Thursday, November 30, 2006

Ethical Cloud Hangs Over New Ways & Means Committee Chairman

House Speaker Pat Bauer (D) exercised one of his most important powers as a legislative leader today when he announced the men and women he has chosen to run the committees in the House for the next two years. The most powerful committee in the House by a long shot is the Ways & Means Committee. Speaker Bauer used this position to solidify the power he needed in the House to become the top Democratic leader. Anything that has to do with spending and taxation has to go through this committee.

Speaker Bauer has appointed Rep. William Crawford (D-Indianapolis) as chairman of Ways & Means, the same person he appointed when Democrats were last in control. If Bauer cares anything about ethics, he needs to clear the air immediately concerning Crawford's ties to Shrewsberry & Associates, a local MBE/DBE consulting firm founded by William Shrewsberry, a former deputy mayor under Mayor Bart Peterson (D). The company's website lists Crawford and local businessman, Al Oak, as being on the company's "Board of Advisors", along with its founder, Shrewsberry. Crawford is also employed as Manager of Community Relations for Ivy Tech State College, whose budget must be approved by Crawford's committee.

All Indiana legislators are required to file a Statement of Economic Interest with the Clerk of the House annually. Crawford's disclosures make no mention of his role as a member of Shrewsberry's Board of Advisors. This is extremely troubling because many of the clients the company lists on its website have business before the House Ways & Means Committee, including Crawford's own employer, Ivy Tech. Its government clients include the Indiana State Police, Indiana Department of Administration, White River State Park Commission, Indianapolis Airport Authority, Indianapolis Housing Agency and the Indianapolis Water Company, among several others. Business clients include major hospitals, such as Clarian Health Group and St. Vincent Hospital. Major commercial clients include Browning Investments, Eli Lilly, and Horseshoe Gaming. In addition to Ivy Tech, the firm represents several major public school systems, including Indianapolis Public Schools and Carmel Clay Schools.

The purpose of the Statement of Economic Interest is to provide public disclosure of any business or other entity in which a legislator may have a financial stake. It requires a member to disclose any employer from whom the member receives more than one-third of his non-legislative income. A member must also disclose any business he or his spouse operates as a sole proprietorship, partnership or limited liability company. If a member is an officer or director of a corporation, he must disclose that, along with any corporation in which he or his spouse has an interest worth $10,000 or more. Crawford's disclosure statement identifies Ivy Tech as his employer. He also discloses that he is a director for Indiana Black Expo, Inc. And that's it.

Perhaps Crawford has a defense for not disclosing his relationship with Shrewsberry. He may argue that he receives less than one-third of his non-legislative income from the firm, or he may place a value of his interest in the firm under $10,000. Laying aside the legal technicalities and nuances of the disclosure law, it is simply unaccepable for a public official who holds so much power in his hands not be called upon to explain the lack of disclosure in this instance, particularly given the obvious number of conflicts of interest which will arise everytime one of Shrewsberry's clients have legislation pending before his committee. Speaker Bauer should clear the air by asking the House Ethics Committee, which is chaired by Rep. Clyde Kersey (D-Terre Haute), to review Crawford's relationship with Shrewsberry to determine whether Crawford has complied with the disclosure law.

Several years ago, former Rep. Sam Turpin (R-Brownsburg) was raked over the coals for his undisclosed relationship with a consulting engineer firm, which had business before the legislature. Turpin served at the time as chairman of the House Ways & Means Committee. That relationship was uncovered largely due to the investigative reporting of the Indianapolis Star, which seems to be turning a blind eye towards Crawford's apparent conflicts. Turpin was forced to step down as chairman and resign his seat as a result of the news reports. He was later indicted on bribery-related charges, but he escaped prosecution on a technical interpretation of the bribery statute. He did, however, plead guilty to misdemeanor charges of mixing his political committee funds with his personal money. Crawford should expect the same level of scrutiny to which Turpin was subjected. There's just too much at stake to ignore this matter of public concern.

26 comments:

Anonymous said...

Where's that chick from Common Cause? She should be all over this. She's nowhere to be found when she could actually do something to justify her existence.

Wilson46201 said...

"Chicks" are usually found on a farm in this century. Some troglodytes (no insult meant to cavemen!) continue to use sexist language about females...

Advance Indiana said...

Unless it's coming from a female. I hear women use that term derisively about other women frequently.

Anonymous said...

Unless you are going to call for Bosma to remove himself from all matters which have to do with Townships (since his firm has represented many of them over the years), this is an issue which exists with a part time legislature.

And, AI, if you really believe that any company affiliated with Shrewsberry STILL has state contracts, I've got some prime real estate in some sunbelt states for you...

Advance Indiana said...

Bosma discloses his partnership in his law firm. He also discloses about a dozen clients who purchase more than $1,000 worth of services from his firm and denotes which lobby the legislature. The issue here is disclosure in the first instance. Crawford fails that test; Bosma doesn't. As for who Shrewsberry's client are, I'm simply reporting who the company's website claims as clients.

Anonymous said...

Is it just a coincidence that so many of Shrewsberry's clients are also clients of Ice Miller's Lacy Johnson?

Anonymous said...

Bosma gets a C at best...on the last Statement I saw, he used lawyer-client privledge to exempt himself from even reporting many of his clients.

The nerve.

Come on, Gary...you're right about Crawford, of course, but it's selective indignation.

President Garton routinely got "speaker's fees" from large firms which he did not report.
And his speeches are about as exciting as watching paint dry. They paid him for one reason, only.

Sen. Dick Miller of Plymouth oversaw nursing home legislation for 15 years as chairman of a committee, and he owns nursing homes.

Turpin's sins were much, much more than those for which he was ultimately indicted.

Sen. Harrison from Attica oversaw legislation regarding manufacturers, and he is one himself. He just retired, thankfully...tho he watered down IOSHA laws for the better part of two decades.

Do I need to go on? They're all Republicans. And they all fought tougher reporting laws and lobbyist laws. For years.

Crawford is just as guilty.

FYI, after the Market Tower fiasco, I'm not sure Shrewsberry has that many "clients" any more.

Anonymous said...

Isn't it funny that when a democrat is caught being less than honest he's defended by saying that "those darn Republicans" do the same thing. I'm crying in my beer. How about just saying, yes, AI is right, Crawford must fully disclose his interests. AI is totally right about the power -- the state budget is billions of dollars, is OUR money, and will be drafted by the guy who AI revealed is less than honest about reporting financial conflicts that will likely influence the drafting of that budget. Thanks for some good research, AI, nice work.

Advance Indiana said...

The disclosure law is pretty weak, but Bosma probably meets the low-threshhold it requires. The law should be tightened up.

Anonymous said...

I personally witness Rep Crawford describe his "shakedowns" of state and quasi-state agencies by using his power as chair of the house and ways committee. I've heard him describe his technique on many occasions, publicly.

He sent letters to state agencies, casinos and universities to make inquiries about women and minority contracting participation.

When he discovered the numbers were low, which was nearly always, h would then go shake them down. He would tell them, "it's quid pro quo". He further explained that as Chair of the house and means committe, he had the exclusive decision whether to read a proposed bill and would keep putting the bill at the bottm of the stack and refuse to read it and will allow it to expire at the end of the session. The bill would die and have to be re-introducted during the next legislative session--
unless they met his demands.

He'd require them to contract with Tony Buford (Information Technology), Shrewsberry & Associates, Corbitt Construction, Mason-Tillman, the McCormick Group Group, the Joe Lewis Group, (atty Joseph Lewis) and hire Turea Dabney his assistant as a consultant.

Tony Buford, I.T. Information Technology was awarded millions in "consulting" contracts to FIND, I repeat, FIND women-owned and minority businesses for these agency to contract with. Of course, he'd get a lucrative consulting contract for such work, and they'd were able to report HIS contract toward meeting their MBE Goal. Oddly, even though we, women and minority business owners saw Tony Buford weekly, he NEVER told us about these contracts and he never got us any business. Oddly still, after Tony Buford got his contract, Crawford moved on and left the agencies alone thereafter, despite their continued lack of WBE/MBE Contracting. Oh, they did set up a few front mbe/wbe companies, " cough" **berry.




Pretty sickening that we have a high-school drop-out as a legislator.

Wilson46201 said...

I think it's pretty sickening that a person with a law degree would be delinquent on her property taxes while decrying the educational status of popularly elected officials. I would have thought she'd be out earning big bucks instead of playing losing small-time politics...

braingirl said...

Gary, just an FYI, but many companies have advisory boards made up of unpaid members. (My own company has one.) Sure, they are people we're happy to have public connection with, but they receive no financial compensation, nor do they have any official management capacity. This would be why it didn't show up on his economic disclosure form. Not saying the relationship shouldn't be disclosed, but it may not be one that can be traced through financial compensation.

Anonymous said...

Braingirl hit a home run. Thank you, BG.

Wilson, can you possibly swerve this conversation into more non-germaine black-white issues?

Who appointed you the moralistic guardian of all things racial? It's getting old. On some issues, race is not an issue. Just a few.

Crawford asks that state agencies adhere to existing MBE and WBE statutes and rules. We can debate whether those regulations are appropriate, but they're there, and this administration has consistently tried to find ways to avoid it or otherwise under-perform.

They hate the quotas so much--they should've changed the law when they had both houses.

Advance Indiana said...

Braingirl, high profile individuals don't typically lend their name to promote a private business endeavor without some type of compensation in exchange. Who are your Board of Advisors? Are they advertised on your company's website? Are they in a position to steer business to your company?

Anonymous said...

maybe someone should investigate Bauer and Crawford on charges of ghost employment. I understand they very seldom show up at work, generate no work product and spend their "Ivy Tech" time campaigning and doing legislative work. Some days they file for legislative per diem duing days they are supposedly employed by Ivy Tech. Also, one should investigate how much money Buford kicks back to Crawford.

Anonymous said...

Bosma told a group I was in that he was proud of the fact that he had billed partner track hours (see 1800 - 2000) every year he was at his firm until the year he became speaker. How in the world is that possible?

Those same years he was drawing $50K + as a state legislator, and presumably spending four - five months as a legislator at least ten hours/day, four days/week.

Advance Indiana said...

anon 9:12, we used to call it "creative billing" at a law firm where I once worked. Certain attorneys always had a knack for making 10-12 billable hours out of 2-3 hours of actual work. Something called a "conscience" prevented me from learning this art.

braingirl said...

Gary, our advisory board members are high profile (relatively speaking for our industy) and yes, in a positions to steer busines to us although under no obligation to do so. And it wouldn't be considered unethical if they did. (Certainly, none hold political office and we do no work with the state.) Ours are not compensated, they provide business advice and guidance when we ask for it, one is even a venture capitalist but not an investor, and yes, I believe they're listed on our web site. (If they're not it's only because we haven't gotten them up there yet.)

Again, not saying it's appropriate for him in his space, but it's very common in some businesses to have Advisory Boards and it's fairly common that they're not compensated (regardless of the size of business). It's not any kind of formal corporate position and advisors often have no documentation or other formal (or legal) connection to the company. The whole point of putting together an advisory board is to have public connections with high profile business or industry figures to show the connections the company has.

Are there ethical issues involved with putting a politician on your advsisory board? Sure, personally, I think so, and there are more ethical issues in him accepting it. And it may have been fine before but now as committee chair, it's an issue. I was just clarifying the issues regarding compensation. It's not uncommon.

Advance Indiana said...

braingirl, Thanks for sharing. Your explanation confirms the need for full disclosure in this instance because of Crawford's important legislative position and attending conflicts.

Anonymous said...

He should disclose, AI...but if he gets no moeny, under Indiana's Garton-enacted regulations, he doesn't have to report a thing.

Anonymous said...

Advance:

Why do you allow a certain idiot to attack the bloggers when their comments on democrat officeholders do not agree with his. Wilson Allen's baggage should be published if he continues to attack people. To date, he has not answered one question on previous blogs. Yet, he logs in and attacks other people. Is it time to finally dumpster dive on him? Talk about his ghost employment in the Center Township Trustee's office.

Anonymous said...

Crawfords spends every friday from 1-3 hanging out over on fairfield and college scheming on his shakedowns of state agencies. It's at big fellas restaurant and he's been doing it for about 4 years. He never mentions anything about IVY, he's just on the IVY payroll. He uses this time to get him and his friends contracts and often invites (parades) "white people" in there to intimidate them into giving contracts. When they are not in attendance he talks about white people like they are dogs.

Yes, I'm black too, but I don't approve of our legislator spewing racist venom to the people in our community. We must get beyond that and to have our legislator do this in a public forum every friday is disgusting.

Anonymous said...

Crawford should be investigated.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Anonymous 7:14 PM.
When is Mary Beth Schnieder, statehouse reporter and The Star going to report all the sweetheart deals Bill Crawford and company are making with our tax dollars. He and other Democrat officials complain about the Republicans on a continuous basis to keep the limelight off of themselves and the media seems to go along with their program. They are snakes in the grass when it comes to gaining political power off the backs of the poor and uneducated.

How much time is Crawford required to spend at Ivy Tech to earn his salary anyway?

Anonymous said...

Shrewsberry is a messy web of unethical business. Notice how almost all of their clients and revenue comes from the public sector. They are awarded contracts not on price or quality of service, but on their minority status and army of two-faced political connections. I would not be surprised if they eventually implode in a wave of scandal. Notice how Bill Shrewsberry was also awarded the failed Market Square condo redevelopment. It is also interesting how Paul I. Cripe, Inc. is involved with ownership/ management of the company. Apparently, Bill Shrewsberry is just a figurehead that allows them to have the minority business classification. Indeed, the tangled web of Shrewsberry needs to be the subject of some investigative journalism.

Anonymous said...

Somebody write Mary Beth Schnieder and the Star about all this corruption...it would make for a great story.