Thursday, October 30, 2014

Election Complaint Filed Against Fort Wayne House Candidate

The Fort Wayne Democratic House candidate accused of residing in Michigan instead of the district in which he is seeking to represent must now defend against a formal complaint filed against him with the Allen Co. Board of Elections. Fort Wayne resident Paul Ensley filed a complaint alleging that District 84 candidate Fred Haigh resides in a home he and his wife own in Quincy, Michigan, not the home at which he's registered to vote in Fort Wayne. Ensley also accused Haigh of failing to include a disclaimer stating who paid for the advertising on some of his signs.

Haigh conceded to the Journal-Gazette that he no longer resides at a home he rented within the district after the home's owner turned down an offer he made to purchase the home. He insists, however, that he has legally resided in Fort Wayne since 1968. Yet he has claimed a homestead exemption since 2008 on his home in Michigan, which he could only claim if that is his principal residence. Haigh says he and his wife started claiming the exemption on the home after they sold their Fort Wayne home and began renting a home. "My wife established her residency in Michigan and holds a Michigan driver’s license," he told the Journal-Gazette. "The Michigan house was supposed to be sold and the closing was scheduled for late August, but the deal fell through, he said." He concedes that he's been traveling back and forth from Michigan since he stopped renting the home in Fort Wayne.

The director of the Allen Co. Election Board, Beth Dlug, told the Journal-Gazette that Ensley's complaint should have been filed with the state's Election Division since Haigh is a state candidate. That's not entirely accurate. The local election board has jurisdiction to determine whether Haigh is legally registered to vote in Fort Wayne. The state's election division has jurisdiction to determine whether Haigh legally resides within District 84. Ensley told the Journal-Gazette he plans to file his complaint with the state's Election Division as well. Haigh conceded that some of his signs lacked the proper disclaimer as alleged in Ensley's complaint. He says he has taken down the signs and replaced them with signs containing the proper disclaimer.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Indianapolis Public Library Gets Approval For Its Latest Tax, Borrow And Spend Plan


Previously, we told you about how the Jackie Nytes-run Indianapolis Public Library had crafted a $59 million capital spending plan to build new library branches all over the county without subjecting the borrowing plan to the referendum process Indiana lawmakers led you to believe you would have available to help protect your property tax bills from increasing unnecessarily when it passed property tax reform legislation in 2008. Ms. Nytes, who was CFO of the library back in the 1990s when your library tax levy skyrocketed because of the Taj Mahal addition to the Central Library, which has turned into a popular hang out for street bums to sleep off their hangovers and a make-shift home/loitering hall for downtown's growing homeless population, assured members of the Municipal Corporations Committee that the massive borrowing and spending plan can be done without raising taxes again.

What her high-paid consultant from Umbaugh & Associates showed us with her fancy chart is that property tax levies that would otherwise decline substantially because of the retirement of old debt will instead remain at least as high as they currently are to pay for the new debt that is replacing the old debt. A little more than $70 million in old debt will be replaced by a similar amount that you will be taxed to pay off for decades to come. The levy rate may remain steady, but that doesn't mean your taxes won't increase unless you're banking on your property values remaining the same and not subject to future assessment increases by your friendly assessor. For the average council member with an IQ of 75, it sounded good enough as they passed her massive debt plan unanimously. By the way, these people from Umbaugh & Associates are the same financial experts who've been providing advice to the City of Carmel for years. Remember how Mayor James Brainard continuously assured the public his financial experts had assured him his beloved Redevelopment Commission was sustainable with existing property tax revenues right up to the point he had to ask the city council to bail it out?

Watch the video above as their slick, high-paid bond lawyer dances around the referendum-avoidance issue while laughing in your faces. He even told the council members the bond fees would be the same whether a single $59 million bond issue is underwritten or it's broken up into multiple bond issues. When he spoke of fees, he was only speaking of the finance fees; he wasn't speaking of the fees his law firm gets to charge anew with each successive bond issue. If you believe a lawyer's fee for a single bond is the same as the fee for serial bond issues, I've got a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you. There was nobody who spoke up at the meeting tonight on behalf of taxpayers; only the usual suspects who get paid to testify bothered to show up. It just reminds me again of how there really is no hope for representative government in this country anymore. Only the voices of the people feeding at the public trough get heard. The rest of us can just go to hell.

Purchase Of McDermott's Million-Dollar Home At Tax Sale Turning Heads

Former Hammond Mayor Tom McDermott, Sr., father of Mayor Tom McDermott, Jr., saw his million dollar home in Crown Point's gated Morningside community auctioned at a tax sale yesterday for delinquent property taxes. While the delinquent taxes amounted to $133,000, which had accumulated over a period of several years, the buyer at the tax sale paid $1.6 million to get the tax deed to the home. County tax records list the home's assessed value at $1,261,000. Local officials tell the Northwest Indiana Times they've never seen a delinquent property sold at such a premium before.
"I don't remember any home being sold for that kind money," [Lake Co. Treasurer John] Petalas said. He has been overseeing such sales since 2006. Former Treasurer Peggy Katona said no such amount was bid in the previous eight years she conducted sales,
McDermott served as Hammond mayor from 1984 to 1992. He is the father of current Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr.
Petalas said the elder McDermott has been unable to pay his full annual property tax bills, which amounted to more than $21,000 this year, for several years.
Petalas said the home hadn't gone up for tax sale until this year because of McDermott filing lengthy appeals of the house's tax assessment, listed in county records at $1,261,000. Petalas said the elder McDermott was put on an installment plan, but didn't complete the payments.
So just who would pay a premium to own the tax deed to McDermott's home? The buyer has been identified as LTNO, LLC. According to the Secretary of State records, LTNO was created on July 18, 2012. Its registered business address is 1000 E. 80th Place, Suite #700, Merrillville, Indiana. According to the Times, that's the same address that is used by Bruce White's Whiteco Industries, which was the developer of the gated Morningside community where McDermott's home is located. Jason Weisler, a Merrillville attorney, is listed as the registered agent at that address. The Indiana Roll of Attorneys identifies Weisler as an attorney at White/Peterman Properties, Inc. Weisler told the Times that he's not affiliated with Whiteco. Hmmm.

McDermott has until September, 2015 to reclaim his property by paying his delinquent tax bill with interest. The overpayment of $1,488,598 would be refunded to LTNO; however, if McDermott doesn't reclaim his property, the overpayment after paying all outstanding taxes, interests, mortgage and other liens of record will be paid to McDermott. Interest on the delinquency is accumulating at the rate of $204 a day according to the Times. Petalas told the Times that "overpayments are normal in tax sales, but not this amount of money." Old-timers will recall that the elder McDermott was a Republican, unlike his son, who was elected as a Democratic mayor. The billionaire Dean White family contributes heavily to the Republican Party and its candidates. McDermott, Sr. spoke admiringly of Dean White in a March 8, 2012 story on his life in the Times:
Former Hammond mayor Thomas McDermott Sr. said White is exceedingly generous.
"Whenever someone has a fundraiser, he's always been No. 1 on the charity hit list," McDermott said. "I know because I'm the one that usually asks."
Indeed, the Dean and Barbara White Foundation supports a wide variety of local causes, such as Boys & Girls Clubs, universities and hospitals, as well as the Indiana State Museum and the Indiana Grantmakers Alliance.
"He is a visionary who sees things most other people don't and has the courage and willingness to back it up with his own investment dollars," McDermott added.
White is described as a humble, good-natured, approachable workaholic who still finds work fun. McDermott said his friend refuses to be lured from his homegrown roots and is not done leaving his footprints on Northwest Indiana . . .
"He still goes into the office every day, telling his staff what he's going to do next. He's just a regular guy who sits in the same seat at the restaurant every morning reading the paper with his cup of coffee.
"You know how he'll be remembered? As a real nice guy that did well -- and never forgot where he came from," McDermott said.

IPS Board Member's Conflict Of Interest Erupts Before Election

The conflict of interest problem faced by board members of the Indianapolis Public Schools whose seats have been or are about to be bought by out-of-state education profiteers has been a topic of conversation on this blog for the past couple of weeks. As costly campaign fliers fill our mailboxes in support of the three Stand For Children-backed candidates, a contract with one of those education profiteers and an IPS board member employed by that contractor has erupted in spectacular fashion just one week before this year's election.

According to the IBJ, the IPS board a week ago approved a $750,000 a year contract with Teach Plus, the employer of IPS board member Caitlin Hannon, who serves as the organization's local executive director, on a 3-2 vote. Hannon, whose seat was bought and paid for by out-of-state education profiteers two years ago, abstained from the vote. Now IPS Board President Annie Roof, who is locked in the at-large race against several candidates, including Stand For Children-backed candidate, Mary Ann Sullivan, is calling a special meeting to reconsider the vote on that contract after she learned IPS had already started using Teach Plus' services before the board had even considered their contract. The IBJ explains roofs rationale for the special meeting:
Roof said the election is not the reason for the meeting. While she voted for the contract last week, she said she was troubled to learn IPS had launched the program before the board formally voted. Approximately two dozen “teacher leaders” have already begun their new assignments, which come with extra pay.
“I’m just trying to make sure everybody is comfortable with the decisions that are being made and we’re all on the same page,” Roof said. “I am not comfortable that there wasn’t a vote on the contract (before it was rolled out in the schools). There’s no election politics in this. We’re just doing our jobs.”
Board member Diane Arnold, who voted in favor of the contract, said the situation probably could have been handled better but thought it would be a mistake to reverse the vote. A no vote from Brown, who often is at odds with Hannon on the board, could make the vote a tie and put the program in jeopardy.
Arnold said she hopes the meeting is just a discussion, but thinks some of her fellow board members want to re-vote.
Naturally, Stand For Children's local paid advocate, Justin Ohlemiller, is sounding the alarm bells at the thought of the board re-considering its contract with Teach Plus. Although Hannon is in charge of Teach Plus' local operations and IPS' contract would be its largest in the state of Indiana, the IBJ says the contract included a conflict of interest form completed by Hannon stating that she would not be involved in payments for the services provided under the contract. Under the program, teachers at three of the school district's most troubled schools are provided additional pay and responsibilities to improve the schools' performance. The Lilly Foundation donated $1 million to the school district for the program.

Just to remind you one more time, unless you want to hand total control of IPS to the out-of-state education profiteers, do not vote for any of the Stand For Children-backed candidates, including Mary Ann Sullivan, Kelly Bentley and LaNier Echols. All three have a conflict of interest in serving on IPS' board because of where they earn their money during their day jobs. Sullivan is an education consultant for hire, Bentley is a consultant for GreatSchools and Echols is dean of students for Carpe Diem charter school, which is run by an out-of-state, for-profit company. Don't believe the lies these out-of-state interests are writing about these three candidates in their massive direct mail effort and advertising blitz on their behalf. These out-of-state interests aren't spending this much money on our school board race out of the goodness of their hearts.

UPDATE: The IPS board voted 4-1 to rescind the vote approving the contract. The board's concern focused on how the program got implemented in August even though their initial vote approving the contract didn't happen until a week ago. Caitlin Hannon, an executive employee of Teach Plus abstained, but she became the subject of a shouting match between two board members as Fox59 News reports. Diane Arnold accused other board members of voting to rescind the contract because of Hannon, which led to an angry rebuke from other members. Board member Sam Odle was absent from the meeting as he often is.

Will The Indiana Court Of Appeals Hear Oral Argument In Charlie White's Appeal?

Former Secretary of State Charlie White's highly unusual and unprecedented prosecution on multiple felonies by a Hamilton Co. special prosecutor for registering to vote and casting a single ballot in one election at the home of his ex-wife while he was in between homes has been pending on appeal before the Indiana Court of Appeals for quite some time. Although it has been nearly two months since the case was fully briefed and his attorney filed a motion for oral argument, the Court of Appeals has yet to action on his motion. A question posed by me recently to the Court's spokesperson, Martin DeAgostino, yielded this response: "There are no deadlines for the court's response to motions, so all we can say in this instance is that the motion is pending. Thank you."

White was forced from office when a Hamilton Co. jury found him guilty of six of seven felony counts in February, 2012 after a special prosecutor brought charges against him arising from his supposed illegal registered voting address. White's criminal trial came after the Indiana Recount Commission unanimously ruled in 2011 that White satisfied residency requirements and had not committed vote fraud by using his ex-wife's home as his voting address, a decision that was later upheld by the Indiana Supreme Court.

It would seem rather odd if the Court of Appeals would deny oral argument for White's case, particularly in light of the public importance of the case. The Court recently granted a motion to hear oral argument in the Good Earth Natural Foods case against the Department of Metropolitan Development over the Whole Foods redevelopment project in Broad Ripple within three weeks of that case being fully briefed, which arguably was far less important than White's case. The Court heard oral argument in that case on October 1 and issued its final opinion on October 28, an opinion not for publication. By comparison, White's case was fully briefed on September 8, just 30 days after Good Earth's case was fully briefed. Court rules do not require that a party be afforded oral argument during an appeal.

Fort Wayne Has Another Legislative Candidate With A Residency Problem

Fred Haigh is seeking the Democratic House seat represented by State Rep. Bob Morris (R-Fort Wayne), but he and his wife own a 5-bedroom, $326,000 lakeside home in Michigan on which they claim a homestead exemption as their principal residence. Haigh tells the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette's Niki Kelly that he is currently commuting between his home in Michigan and Fort Wayne because he and his wife are in between homes. The couple had been renting a home they wanted to buy, but their offer was not accepted. They moved out of that home in September. Haigh says he and his wife have put money down on another house within the district they intend to move into that is within the district. Haigh has owned his Michigan home since 2008.

An election complaint is expected to be filed with the Allen Co. Election Board contesting whether Haigh satisfies the residency requirement. The Indiana Election Division's Trent Deckard gave Haigh an opinion that he can still run and vote in his Fort Wayne district in the November election, making it another one of those cases that drive former Secretary of State Charlie White crazy. White was convicted of six felonies for using his ex-wife's home as his voting residence for a several month period while he was in between homes and forced to give up his office.

Residency issues are nothing new to Fort Wayne residents. For years, former State Rep. Win Moses (D) and his wife lived in a posh home on Indianapolis' north side while claiming a residence at an apartment in the Fort Wayne district he represented for many years as their residence for voting purposes. Moses removed the homestead exemption he had been claiming on his Indianapolis home after a reporter started asking questions about his residence. Yes, Charlie, you really are a class of one in Indiana.

UPDATE: A reader pointed out another residency story Niki Kelly had in the Journal-Gazette where two law partners of a Democratic state senate candidate in Fort Wayne appear to be illegally registered to vote at their law office.
Two law partners of a Democratic Senate candidate could be committing vote fraud by registering and voting from their law firm address.
Candidate Jack Morris said he was unaware of the issue until The Journal Gazette informed him Monday. He faces Republican Liz Brown in the race for the Senate District 15 seat . . .
Timothy Logan has already cast an early ballot, while Marlin R. Benson has not.
Morris acknowledged that neither Logan nor Benson lives in the law firm’s office at 3505 Lake Ave., where they are both registered to vote.
Neither Benson nor Logan returned several calls from The Journal Gazette seeking comment Monday.
Former Secretary of State Charlie White was convicted of felony voter fraud and several other counts for using his ex-wife’s address to register to vote in the 2010 election. He lost his office and is still fighting his convictions . . .
Barry Schust, the Republican member of the Allen County Board of Voter Registration, said county records showed Benson registered at the law firm in 2009 and Logan in 2011.
Morris ran for the same seat in 2010 but lost to incumbent Sen. Tom Wyss, R-Fort Wayne.
It is also unclear whether Logan actually lives in Senate District 15. Morris initially gave a Blossom Road address for Logan, but it was also in Kruse’s district. He later called The Journal Gazette back with a Jefferson Way address that is in the district he is seeking.
Allen County Elections Director Beth Dlug said the Election Board couldn’t look at the situation until a complaint is filed.
She said state law requires people to be registered at their residence, which is where they sleep at night or intend to return . . .
Allen County Republican Party Chairman Steve Shine said all three men – Morris, Logan and Benson – have shown disrespect to the laws they have taken an oath to uphold.
He specifically said Morris is acting too cavalier about the violations, which could be a felony.
“Jack Morris’ response to allegations that two of his law partners registered to vote and voted contrary to Indiana law is both disappointing and non-responsive,” Shine said.
In my precinct where I've worked as an election judge in the past, I noticed a couple of business executives who use their offices as their voting address instead of their personal residences located elsewhere in the city. I knew they were residents of the city so it really didn't bother me whether they voted in my precinct or some other precinct in the city. Yet that was precisely the nail on which the prosecution in Charlie White's case used to hang their hat. I maintain that the Charlie White case was a bastardization of our residency laws to the extreme. I just wish all of the Charlie White haters would admit it publicly.

Star Reports On Gay Candidate's Fight Discrimination With More Discrimination Remarks


The controversial remarks made by District 29 Senate candidate J.D. Ford at a local forum hosted by the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Indianapolis has been widely discussed on local blogs and social media, but the mainstream media has largely ignored them. Ford, an openly gay Democratic candidate seeking to unseat incumbent Sen. Mike Delph (R), suggested business owners which refuse to provide services based upon their religious beliefs should be denied public services like police and fire protection. The Indianapolis Star's Tony Cook picked up on an issue Ford would rather not talk about at this point.
Senate candidate J.D. Ford wanted to make a simple point during a recent political forum: If a business benefits from public services, then it shouldn't be allowed to discriminate against any member of the public.
But that's not quite what Ford said when he responded to a question about whether businesses should be allowed to refuse services to customers for religious reasons.
"I think if that's the case, then those businesses need to hire their own private security," Ford said. "I think those businesses need to have a pail for water to put out their own fire."
Those comments drew sharp criticism from social conservatives, who quickly called attention to a video clip of Ford's comments during an Oct. 21 candidates forum sponsored by the Jewish Community Relations Council.
Delph told the Cook that he "was saddened to hear [Ford] express intolerance for those of us who hold deep religious conviction." Oddly, Cook's story has no response from Ford, who has said elsewhere that his comments were taken out of context. Instead, a spokesman for Indiana Equality Action Fund defended Ford's remarks by claiming that social conservatives had "chopped up" and used "to say something different than was meant." Here's the text of the question posed to Ford by moderator Amos Brown and Ford's response:
Moderator Amos Brown:  "There is talk about the introduction of a 'Religious Freedom Act' in the upcoming session. Under what circumstances should someone (or a business) reasonably be allowed to refuse service to an individual on the basis of 'religious freedom?' For example, if someone claims that their religion prohibits divorce, should that person be able to refuse to do business with or hire someone who is divorced?"
J.D. Ford: "It's interesting, you just heard my opponent, he's always talking about Judeo Christian and pushing it on to you and all of a sudden he's backing away from this particular issue. I think if that's the case, then those businesses need to hire their own private security. I think those businesses need to have a pail for water to put out their own fire. So, those are public resources that we provide to those businesses. So I would not be in support of that."
A federal law like that posed in Brown's question, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1993. It has been construed by courts not to apply to the states.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Health & Hospital Corporation-Owned Nursing Home In Seymour Under Investigation For Neglect

A 43-year old resident of a long-term care facility in Seymour died at Columbus Regional Hospital earlier this month, and Seymour Police and the state's Adult Protective Services are now trying to determine if neglect by his caretakers led to his death. Seymour Crossing is one of nearly 60 long-term care facilities in Indiana, which is owned by the Health & Hospital Corporation of Marion County and operated by American Senior Communities.

Call 6's Kara Kenney quotes state investigators as saying the death of Timothy Lee Johnson on October 11 is considered a criminal matter. The Seymour Police Department is still in the process of interviewing witnesses. According to Police Chief Jon Rohde, his department was notified by hospital officials that Johnson appeared to be the victim of severe neglect. Jerrie Keck, an administrator at Seymour Crossing told Kenney there was no neglect, although she acknowledged an ongoing investigation.

Last January, an elderly female patient at a southside Indianapolis nursing home owned by HHC, Bethany Village, suffered severe burns when a fire inexplicably broke out in her room. She was transferred to the burn unit at Eskenazi Hospital in critical condition. Local news reports ignored the fact that it was one of the many nursing homes acquired by HHC as part of its scheme to leverage enhanced Medicaid reimbursement payments to finance construction of the new, $750 million Eskenazi Hospital in Indianapolis. There were no follow-up news reports on the cause of the fire or whether the facility was being investigated by the state for neglect. Last year, a report by WTHR's Sandra Chapman found that at least half of HHC's nursing homes were ranked below average or much below average. HHC's nursing homes collectively generate about $545 million for the municipal corporation, which is run more like a mega for-profit corporation with the exorbitant salaries it pays to dozens of top executives than a county-owned charitable hospital.

Ballard Gambles $32 Million With Electric Car Fleet Operator With No Track Record

The City of Indianapolis is the guinea pig, so to speak, to determine whether Michael Brylawski's latest electric car venture will be anymore successful than his last. Mayor Greg Ballard announced the City has inked a 7-year, $32 million contract with Brylawski's brand new company company, Vision Fleet, to lease 425 plug-in hybrid and pure electric cars by 2016. Vision Fleet plans to buy cars from local automobile dealers and then lease them back to the City's Department of Public Works. Vision Fleet will be responsible for maintaining and managing the fleet. Supposedly, the deal will save taxpayers money, although we would be remiss if we didn't point out that every taxpayer savings promised by Ballard during his two terms as mayor has turned out to be untrue.
According to a city press release, each gasoline-powered sedan in Indy’s fleet would have cost taxpayers about $9,000 per year over the next decade, including purchase, fuel, maintenance and insurance. The Vision Fleet vehicles will cost about $7,400 per year over that period, saving taxpayers about $1,600 annually per vehicle.
Lotter said the city will pay its annual fees to Vision Fleet through the savings on fuel and other vehicle costs. He said the city's total fleet costs, including payments to Vision Fleet, will be "nominally less" this year, and will decline by 2016. City officials couldn't immediately specify total fleet costs.
So they don't even know what total fleet costs are, but they're sure there's a cost savings in their somewhere. According to the IBJ's report, the administration put out an RFI to find financing for a fleet conversion, and the respondents were traditional vehicle-financing companies. Vision Fleet did not respond to the RFI. I'm not sure why the leasing of these vehicles wasn't publicly bid, but it seems that none of the state's procurement laws apply to this corrupt administration and nobody really gives a damn. DPW says it would have cost $12 to $13 million to buy the cars outright. Really? Who pays for all of the electrical charging stations that will need to be installed? What's the tab for that?

Brylawski's last electric car venture, Bright Automotive, went belly up after he blew through $15 million. He blamed the federal government for not providing his company with a $450 million low-interest loan as the reason for his business' failure. The City of Indianapolis is Vision Fleet's only customer. I repeat, we are the company's first and only customer. It looks like the Boulder, Colorado-based company slapped up a website just in time for today's announcement. I feel for Ballard's successor already. He or she is going to be spending most of their first term figuring out how to undo all of the bad deals this mayor has done that will cost this city dearly for decades to come.

UPDATE: Fellow blogger Pat Andrews mentions these dates that are noteworthy:
  • Vision Fleet Funding and Indy Vision Funding were formally incorporated to do business in Indiana on March 19, 2014. Vision Fleet Funding was originally incorporated on August 6, 2013 in the state of Delaware.
  • The company's contract with DPW was signed by Brylawski and DPW Director Loris Miser on February 8, 2014. The company should not have been allowed to sign a contract with the City until it had been incorporated to do business in this state.
But check this out. The registered business address for Indy Vision Funding is Indy Partnership's offices in Suite #1800 of the Chase Tower. So now we have a government-funded nonprofit acting as agent for an out-of-state company with no track record being awarded a sweetheart deal with the city. I can only guess how many crimes have been committed with this deal, but Ballard need fear not. We don't have either a federal or county prosecutor capable of prosecuting public corruption. Yet another reason for all of your dirty Chicago pols to relocate to Indianapolis where you can steal public dollars all you want with impunity. Andrews also points out that the supposed savings could only be realized by buying more than 100 fewer cars than are in the current fleet of city cars. Once again, the local media just prints press releases for the administration rather than doing actual reporting that seems to be left to volunteer bloggers these days.

Why Billionaire Vulture Capitalists Make Bad Candidates For Public Office