Indianapolis-based Mansur Real Estate Services wants to build a 300-room Westin. Locally based KMI Realty Advisors Inc. would develop a 254-room Hilton to be owned by local developer Al Kite . . . And Merrillville-based White Lodging Services Corp. pitched a 250-room Marriott . . .
Partial funding or low-cost financing from the Airport Authority may prove crucial to the deal's feasibility," said [hospitality consultant Rob] Hunden . .
Airport Authority staff hope to make a recommendation to the board on a favorite design in the next 30 to 45 days, according to Jay McQueen, who is supervising the bidding for the authority.
Observant AI readers will recall that the Airport Authority's president is Lacy Johnson, an Ice Miller partner, lobbyist, and close political confidante of Rep. Julia Carson (D). While the Airport Authority contracts with BAA to operate the airport, Johnson is the guy really calling the shots. The winner of this latest deal will no doubt be decided by Johnson as the board's president.
A couple of years ago the Star reported about a lawsuit the former airport director for BAA, David Roberts, brought after he was forced out of his job because he allegedly didn't follow Johnson's orders. The Star wrote on June 4, 2004:
The former airport director at Indianapolis International Airport alleges he was fired last year for calling attention to "political opportunism" in airport hiring and contracts by an influential Democrat that Mayor Bart Peterson named as airport board president in 2000.
Indianapolis Airport Authority board President Lacy Johnson and board members attempted to influence airport staff to hire political favorites of Johnson, including an embalmer for whom there were no suitable job openings, according to a five-page notice of the former director's intention to file a lawsuit, which was recorded with the state and obtained by the Indianapolis Star.
"Johnson attempted to influence employment of minorities, unionization of employees, allocation of space to airlines and concessionaires . . . engagement of favored contractors and suggested removal of BAA employees who were considered politically too Republican.
The former airport director, David Roberts, claims that in 2001 Johnson asked him to employ a "female state representative who was unqualified as an embalmer and who was a protege of Mr. Johnson's godmother."
The godmother "is also a Congresswoman," the complaint states, in an apparent reference to Indiana's only congresswoman--Julia Carson, a Democrat who represents Indianapolis.
When Mr. Roberts told Mr. Johnson there were no suitable vacancies, Mr. Johnson said, "Other companies do this," according to the complaint.
Johnson, an attorney at prominent Indianapolis firm Ice Miller, was out of the office and could not be reached for comment Thursday . . .
AI is told that the lawsuit was quietly settled to avoid embarrassment to the Peterson administration. The Indianapolis FBI office apparently missed this one as well. A lot of federal dollars are pouring into the work out at the airport and somebody should be checking up on how the dollars are being doled out.
Johnson has long been rumored to have a financial interest in various minority firms which have participated in government contracting opportunities elsewhere. As the president of the Indianapolis Airport Authority, he should be required to fully disclose every single business in which he has any financial interest, and that disclosure should be made publicly available. Until that is done, we have every reason to be suspicious of what is transpiring out at the airport under his leadership based upon the assertions of Roberts and Johnson's penchant for getting rich off insider deals--his latest deal--300 East at the Julia Carson Government Center. Absolutely no business in which Johnson has an ownership interest, or which is represented by his law firm, should be allowed to do busines with the airport authority.