for low-income children. The Indianapolis Star's opinion editor, Tim Swarens, now has glowing things to say about Pence, in sharp contrast to his threats to unleash a brutal public assault on any member of Indianapolis' City-County Council who dares to stand in the way of supporting Mayor Greg Ballard's plan to match funds being provided to Marion County under a pilot program by raising property taxes through the elimination of the homestead property tax credit. In a column titled, "The Evolution of Mike Pence," Swarens talks about Gov. Pence "at his best."
Indiana’s first-term governor stood before a couple of hundred educators, lawmakers and policy wonks in a state government center auditorium Wednesday morning to reinforce the critical importance of early childhood education, what he described as “the antidote for the toxin of poverty.”
He spoke with passion about the value of “unleashing the potential in one little boy, one little girl” and closed with a personal story: the journey of one at-risk child who landed in his wife Karen’s classroom years ago and later became a teacher herself. “She calls Karen her ‘other Mom’ today,” Pence said.
It was a surprising talk to mark the launch of a surprising policy achievement — a preschool pilot program designed to serve hundreds of low-income children in five counties, including Marion.
Surprising because, as Pence acknowledged later in an hour-long conversation, early childhood education didn’t make his otherwise exhaustive list of 2012 campaign proposals, which he called, incessantly, his “Roadmap for Indiana.”
Surprising also because Pence started with a bias against public-funded preschool.
“I came from the mindset that federal Head Start doesn’t work. That it doesn’t achieve lasting results,” Pence said after the speech, as we strolled from the government center to his Statehouse office. “But it was a learning experience for me as I traveled the state in 2013. I sat on the carpet with the kids, and I talked to people like Ted Maple at Day Nursery. I began to understand the importance of early childhood education in overcoming the effects of poverty.”
Swarens describes in his column a former congressman who was "predictably ideological and partisan, an affable knife-wielder for the party who could sit before the Fox News cameras and slice up Democratic opponents without breaking his smile." Swarens likes the new Mike Pence because he's now "for the common good" and wields an ideological knife the "edges [of which] aren't as sharp these days." Swarens assures us that Pence is still "a proud conservative" who is "no longer hemmed in by a rigid ideology that is the enemy of practicality." Words of praise for Pence all because of his support for pre-K education, eh?  Very strange.

Meanwhile, across town at a radio station, talk show host Amos Brown interviewed some people yesterday who run Family Development Services ("FDS"), a nonprofit organization that administers the Head Start program in Marion County. You mean there is already an early childhood education program in Marion County for children growing up in low-income households? There sure is. It's funded entirely by the federal government, and it's been around since the late 1960s. According to FDS's annual report, it spends close to $16 million a year providing early childhood education to about 2,500 children at nine community learning centers across the city. That comes to about $6,400 per child.

Mayor Ballard's plan to provide about $5 million a year to match the state's contribution will supposedly reach about 1,500, or 25% of the estimated 6,000 children living in poverty, with early childhood education opportunities. Ballard wants to give the money to the United Way to direct to providers of early childhood education, presumably preschools like the Day Nursery favored by the elites. Supposedly the wrap on FDS' pre-K education is that it doesn't provide higher level education to the children enrolled in the full-time and part-time programs, a fact disputed by the representatives of FDS who appeared on Brown's radio show. Their annual report says their education programs align with the state Department of Education's School Readiness Goals, along with nationally-recognized assessment tools.

By eliminating the homestead credit to fund the Pence/Ballard pre-K education program, the City of Indianapolis will collect more than $8 million a year in additional property taxes, while the City's public schools will lose a little more than $5 million a year in property tax revenues used to pay for buildings and transportation. It is peculiar that the Pence/Ballard pre-K education plan is by design intended to compete against the existing, 100% federally-funded Head Start program that has been around for decades at the same time it threatens to take away money from our public schools and other local governments. It gives one the impression that it has nothing to do with ensuring that low-income children receive early childhood education opportunities; rather, it's all about which organizations are the recipients of scarce public resources, particularly when education is not even the constitutional or statutory obligation of municipal government, which seems to be doing a pretty lousy job as it is taking care of basic services to the vast majority of residents who reside outside the mile square that encompasses downtown.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Told You So, Indianapolis Can't Deny Public Dislosure Of Criminal Justice Center RFP

Indiana's Public Access Counselor agrees with me that the City of Indianapolis' claim that it can deny public disclosure of the Request for Proposals ("RFP") that it issued to three groups of bidder vying for the right to construct a more than half billion dollar criminal justice center for the City through a public-private partnership agreement until the bidding process is completed and a winning proposal selected is specious. The IBJ's Kathleen McLaughlin made a public request for the RFP on July 22, 2014 to the City's Office of Corporation Counsel. Although the OCC acknowledged receipt of her request, it failed to respond to it. McLaughlin filed a complaint with the Public Access Counselor on August 19, 2014, to which she received an informal response on September 24.

Writing on behalf of the OCC, the City's public access counselor, Samantha DeWester, told Luke Britt, the state's Public Access Counselor, that it had not denied McLaughlin's request. "[H]owever, they will be doing so with a formal denial including a citation to why they feel it can be withheld," Britt added. "Based on their response, they will be asserting a discretionary privilege due to the RFP still being in negotiation, and a confidentiality provision as the RFP contains trade secrets."

Britt agreed that response-related documents produced by the competing vendors in response to the RFP could be withheld pursuant to state law until the negotiations are concluded. "RFPs are generally non-negotiated instruments," he added. "I am not necessarily compelled by the argument an RFP itself is under negotiation . . . After the bidding process is over, terms and conditions may change, but the public request for proposal would not be changed by negotiation of a final contract."

Britt also could not understand OCC's argument that the RFP could be shielded from disclosure because it contained "trade secrets" that are protected from disclosure under the state's access to public records law. This argument is premised on the OCC's contention that it contains architect's blueprints, plans and drawings. "If an RFP sent out into the marketplace does indeed contain trade secrets, it stands to reason the secret is out once it goes out to potential contractors." Britt adds that "secrecy is inherently compromised in an RFP."  If this RFP truly contains trade secrets, it would be a first in the United States. How an attorney could even make that argument with a straight face is beyond me.

DeWester's response letter to Britt repeated what was told to a City-County Council committee earlier this month that no final RFP document existed as it was still being negotiated even as the City has been in negotiations with the three bidding groups since last April. "[T]he RFP is still under negotiation," DeWester wrote. "Currently, the RFP has been amended and will continue to be amended while negotiations are still in progress." That of course is nothing but a sham argument intended to completely circumvent state law requirement that an RFP be made available publicly once it is issued by a governmental body. Sure, an RFP can be amended after initial discussions with potential offerors, which can easily be accomplished by making available to the public questions posed by offerors, the City's response thereto and any revisions to the initial RFP document made as result of those discussions, while still allowing the actual proposals of the offerors to be withheld from public disclosure until the negotiation process in concluded. Only by following those steps can the public and the competing vendors know that all were accorded fair and equal treatment during the bidding process.

Britt's letter at this point is not a formal opinion since the City of Indianapolis has not yet supplied a formal legal response to McLaughlin's request. By the time he gets around to it, the City will have already concluded its discussions and selected the winning bidder, which it plans to have done in November. Here's a word to two of the bidding groups. I don't know how much time and money you have committed to this proposal, but you should know that the City already knew in advance to whom this project was going to be awarded. This is a sham process being conducted in the dark to give the other two bidding groups and the public the impression a competitive bidding process is being conducted when nothing could be further from the truth. You are dealing with one of the most corrupt cities in all of America. This project is being undertaken to line the pockets of a handful of political insiders regardless of how much damage is inflicted on the public or how great the costs are to the taxpayers of this city.

As I previously pointed out, the Hoosier State Press Association with the strong backing of the Indianapolis Star was responsible for the law that is currently on the books requiring public disclosure of RFPs undertaken for a build, operate and maintain project through a public-private partnership to prevent important public projects from being undertaken in secrecy. The Indianapolis Star under the ownership of Gannett could care less about transparency in this process. It has already bought into the idea that a public-private partnership is the preferred route despite the fact that it will cost taxpayers much more in the long run than a project built, operated and maintained by the City-County government. If the Ballard administration decides it can thumb its nose at provisions of the law intended to provide transparency to the process, the Star could care less, along with most of the other media in this town.

South Bend Welcomes Spook Mayor Back Home: What Have You Done For Us Lately, Pete?

Mayor Pete Buttigieg arrived at South Bend International Airport Thursday evening to a rousing welcome after seven months serving with the U.S. Navy in Afghanistan.
Several dozen South Bend residents greeted Mayor Pete Buttigieg at the airport as he arrived back in town after a seven-month deployment to Afghanistan where he served as a naval intelligence officer as a unit of one. The public up there still hasn't figured out that the man they elected as mayor has likely been working for the CIA all along. This wasn't Buttigieg's first trip to Afghanistan. He worked there while he was employed by McKinsey & Co., a management strategy consulting firm renowned for employing covered CIA operatives. He also previously worked for The Cohen Group, which was founded by former U.S. Senator and Defense Secretary William Cohen.

South Bend residents should be asking just what the hell Buttigieg was doing in Afghanistan that was of any importance or value to the people back home. Publicly, he claimed his work involved targeting Afghanistan's drug traffickers.  In his farewell address this past week, Afghanistan's outgoing president, Harmid Karzai, denounced the United States as a curse upon his country despite the more than one trillion dollars in military and financial aid spent there courtesy of the American taxpayers, not to mention the tens of thousands of American soldiers who were killed or wounded during our country's occupation of the God-forsaken land. Instead, Karzai praised China and Iran as his country's greatest allies. Karzai also offered praise for Japan, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, India, South Korea and Germany. The departing president had not one word of praise for the United States.

The CIA openly admits that it delivered suitcases filled with millions of dollars of cash to Karzai and his cronies over the past several years. Billions more given to the country simply disappeared without a trace. Perhaps the only thing people on the streets of South Bend can see for our efforts there is the flood of heroin hitting the city's streets and elsewhere around Indiana and across this country since heroin production and exports from Afghanistan exploded during the American occupation with the assistance of our own government and, in particular, the CIA, which is probably the world's largest drug smuggler. Will anybody in the South Bend media bother to ask Buttigieg what he did in Afghanistan before patting him on the back for his service there? As his mother says, he can't discuss his work there because it's all classified.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Ballard Doesn't Dispel Rumors He's Not Running For Re-Election

I've been hearing and saying for some time that I don't believe that Mayor Greg Ballard is planning to run for re-election. WTHR's Mary Milz quizzed Mayor Ballard about a rumor he is considering a job with Cathedral High School, his alma mater, and he did little to dispel those rumors. The school's current president is planning to step down in 2016.
Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard may be considering a new job. Sources close to Eyewitness News say the mayor may not run for a third term. 
Eyewitness News asked the mayor about rumors that he's been talking to Cathedral High School about a job there. It's his alma mater. While he didn't confirm anything, he didn't go out of his way to dispel the talk.
Ballard turns 60 in three months and he has said several times he's not sure if he's going to run again. WTHR asked him about any potential plans to work for Cathedral.
" wouldn't read too much into that. I mean, just personally, if I do or I don't, we'll find out by the end of the year. I guarantee you that," said the mayor.
When pressed on the question of his future plans, he added, "When I go to people - I may have told you this a couple of days ago - when I got to people, I say, 'what do you think I should do?' I do have quite a few people who say, 'well, if you decide not to, come back.'"
As far as his goals right now?
"I'm thinking about what's best for me and Winnie, to be frank with you. I don't think like a normal guy in this office, I suppose. My motivation is probably a bit different, so I'm just trying to do what I can for the city right now. Winnie and I are a little older. We're not 40 years old anymore so we're gonna have to look at what to do."
What I've been hearing is that the powers that be have asked Ballard not to seek re-election. WTHR asked House Speaker Brian Bosma if he was interested in running and he said no. The more likely candidate is J. Murray Clark, Jr., a former state senator and Indiana State Republican Party chairman. Insiders say Clark was kicking himself for not running in 2007 after seeing Bart Peterson's political fortunes crumble amidst a grassroots anti-tax movement that propelled Ballard in his upset win despite being overwhelmingly outspent in that race and having little backing from the party. Clark offered Ballard no help that year as the party chairman. Instead, he focused on other mayoral races, including losing races in Fort Wayne and South Bend that year. Clark's uncle, Alex Clark, was elected for one term as Indianapolis mayor from 1952-56. He lost to Richard Lugar in the 1967 Republican primary for mayor in his last bid for public office.

Illinois Collects $5 Million From Potential Marijuana Farmers And Dispensaries

A new Illinois law will allow farmers to grow and retail establishments to sell medical marijuana. Applicants seeking licenses from the state plopped down about $5 million in application fees before this week's deadline. According to the Sun-Times, 158 applicants paid non-refundable, $25,000 fees seeking a license to cultivate marijuana, while 211 paid a non-refundable, $5,000 fee to be licensed as a dispensary of medical marijuana.

State officials said they were surprised by the number of applications received. The program to be administered by the Department of Agriculture will remain self-funded, which is a requirement of the law. Over 2,000 seriously ill people have submitted applications to be registered users of medical marijuana, which state officials hope to make available to patients by next spring.

Gov. Pat Quinn's Republican opponent, businessman Bruce Rauner, has said he would have vetoed the law. He has already complained that the process to obtain a license isn't open enough, and it allows Quinn's administration to decide in secret to whom 21 cultivation and 60 dispensary licenses will be issued across the state.

State officials claim that a half dozen employees from the Department of Agriculture and Department of Professional Regulation will review the applications with their names blacked out to promote impartiality in the selection process. Rauner complains that Quinn's former chief of staff, Jack Lavin, is representing one of the first medical marijuana applicants. Two supporters of Rauner's campaign, Steve Denari and Tom Cronin, have established an angel fund to loan money to businesses seeking to establish medical marijuana businesses in Illinois. Rauner argued the state should have auctioned off the licenses to the highest bidders rather than allow state employees to pick and choose winners and losers.

Citizens Energy Trying To Put Lipstick On A Pig

Citizens Energy announced yesterday the planned retirement of CEO Carey Lykins, who has become a multi-millionaire many times over from running what is supposed to be a public benefit corporation intended to keep utility rates as low and affordable for Indianapolis residents as possible. With his retirement announcement, Citizens announced a reduction in its executive compensation, which has been highly criticized. The CEO's pay is being reduced about 32%, while the pay of another dozen or so over-paid executives is being reduced between 6 and 12 percent. Lykins earned $1.9 million last year. Lykins and six other executives collectively earned about $6 million last year. Lykins should have plenty of time to work on his seemingly year-round tan now.

Lykins will be succeed by Jeff Harrison, who currently serve as the utility's vice president of engineering and sustainability. Harrison formerly worked as an executive of IPL before its self-serving management cashed out big time in a sale of the utility to AES in a deal that totally screwed shareholders and long-time employees of the utility. Harrison is a first cousin of Rev. Charles Harrison of the Ten Points Coalition according to a tweet made by Rev. Harrison following yesterday's announcement.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

TMZ: Tony Stewart Cleared By Grand Jury

The Ontario County District Attorney in New York was scheduled to announce the decision of a grand jury convened to investigate the track death of sprint race car driver Kevin Ward, Jr. at 3:00 p.m. today; however, TMZ is reporting in advance of the scheduled news conference that the grand jurors decided against returning an indictment against Tony Stewart. TMZ did not cite its source. Enhanced video of the fatal collision between Stewart's car and Ward did not convince jurors Stewart intentionally struck Ward, or drove his sprint car in a manner showing reckless disregard for Ward's life according to the Hollywood gossip site.

UPDATE: The district attorney confirmed TMZ's earlier report. District attorney Mike Tantillo told reporters that grand jury members heard testimony from more than two dozen witnesses, including two accident reconstruction specialists. The grand jury also reviewed photographic and video evidence. Tantillo also said a toxicology report showed the presence of marijuana in Ward's blood.

UPDATE II: The USA Today spoke to an accident reconstruction expert for the defense who said he determined that Ward was caught up in the rear wheel of Stewart's car.
"Essentially (Ward) was caught up in that large rear wheel" of Stewart's car, Speranza said.
Also, Speranza said, Cooper decided that Stewart's car had not struck Ward's earlier, as many had surmised. Speranza said he did not know whether the State Police reconstruction also reached that conclusion, but clearly the grand jury — having heard both versions — determined that Stewart did not respond unreasonably while driving.
"We did a complete independent investigation with a private investigator," Speranza said. "We interviewed probably 10 to 20 witnesses, many of them of course the same witnesses that the police had interviewed."
Ward had used marijuana and was driving in what District Attorney Michael Tantillo said was an "impaired" state, Speranza said.
While toxicology analysis was done on Ward's blood to determine he had enough marijuana in his system to impair his judgment, no toxicology analysis was conducted on Stewart to determine whether he was taking any medications or under the influence of any substances that could have impaired his judgment or affected his mental state of mind. The district attorney said none was taken of Stewart since he wasn't arrested at the time of the accident.

Obama's Latte Salute

This video says so much about who he is, or perhaps who he is not.

Two Sprint Car Drivers Testify Before Grand Jury Investigating Kevin Ward, Jr. Death

Hothead: Tony Stewart, pictured on Friday, has been questioned by investigators after he hit and killed a 20-year-old fellow race driver on a dirt track during a New York competition on Saturday
The Daily Messenger in Canandaigua, New York is reporting that a grand jury began hearing evidence this week regarding the death of  sprint car racer Kevin Ward, Jr. after a car driven by NASCAR's Tony Stewart collided with him on the track after Ward exited his vehicle and ran towards Stewart's car following a collision with Stewart's car. A local driver in that fateful race, Chuck Hebing, confirmed that he had provided testimony to the grand jury. Hebing's car passed Ward on the track just seconds before Stewart's car collided with Ward. Hebing declined a request to discuss his testimony.

The Daily Messenger also confirmed from Kinney's Kar-Kare in Oneida that another driver in the August 9 race, Paul Kinney, was unavailable because he was testifying in front of the grand jury. Kinney told NBC News last month that driver visibility as some media reports were claiming did not contribute to the collision. "I drove right by him," Kinney told NBC News in a phone interview Monday. "He looked a little bit angry. I didn’t think much of it. A lot of drivers do that." Kinney conceded that it wasn't a good idea for Ward to get out of his car and run onto the track towards other cars as they passed by as a lot of drivers do when they are upset about an on-track crash. "People get a little carried away. I actually got a little bit angry at a fellow racer last year," he said. "You don’t really think when you get out of the car. You just want to let ’em know what you’re thinking." "But nobody can speak for Tony," Kinney said. "Only Tony knows exactly what happened." He added, "I seen Kevin clear as day. Nobody else ran into him, either."

The grand jury proceedings are expected to conclude this week. The Daily Messenger report does not mention whether Stewart will testify before the grand jury. Stewart's spokesman, Mike Arning, declined to answer any questions, referring the reporter to statements Stewart made earlier when it was announced a grand jury would hear evidence in the case. A key piece of evidence may be a second video that authorities obtained showing a different angle than the video of the collision that went viral on the Internet, which was inconclusive.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Latest Efforts To Topple Council President Tied To Demands By Some To Remove Scales From Public Safety Committee

There is nothing that rankles Republican council members more right now than Councilor Christine Scales' presence on the Public Safety Committee. The corrupt Republican council leadership bounced Scales from the caucus and stripped her of any committee assignments after she refused to take part in their agenda, which is neither Republican-like nor ethical. Council Democrats gave Scales a seat on the Public Safety Committee, drawing their ire.

During recent council hearings on the budget, Scales dared ask questions that were embarrassing to the Ballard administration, like creating a new job for Brian Sanford working under Public Safety Director Troy Riggs the day following his retirement as Indianapolis Fire Department Chief earning more than $100,000 a year despite his failing health being offered as the reason for his retirement. Sanford now earns much more than he earned working as fire chief after he began drawing a large pension check that is bigger than the paycheck earned by more than 90% of Indianapolis workers. Scales also stood her ground in opposition to the Republicans' efforts to raise taxes to fund pre-K education.

The Republican council members are trying to leverage members of the Democratic council to launch a renewed effort to oust Maggie Lewis as council president. A similar attempt failed last year when Councilor Brian Mahern (D) hopped in bed with the Republican council members in an effort to oust Lewis after members of his own party bounced him from his role as council vice president and replaced him with at-large council member, John Barth. The effort was thwarted when Councilor Scales refused to join other Republicans in the coup attempt. The threats being made against Lewis are reportedly over the top if she doesn't acquiesce to Republican demands to banish Scales from the Public Safety Committee and go along with their plan to raise taxes yet again through the elimination of the homestead property tax credit.

It's just further evidence of how morally debased the Republican leadership in Marion County has become. They're interested in raw naked power, and they could care less who they harm in the process as long as they get what they want, which never seems to align with the public's interest these days. Republicans have already drafted Tim Craft, an associate of CB Richard Ellis, which has been a beneficiary of Ballard's no-bid crony contracts, to challenge Scales in next year's Republican primary in her newly-drawn district because she votes like a real Republican would vote instead of the reckless, tax and spend ways of other members of the Republican caucus.

Bankrupt Toll Road Operator Has Over $6 Billion In Debt, Victim Of Interest Rate Swap Agreements

The foreign consortium that operates the 157-mile Indiana Toll Road may have paid $3.8 billion for their 75-year lease agreement with the State of Indiana, but bankruptcy documents filed yesterday indicate that its total debt has grown to more than $6 billion since it took over the toll road in 2006. According to the Northwest Indiana Times' Keith Benman, the first emergency petitions filed by the firm controlled by Ferrovial SA, a Spanish infrastructure company, and Macquarie Group, an Australian investment bank, would allow it to continue paying the 283 employees who operate the toll road.

Earlier news reports talked about a greater than 40% decline in vehicle traffic on the ITR following the 2008 Great Recession as contributing to the operator's failure. The firm also attributes interest rate swaps it negotiated with banks to its downfall to a more than 50% growth in its debt. "Those swaps were intended to give ITRCC the security of fixed interest rates on the $4 billion in debt taken on to finance its winning bid in 2006," Benman writes. "But the swaps instead had the effect of swelling its debt by $2.15 billion more as of this summer, according to the bankruptcy filings."

So who has been buying up the heavily discounted debt owed by the ITR from the European banks who loaned the money for the ITR lease? The Wall Street Journals says it's mainly been hedge fund owners, who stand to be the biggest winners if the toll road fetches a good price in a bankruptcy sale. The banks who made the bad lending decisions in the first place have been bailed out by European governments. Never fear. The money changers always wind up on top. It's the little people who always wind up paying the price for their bad decisions.
"And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the money changers, and the seats of them that sold doves, And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves." Matthew 21:12-13. 

Monday, September 22, 2014

Local Gun Store Theft Involved Weapons Of War

A trailer full of the most powerful firearms on the market stolen from a west side gun store on Rockville Road over the weekend showed up on the opposite side of town in a neighborhood near the state fairgrounds on Ralston Avenue empty. Profire Arms and Supply had loaded the trailer on Friday with 29 high-powered firearms worth about $225,000 and 20,000 rounds of ammunition for use at a weekend event. Those firearms included M-16s, AK-47s, an Uzi, shotgun and several handguns. Even more troubling was the silencers with which the firearms were equipped. Fox 59's Russ McQuaid offers these additional details:
Fox59 has learned that the guns were being stored in the trailer Friday night in preparation for a Saturday “swap meet” event at Parabellum Firing Range, about five miles down Rockville Road in Avon.
“We couldn’t believe it,” said Tom Sellmer, owner of Parabellum Firing Rage. “That’s like your worst nightmare for something like that to happen.”
Sellmer doesn’t have any theories on who stole the the trailer. But he thinks it must have been someone who either saw Profire employees loading the trailer up on Friday. Or, perhaps somebody who knew Profire would be storing and transporting weapons to the firing range the next day.
Whoever it was, Sellmer says, they came prepared.
“It (the trailer) was pretty secure,” Sellmer said. “It was not a standard trailer hitch. It wasn’t going to be an easy one for people to grab.”
It looks like an inside job to me. Good luck finding the weapons. I've not heard any reports indicating that police have recovered the large cache of firearms stolen during a break-in of another gun store not far from Profire on Crawfordsville Road. Simeon Adams, the teen felon who shot and killed Nathan Trapuzzano, was thought to be a suspect in that gun store robbery. The ATF is offering a $5,000 reward, which is being matched by a $10,000 reward offered by the National Shooting Sports Foundation, for information about the stolen guns.

UPDATE: Fox 59 News is reporting that some of the guns have been recovered from the home of a convicted felon who allegedly had no connection to the original theft of the firearms. The unidentified homeowner has been arrested on unrelated charges.

Ballard's Record Of Dozens Of Tax and Fee Increases

He may have run on an anti-tax pledge in 2007, but as mayor, he has been the biggest tax and spend mayor in the City of Indianapolis' history. Fellow blogger Paul Ogden has a summary of all the tax and fee increases enacted by Mayor Greg Ballard, along with a few he proposed that didn't become law here.

Democratic mayoral candidate Joe Hogsett is already planning to replicate the gubernatorial campaign he helped run for Evan Bayh in 1988 against Lt. Gov John Mutz (R). In that campaign, Bayh and the Democrats ran to the right of Mutz, attacking the 8-year record of the Orr-Mutz team raising taxes and supporting big spending programs. It worked like magic. Yes, Joe Hogsett will run to the right of the Republican mayoral candidate in 2015, which probably won't be Greg Ballard.

Active Shooter Training Planned For Indianapolis International Airport This Week

A training video for an active shooter is being filmed at Indianapolis International Airport this week according to the AP.
Travelers passing through Indianapolis International Airport this week might encounter the filming of a training video for active shooter incidents by the Transportation Security Administration.
The airport says the filming will occur Monday through Sunday in locations throughout the airport. It says those locations will be cordoned off and controlled and should pose little if any impact to travelers.
It says TSA and airport employees also will be posted at areas of high foot traffic to inform incoming and outgoing passengers of the filming. Signage also will be posted throughout the public areas.
The training video will be used to train TSA personnel and others nationwide on how to respond and react to active shooter incidents.
Remember LAX.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Indianapolis Star Management And Opinion Staff Threatening Council Members Who Don't Support Higher Taxes For Pre-K Education

The management and opinion staff of the Gannett-owned Indianapolis Star think they know what's best for the rest of us and if our elected public officials don't toe the line, it's now bullying and threatening them with negative news coverage and editorials until they comport to their demands. Councilor Angela Mansfield, who chaired a committee meeting this past week that tabled a proposal to eliminate the homestead property tax credit, is learning that fact the hard way. They've met with the corporate leaders of Eli Lilly, Wellpoint and Cummins in private meetings, and they all agree that the City will collapse unless tens of millions of city dollars are invested in pre-K education spending over the next several years.

Their answer for funding pre-K education is to eliminate the homestead property tax credit that will raise taxes on Marion County homeowners and, ironically, cut funding for our public schools by millions at the same time. Never mind that municipal government is neither constitutionally nor statutorily charged with providing education in this state; if you don't support it, we will use our opinion and news pages to punish you. Here's a brief response I posted on the Star's website in response to the threats and bullying they are now engaged with our elected officials:
It's not leadership or sound public policy to threaten and bully members of our city council the way the opinion and management staff of the Star is doing to force them to fund something city government is not constitutionally or statutorily charged with funding.  
Who are you to meet in private with the city's most powerful corporate leaders to decide what you think is in the best interests of this city and then dictate public policy to the rest of us to suit your self-serving ends, no matter how many laws or ethical improprieties are committed along the way?  
Your readers only need to understand one basic fact--the constitutional responsibility for public education rests with the state's Department of Education and the public school districts established throughout the state to help carry out the charge to offer free public education to our state's children. Nowhere does our state laws charge municipal government with that responsibility, which many of us believe is failing already at its job of providing basic city services. 
This newspaper must accept partial blame for that because of your misuse of your position in the community to bully and pressure elected officials to support crony capitalism for the benefit of private real estate development and sports team owners to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars annually, while short-changing the funding of basic services. Your answer is always to demand that we pay higher taxes to get what we want, and when we do, we find that the bulk of the higher taxes we pay go for something other than what we were told it would be used. 
Given the way your newspaper has treated some of its best employees over the past several years, I don't expect you to get it because at the end of the day you really don't care about what the little people think and feel from the ivory tower where you sit and feast with the city's most wealthy and self-serving citizens.
In the last mayoral campaign, Democratic mayoral candidate Melina Kennedy pushed the idea of using Rebuild Indy funds from the sale of the water and sewer utilities to fund pre-K education, a plan denounced by Mayor Ballard, who said the neighborhoods of Indianapolis had spoken out loud and clear about how they wanted the money spent and that was rebuilding the city's streets, sidewalks, bridges and other basic infrastructure needs. He opposed raising taxes to fund pre-K education, which is precisely what he said would occur if we used ReBuild Indy funds and created a funding cliff for the program when those funds were depleted. Last year, he proposed eliminating the homestead property tax credit to fund more police officers. Now he wants its elimination for the very purpose he correctly observed in 2011 was something that should be funded by the state, not local municipal governments. See his comments in a mayoral debate with Kennedy below:

Here's something Republicans throughout the state should take note of as well. Indiana Republican State GOP Chairman Tim Berry sent out a mass e-mail over the weekend in which he chastised Indianapolis Democratic council members for tabling the elimination of the homestead property tax credit to fund Mayor Ballard's pre-K initiative. Incredibly, he used a Robin Hood analogy to claim that Democrats were robbing the poor by refusing to take money from homeowners to pay for early childhood education instead of funding basic city services, which is the actual purpose of the municipal government. Yes, the Indiana Republican Party has now stepped into the fray and is demanding that property taxes be raised on Marion County residents to fund something the Republican-controlled legislature and Republican governor has failed to date to fund statewide. Berry's message is that we should send a message to Democrats by voting them out of office for refusing to raise our property taxes. Don't forget that message fellow Republicans as you go to the polls. I won't.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

As Indiana Toll Road Operator Fails, Indiana Media Ignores The Obvious About Illiana Expressway

The private operator of the 156-mile Indiana Toll Road is filing for bankruptcy on Monday because the vehicle traffic and tolls paid by motorists and truckers proved insufficient to make the business of running the toll road a profitable enterprise. Meanwhile, Indiana and Illinois officials are moving ahead with plans to construct yet another toll road, the Illiana Expressway, further south of the ITR to connect I-65 in Indiana with I-55 in Illinois just outside the southernmost edge of the Chicago metropolitan area.

Illinois and Indiana are relying on a private operator to build the toll road under a public-private partnership agreement (P3). The highway is expected to cost $1 billion to build, or about $2.8 billion dollars less than the private operator of the ITR paid to lease and manage the toll road for 75 years; however, Illinois is kicking in a minimum of $250 million upfront for the project, while Indiana will kick in up to $110 million. The goal of the Illiana Expressway is to alleviate heavy truck traffic on the I-80/I-94 corridor. The Indiana leg of the 47-mile road is 14 miles, while the Illinois segment spans 33 miles.

One of the chief complaints of critics is the lack of traffic and revenue studies to establish the viability of the highway. Illinois Department of Transportation officials assume toll rates will need to be substantially higher than the current rates charged on other area toll roads to generate sufficient revenues for the P3 operator. It is unclear why motorists and truckers would pay more to use a toll road farther outside the metropolitan area. Unlike the leasing of the ITR, the P3 agreement for the Illiana Expressway places all of the financial risk squarely on the backs of the taxpayers of Indiana and Illinois. If traffic and tolls fail to generate enough money to guarantee a minimum income stream for the P3 operator, the respective states have to make up the difference, which would mean fewer highway dollars for projects elsewhere in the state.

Not surprisingly, a national research organization, PIRG, has placed the Illiana Expressway on its list of top highway boondoggles. PIRG says the $1 billion estimated cost to construct the road could wind up costing three times that much. PIRG believes traffic will be too low due to high tolls, leaving taxpayers in both states having to chip in at least $1 billion in additional subsidies to maintain the required revenue stream for the P3 operator. According to PIRG, road travel has leveled off and is declining in many areas, making new highway projects even more dubious.

Despite great cause for concern, Indiana media has been all but silent on the project, while the project has received far more attention in the Illinois press, which has largely been negative. It doesn't help that Gov. Pat Quinn's transportation agency is embroiled currently in a patronage hiring scandal that has become a major issue in his re-election campaign this year. Illinois Transportation Secretary Ann Schneider, who played a key role in negotiating the bi-state agreement with Indiana for the Illiana Expressway, was forced to resign earlier this summer over the growing scandal.

UPDATE: Reports on today's bankruptcy filing confirm the financial woes of the operator was due to declining traffic on the toll road:
ITR Concession has seen traffic volume plunge by about 42 percent on the Indiana highway since taking over operations in 2006, according to data on the Macquarie Atlas website.

First-half revenue increased about 5.2 percent from last year, including a 7.2-percent jump in the quarter ended in June, according to a Macquarie Atlas statement. Traffic gained only a third of 1 percent over last year’s first-half figures, with a 3.2-percent drop in the first quarter due to bad weather.
Toll rates for passenger cars paying cash increased 30 cents, to $10 for a full 157-mile trip on July 1, according to an ITR statement. Rates for a typical semi-trailer truck rose $1, to $39.70.
Travelers using an electronic toll-collection system pay only $4.65 for a full trip, the same rate since 1985. Electronic collection accounts for more than 70 percent of toll receipts, according to the Macquarie Atlas documents.
An Indiana Finance Authority agreement that runs through June 2016 freezes toll rates for electronic users and refunds ITR the difference between the electronic rate and the cash price.
“The IFA has been aware of negotiations between the operator and its lenders, so we anticipated this could be a possibility,” Indiana Gov. Mike Pence said Monday in a written statement. “But Hoosiers can expect business as usual on the Indiana Toll Road.”
This news should prompt Gov. Mike Pence to cancel the Illiana Expressway, but he won't because too many campaign contributions are on the line from highway contractors and that's all that matters.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Indiana Toll Road Operator Filing Bankruptcy

The foreign operator of the Indiana Toll Road has confirmed its plan to file for bankruptcy on Monday. ITR Concession Co. tells the AP it has a pre-packaged bankruptcy plan that has the support of creditors and lenders. That plan may include a sale of its long-term lease of the toll road or a refinancing of its debt. The Indiana Finance Authority sent a letter to ITR late last month pursuant to its 75-year lease agreement giving the vendor a 90-day notice to demonstrate that it could fulfill its lease obligations. The IFA's notice was triggered after it learned ITR had failed to pay its debt obligations in June.

Former GIPC Executive Director Sentenced To Four Years For Embezzlement

Matthew Hendrix, the former executive director of Indianapolis' shadow government known as the Greater Indianapolis Progress Committee, accepted a plea agreement today that will require him to serve a 4-year sentence in a community corrections program in Vigo County with two years suspended. Prosecutors agreed to dismiss 22 of 26 forgery counts and one theft count against Hendrix in exchange for his agreement to plead guilty to four felony forgery counts. Hendrix was also ordered to repay $126,356.37 to GIPC as restitution.

Hendrix was accused of stealing $96,000 from the nonprofit agency housed in the City-County Building near the mayor's office by making numerous payments to fictitious vendors at the time charges were filed against him in May. Hendrix was accused of spending the money he stole on strippers and to feed a gambling addiction. GIPC's chairman, J. Murray Clark, Jr., fired Hendrix in March only weeks before he faced criminal charges. Clark told reporters at the time that GIPC officials were unaware Hendrix had stolen money when his services were terminated. Hendrix received a severance payment of $17,000 from GIPC, which probably was the minimum amount he needed to pay as a hefty retainer fee to his high-profile criminal defense attorney, Jim Voyles. It was later revealed that a $5,000 credit card charge had been the cause of Hendrix termination in March.

Eric Turner Plans To Resign Following Election

The announcement comes after it's too late to replace him on the ballot, but the ethically-challenged State. Rep. Eric Turner (R-Cicero) announced today that he will resign his seat in the Indiana House of Representatives after the November elections. House Speaker Brian Bosma recently announced he had bounced Turner from leadership due to his role in lobbying against legislation that could have cost his family's nursing home business at least tens of millions of dollars. A real estate investment trust controlled by Turner family was recently sold for $2.3 billion, a sale that was in the works while Turner lobbied to block the proposed moratorium on new nursing home construction. Turner plans to take a job with a Christian group in Atlanta, of course.

His announcement means that voters in his district will either have to choose between electing his Democratic opponent, Bob Ashley, or cast a vote for Turner in order to choose the candidate hiding behind door number two who would be chosen by Republican precinct committeepersons in District 32 after the November elections. Better the devil you know than the devil you don't know? By making his retirement announcement ahead of the election, Turner effectively delivered a middle finger to Speaker Bosma and his Republican caucus members by providing his Democratic candidate the biggest pre-election boost he could have asked for.

California Attorney Faces Suspension For Photoshopping Herself With Celebrities

Svitlana Sangara believed she could bolster her L.A. law practice by photoshopping her image into photos with various celebrities and politicians and posting them on her firm's website. The California State Bar was not amused. It's seeking to suspend her from the practice of law for six months for deceptive advertising according to TMZ. Whoever did the photoshopping work was pretty good, if not for the poor taste in some of the celebrities and politicians chosen to promote her practice.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Two Brownsburg Council Members Forced To Repay Money Earned For Service On Redevelopment Commission

Two Brownsburg town council members have been found in violation of state law by drawing additional pay for service on the town's Redevelopment Commission in addition to their pay as town council members. Rob Kendall is repaying $2,400, while Gary Hood is repaying $700. A special prosecutor, Todd Meyer, made the finding following an investigation of whether Kendall violated Indiana's constitutional prohibition against dual office holding following a WRTV Call 6 investigative report by Kara Kenney. Meyer blamed Brownsburg's Clerk-Treasurer for inadvertently making the double dip payments to Kendall and Hood. Here's Kenney's updated report on Meyer's findings:
“The State does not believe any criminal offenses were committed in this matter,” read the report filed with the Hendricks Circuit Court Thursday afternoon.  “(I have) been assured by representatives of the Town of Brownsburg that measures have been implemented or will be implemented that will keep this issue from arising again in the future.”
Meyer said the Brownsburg Clerk-Treasurer inadvertently made payments to both Kendall and Brownsburg Town Councilman Gary Hood, totaling $3,100.
The law allows for compensation to be paid to members of the RDC, but only to members who do not otherwise hold a lucrative or paid public office, such as the town council.
Kendall and Hood have repaid the money they should not have received, according to the report.
Citizens contacted Kenney to complain about Kendall drawing pay from four paid government positions, including membership on the town council , redevelopment commission, town advisory plan commission and county solid waste management district, in addition to his full-time state job as executive director of the Indiana Board of Pharmacy. According to the Attorney General's manual on dual office restrictions, an officeholder is deemed to have resigned his first office once he accepts appointment or election to a second or subsequent lucrative office. Kendall and Hood could only legally serve on the redevelopment commission as long as they weren't paid.

State law requires that a member of the Brownsburg Town Council also serve on the Hendricks County Solid Waste Management Board; however, the statute creating the solid waste management district does not allow for the payment of compensation to its members. Kendall was paid by the town for his service on the county's solid waste management district instead of the county, which Meyer deemed made the payments legal. I didn't quite follow his reasoning for allowing Kendall to keep that additional compensation. Similarly, he found that his appointment to the town's advisory plan commission was not a "lucrative office." The state's personnel director claims that Kendall's state job is not an appointed job, although his job is statutorily-created, and he serves at the pleasure of the governor. Yet Meyer still concluded that the job was just a regular state job. Here's the part former Secretary of State Charlie White will love. The receipt of compensation that neither Kendall nor Hood were legally entitled to receive didn't constitute theft because the payments were authorized by the clerk-treasurer. Sorry, Charlie. You're a class of one.

The $3,100 repaid by Kendall and Hood is of little solace to the taxpayers who filed their complaint against Kendall, who believe he should have been forced to at least resign his seat on the town council. The same town council on which he serves awarded a $10,500 contract to former Marion Co. Prosecutor Scott Newman to conduct a duplicative investigation in tandem with the investigation conducted by the special prosecutor, a complete waste of taxpayers' money. Newman arguably was acting as Kendall's personal attorney, not the town's attorney since the town already has its own legal counsel and it was Kendall, not the town that was under investigation by the special prosecutor. Newman told Kenney earlier that he was working with Meyer to get to him whatever information he needed. It was Newman who first claimed to Kenney that the payments to Kendall and Hood were made in error by the town's clerk-treasurer. Kendall refused to speak to Kenney.

Ballard Administration Claims It Can't Release RFP For Criminal Justice Center Because It Doesn't Exist

Indiana state law could not be more clear on this point. Indiana's Public-Private Agreements Act, the statutory authority on which the Ballard administration is relying to enter into an agreement to build, operate and maintain a more than half billion dollar criminal justice center, requires a Request for Proposal subject to the state's public notice requirement. Incredibly, the naïve pretty boy tasked by the Ballard administration with this daunting task told members of the City-County Council's Rules & Public Policy Committee this evening that it had no "final" Request for Proposal the administration supposedly issued to three bidders on April 25 it chose during earlier secret discussions conducted during a Request for Information process last year.

According to mayoral assistant David Rosenberg, there is no final iteration of the RFP that the administration has been discussing with the three bid groups for the last five months despite the fact that it plans to choose a winning offer in November and present a final 35-year agreement to the council for approval by February of next year. We're to believe that the RFP is being drafted on the fly in a collaborative process with the bidders as the secret discussions with the bidders take place. Rosenberg assured council members this process, while lacking in transparency, protected the public because of the alleged "competitive tension" created by this unique, if illegal public bidding process.

The council's counsel, Fred Biesecker, saw the legal explanation offered by Rosenberg and Ballard's new Deputy Mayor for Economic Development, Adam Collins, as the hogwash it was. Even more interesting was Biesecker's discussion of a memorandum prepared by an attorney at Bingham Greenebaum Doll, one of the law firms awarded a multi-million legal contract to work on the deal in violation of state law because the council never appropriated money in this year's budget for the criminal justice center project. In the August memorandum, Biesecker said the attorney at Bingham had claimed that state law allowed the administration to withhold the RFP from the public until the discussions with the bidders was concluded. In fact, the law provides the exact opposite.

By way of disclosure, I worked at Bingham many years ago and specifically worked on the drafting of the Public-Private Agreements Act for the City of Indianapolis so I know a little about what this law requires. The day of the first hearing on the legislation, a young reporter for the Indianapolis Star-News, Cam Simpson, walked into the committee room and held up a copy of the latest edition with a front-page headline for a story he authored blaring words to the effect, "Bill Would Let Mayor Negotiate Privatization Deals in Secret." Suffice it to say that the Hoosier State Press Association's attorney, Stephen Key, became very involved in drafting changes to the law, one of which specifically required a public RFP process. How an attorney at Bingham could now argue the law means something entirely different now is probably something only an attorney billing at an exorbitantly high billable rate at taxpayers' expense could explain.

Allow me to explain the provisions written into the law to specifically address the Hoosier State Press Association's concerns.
  • Any governmental body entering into a Public-Private Agreement MUST request proposals. I.C. 5-23-5-1.
  • Proposals SHALL be solicited through a request for proposal process, which must include: the factors or criteria used in evaluation proposals; a statement concerning the relative importance of price and the other evaluation factors; a statement stating whether the proposal MUST be accompanied by evidence of financial responsibility; and a statement concerning whether discussions may be conducted with the offerors for the purpose of clarification to assure full understanding of and responsiveness to the solicitation requirements. I.C. 5-23-5-2
  • Notice of the request for proposals SHALL be given by publication in accordance with I.C. 5-3-1. I.C. 5-23-5-3.
  • Discussion with the offerors are permitted during the RFP process for the purpose of clarification to assure full understanding of and responsiveness to the solicitation requirements. I.C. 5-23-5-4.
  • Eligible offerors MUST be accorded fair and equal treatment with respect to any opportunity for discussion and revisions of proposals. I.C. 5-23-5-5.
  • A governmental body MAY refuse to disclose the content of PROPOSALS while the RFP process is underway. There's nothing in the law allowing the withholding of the RFP document itself. I.C. 5-23-5-6.
  • A governmental body SHALL negotiate the best and final offers of responsible offerors who submit proposals that are determined to be reasonably susceptible of being selected for a public-private agreement. I.C. 5-23-5-7.
  • After best and final offers are negotiated with the offerors, then the governmental body either makes a recommendation to whom a public-private agreement will be awarded or terminate the RFP process. I.C. 23-5-8.
  • If a recommendation to award a public-private agreement is being made, notice of a public hearing on the recommendation SHALL be provided. I.C. 23-5-9.
  • Finally, a copy of the proposals and a written statement describing the basis upon which the recommendation to make an award is being made SHALL be made available for public inspection and copying. I.C. 23-5-10.
The law is clear as day. The RFP MUST be made available to the public when the RFP process commenced, not at the tail end of the process when the administration is ready to choose a winning offer. It is absolutely beyond me why the media in this city remains silent and takes no legal action to compel the administration to comply with the law its trade organization demanded be written into the law when the Public-Private Agreements Act was enacted. The only reason the Ballard administration would not publish a final RFP at the outset of the process is if it is resorting to subterfuge to hand the winning proposal to one of the three finalists under consideration, which means it knew when it secretly chose the three eligible offerors to compete in the RFP process which one would be awarded a final offer. That's precisely the tactic employed by Mitch Roob when he was Secretary of FSSA to ensure that his former employer, ACS, was awarded the welfare privatization contract. Roob made his intentions so clear in advance that nobody bothered to compete in the end against the offer made by the IBM-ACS team. And we all know how well that turned out. If the RFP is not made public at the outset, there is no way of ensuring that the competing offerors are being accorded "fair and equal treatment" as mandated by the law.

As I previously discussed, the management of the Indianapolis Star, the IBJ and each of the television news stations all sit on the board of the Greater Indianapolis Progress Committee, the shadow government that meets in secret and decides public policies to be pursued. Last December, GIPC unveiled the plan to build a new criminal justice center through a P3 arrangement. Only GIPC's board members know why they deemed it preferable to pursue a P3 arrangement rather than refurbish existing buildings or at least build, own and operate our own criminal justice system instead of an irrefutably costlier method of relying upon private profiteers. Incidentally, the existing City-County Building site was designed to accommodate future expansions, a fact that seems to have gone missing by those running this process. Since the unveiling last December, the local media has had nothing but glowing comments for the concept, which initially recommended a site on the far western edge of the county next to the Indianapolis International Airport, an idea since abandoned in favor of a new site at the former GM Stamping Plant due to outrage expressed by the very stakeholders the Ballard administration claims it's been consulting all along.

The most outlandish claim made to date by the Ballard administration was repeated this evening by Rosenberg--that essentially a private developer can deliver a brand new, state-of-the-art criminal justice center for not a penny more than the $122 million the administration claims we are currently spending annually to support existing facilities. Yes, you can trade your modest $100,000 home in Irvington for a $1 million home up on Geist and not pay a penny more for it. Call up your realtor and make that deal today before it's too late. As Rosenberg told the committee this evening, there is grave concern that interest rates will rise and costs increase unless the council acts the first thing next year to approve whatever it is they are currently negotiating in secret.

We're also learning more details that suggest the plan is being scaled back considerably to make that bold pronouncement about not costing a penny more. The juvenile detention center won't be included in the new site. While office space will be made available for the prosecutor's office and the public defender's office at the new center, other criminal justice-related agencies, such as forensic lab services and property control room, will continue to be maintained off-site. Discussions about the inclusion of other criminal justice agencies are still being debated. Supposedly, we're going to save a bunch of money by having a larger jail built than we really need at the new site so we can rent space to the feds for their detainees. The sheriff's department, incidentally, doesn't utilize all of the existing space in Jail II operated by CCA, which rents out the balance of the space to the feds for immigrant detainees. We're also supposed to see great savings from transportation-related costs. I'm still trying to understand why the Marion County criminal courts refuse to utilize video conferencing for inmates' initial hearings like every other modern court system does. But, hey, that would negate the argument for having the jail housed at the same complex as the criminal courts, wouldn't it?

Oh, and we got an idea of what kind of work Bose Public Affairs Group is performing for its $750,000 contract to promote the project. Lobbyist Greg Hahn appeared at this evening's hearing, well-tanned from many hours on the golf course, to introduce Rosenberg to the committee. Hahn's a Democrat. Rosenberg works for the Republican mayor who awarded the $750,000 to his former mayoral assistant, John Cochran, also a Republican who now works for Hahn at Bose. Get it? Nice job, Greg.

UPDATE: Fellow blogger Pat Andrews had disappointing news of action later taken by the Rules & Public Policy Committee to table a proposal that would have cancelled the more than $12 million in no-bid contracts the Ballard administration entered into for the criminal justice center project in clear violation of state law. Councilor Angela Mansfield, the sponsor of the proposal, voted against tabling it. Other council members were reached. When the council lacks any backbone to stand up to this unethical administration, there is nobody left to protect the public. The federal and state prosecutors in this town sure as hell aren't worth a damn when it comes to holding corrupt city officials accountable for their criminal conduct. Perhaps that was the real reason for Hahn being at the meeting--to lobby against the cancellation of his firm's $750,000 contract on our dime. Only in Indianapolis.
Video showing legal discussion of RFP process