Sunday, January 28, 2007

The Law Isn't Gray

Six weeks ago, I filed a written request with the city's ethics board for a copy of the statement of economic interest filed by City-County Council President Monroe Gray, along with several other key officials. Under state law, I should have been notified of a response to my request within 7 calendar days. I've received no response to date. But I find a front-page story in today's Star by Brendan O'Shaughnessy raising questions about Gray's business ties to a concrete company he owns and questionable work it has performed on city work. That same story includes a copy of Gray's statement of economic interest, noting his failure to disclose his ownership of the concrete company. Could this have something to do with the city's refusal to respond to my request in violation of state law?

Gray is supposedly a full-time firefighter with the Indianapolis Fire Department, but the demands of the job weren't enough to keep him from founding Mid Region Concrete, LLC in 2004. According to the Star story, much of the company's work consists of work it is performing as a minority subcontractor on various public works projects for Trotter Construction. Based on the record revealed in a large number of lawsuits and judgments entered against the company, its work is less than satisfactory. Oddly, the city's chief legal counsel Kobi Wright agrees with Gray that he wasn't required by ethics rules to disclose his interest in the concrete company. O'Shaughnessy writes:


Neither Gray nor Kobi Wright, the secretary of the city-county ethics board and the city's lead attorney, said he believed that it was necessary for Gray to disclose his relationship with Trotter.

Gray said he likely will disclose on ethics forms due in May another business relationship: Mid Region's work last summer for a company that manages maintenance of city sewers.

During four terms on the council, Gray has been employed by the Indianapolis Fire Department and today is a division chief. It was only in July 2004 that he started Mid Region Concrete, capitalizing, he says, on an interest in construction that started with a job in high school. H said thee idea for the company came from a friend and business associate, James P. Black, who by then already had his own history of financial problems . . .

"You have to understand there's a friendship there with Trotter and Jim Black," Gray said.

"This is a small city, and all the black people that's doing anything know one another." Black has owned at least a half-dozen other concrete companies since 1986, and either he or his companies owe more than $400,000 in state taxes, federal tax liens and civil judgments, according to Black's 2005 bankruptcy disclosure and a review of lawsuits naming Black or one of his companies as defendants.

Gray, 63, said he knew Black had had problems with previous businesses, but the idea was for Gray to bring his good credit to the company while Black would run the business.

"He said his personal credit rating wasn't something we could build a company on," Gray said. "I guess that was bad judgment on my part. It was one of those mistakes where friendship overruled judgment."


Wright begrudgingly admits, however, Gray should have disclosed his interest in worked performed by Gray's company for the city's wastewater system. O'Shaughnessy writes, "Wright said Gray, however, probably should disclose his company's work for United Water, a multinational company that has managed the city's wastewater treatment system since 1994 through a public-private entity called the White River Environmental Partnership."

Yet another troubling aspect reported in this story about Gray's failure to disclose his interest in the concrete company is the fact that his business employs city-county council attorney Aaron Haith to defend the claims against his business. Haith is also defending another city-county councilor, Ron Gibson, on charges Gibson committed assault on a police officer last summer during Black Expo. This raises serious ethical questions about Haith's ability to serve as attorney for the full city-county council at the same time he is enmeshed in criminal and civil litigation on behalf of individual members of the council. The likelihood of a clash in those dual roles is troubling to say the least.

True to form, Gray is pleading ignorance to the work Trotter performs for the city. O'Shaughnessy writes, "Gray rejects any notion that he broke the city's conflict-of-interest disclosure rules, saying not only did his business have nothing to do with Trotter's sewer work for the city, but he didn't know Trotter had any contract with the city." O'Shaughnessy adds that, while Gray does not personally award public works contracts, he makes appointments to the city's public works board which does award those contracts.

O'Shaughnessy makes no mention of Gray's similar reluctance to disclose his wife's interest in the 300 East bar in the Julia Carson Government Center. Star political writer Matt Tully had a difficult time dragging that out of Gray only after he initially misled him. The bar had to obtain a zoning variance from the Metropolitan Development Commission and the Marion County Alcoholic Beverage Board, to which the council appoints members of both. The MDC hearing officer who approved the bar's petition, Judith Conley, is the wife of City-County Counselor Lonnell Conley, a close friend and ally of Gray's.

The Star story focuses on Gray's claim on his economic interest statement that he received no "compensation from any business entity which, to the best of your knowledge, is doing . . . business with an agency of the City of Indianapolis or Marion County during your term of office or employment with an agency of the City of Indianapolis or Marion County." Gray doesn't even answer the following question: "Do you, your spouse or your minor children own stocks, bonds or other investments which represent ownership of 5 percent (5%) or more of a business entity or have a value in excess of $5,000 and which business entity, to the best of your knowledge, is doing or contemplates doing business with an agency of the City of Indianapolis or Marion County." Also, Gray's ethics statement discloses the city-county council as his employer, but it makes no mention of the fire department where he's employed full-time.

So what should happen to Gray? If he's treated like an ordinary government employee, he, at a minimum, should be suspended from his job as a firefighter for a period of time. More appropriately, he should be fired. He should also be investigated by the prosecutor's office for possible ghost employment and violating the state's conflict-of-interest rules, both of which are felony offenses. He should be forced by his fellow city-county council Democrats to give up his role as the council president. Don't bet on this happening. After Ron Gibson was charged with criminally assaulting a police officer last summer, most of his Democratic colleagues on the council conducted a press conference outside the city-county building to demonstrate their support of Gibson.

35 comments:

Sir Hailstone said...

All the more reason to vote a majority Republican membership to the City-County Council this fall.

Chicago style corruption. Plain and simple.

Perhaps Mr. Gray should just stick to what he knows - gambling houses.

Wilson46201 said...

I quite agree with hailstone: if you don't agree with Gray, vote for his Republican opponent this fall in that District. Simple enough?

Anonymous said...

The Republicans have no more chance of taking over the council than flying over the moon.

And please, no Gary/Detroit references or similar vitriolic outbursts. It's not just because of shifting demographics. It's because we have an effective, if somewhat selectively outraged, mayor.

This isn't about partisanship, it is about good government. The kind Monroe Gray does NOT display. He's just pathetic...

The rule seems to be, if you're from Center, or nearby, and you're black, the ethics bar isn't set very high. Sorry to be blunt, but that's the message being sent. Ditto Coroner Ackles's problems...hell the Mayor even (mildly) came to the defense of this sorry-ass public official by hinting that the previous attacks on "Dr." Ackles were borderline racist. Riiiiiight.

Remember Mr. Gray's wife's investment in 300 East? He answered in a smartass tone to legitimate reporters' questions about that issue. And God knows, there aren't many tough reporters' questions in this town lately.

To me, the most-troubling facts here are the involvement of Messrs. Haith and Wright as counsels or advisers in some capacity.

I've dealt with Wright. Legal genius he ain't. I wasn't aware he could, as Mr. Haith, represent clients on the side. I thought his Corporation Counsel job was fulltime, unlike Haith's council job. Haith is a smart cookie, though. Isn't it ironic that he represents both Gibson and Gray on these issues?

Until the Democratic Party starts insisting on an equal and level playing field for its candidates, on the issues of job performance and ethics, this kind of nonsense will continue, and worsen. There are bright Democratic councillors. Notably Joanne Sanders, Jackie Nytes, Mary B. Adams...but they are white, hence, by some unreasonable and unholy alliance, cannot be council president.

Sadly.

Anonymous said...

Before you get the chance to lay down the electoral thing, Wilson...

this is NOT about electing/defeating Monroe Gary Jr.

Don't even go there.

Wilson46201 said...

African-American Democrats in Center Township are perfectly willing to elect competent and qualified Caucasians for representation - both Susan Williams and Jackie Nytes were elected from "majority-minority" inner-city Districts. Joanne Sanders is an at-large Councilor elected with overwhelming Black support too.

Anonymous said...

The STAR Article did mention this . . .

"A small construction company he founded in 2004, Mid Region Concrete LLC, has been hit with at least nine lawsuits alleging it failed to pay workers and suppliers and has been found liable for $360,000 in five lawsuits. A court order filed Friday garnishees his wages at the city Fire Department, calling for $350 to be taken out of his pay every two weeks starting Feb. 15."

Now that has to make him feel real good about things.

Anonymous said...

I suggest a Freedom of Information Act request to view/post Monroe Gray's time card showing hours worked for IFD for the past year...then let's review any alleged "work" he performed for IFD. It is my understanding he has no responsibilities for IFD, nor accountability. Perhaps the Grand Jury should review Ghost Employment as it pertains to Monroe Gray on the IFD payroll?

Also, I carefully noted that Monroe suffered NO LOSS of city pay due to his garnishments, as he made up for the garnishment by giving himself a raise for being on The Council.

The taxpayers of Marion County are paying for Gray's incompetence and the garnishment.

Erin said...

For anonymous- this is not to defend Mr. Gray's actions, but rather, hopefully, to forestall the repetitive "Center twp. black...blah blah". Monroe Gray's district includes much of Washington twp., including Butler-Tarkington (he is actually my councillor).

AI- I really like the tweaking you did to the design!

Anonymous said...

I quite agree with hailstone: if you don't agree with Gray, vote for his Republican opponent this fall in that District. Simple enough?

Not quite. Are you suggesting that these ethics violations and violations of the law that Gray has clearly committed should only be punished by facing the voters? Should he not be subject to the law?

Wilson46201 said...

For that matter, neither Center Township nor the 7th Congressional District have ever been majority African-American.

Wilson46201 said...

The Law will do what it will in its own good time. In the meantime, there is a perfectly good American way of expressing displeasure with the actions of an elected public official : vote him or her out of office!

feduptaxpayer said...

Wilson, will you finally wake up and realize this is much more than politics? He is a criminal in every sense of the word. From is ghost employement at IFD, to his pea shake houses, and now to his corrupt business practices. White/Black, Democrat/Republican, Center Township or not, if it walks like a duck and talks like a duck...It must be good ol Monroe Gray. Once again he thinks he is above the law because of who he knows and who he blows.

Anonymous said...

Now is the time citizens of Indy..Go to the CCC meeting tomorrow night. Take your signs. Here are some helpful ones to get you started.

1. The Most Corrupt CCC in History
2. Monroe's A Crook
3. Gray Must Go
4. Monroe "works" at IFD?
5. Another councilor for us to defend in Court!
6. Where is Bart in all this mess?
7. The Ghetto Mafia is in full effect!

DONT let security try and take your signs. If they do, report it. It is a violation of your first amendent rights and the county can be held liable for civil damages.

Anonymous said...

The saddest part of all this is the mayor's silence on:

1. Gray's incompetence
2. Lonnell Conley's shameless shilling for votes to support his wife's ridiculous MDC hearing officer decisions
3. Mr. Gibson's troubles

Now, if the good Mayor, who has, by my book, performed well, believes this is a council matter, and he needs to stay out of it, so be it.

I expected a 70% popular mayor, with no real serious threat to re-election, to extend his bully pulpit to the manner in which our elected officials behave. Especially those in his own party.

Too much to expect? I guess so. The bar is pretty low, regardles sof race, for some reason.

And no, Mr. Wilson, un-electing these folks is probably not an option, due to redistricting. Conley and Gibson are city-wide, but given the mayor's popularity, which is how they got there last time, there isn't much chance for anyone else.

Mr. Gray's district, by the way, is about 16 precincts in Center, about 30 in Washington. And by their location, I'd guess majority minority.

His employer is nuts to put up with his actions. Oh wait, we're his employer.

Anonymous said...

I am a lawyer who over thirty years have represented public officials and public bodies. More than just the Indiana reporting and conflcit laws come to mind.

A moderately curious US Attorney is needed to investigate these allegations and facts. Former Democratic State Party Chair Pete Manous was convicted after indicment in the Northern District.

Thirty years ago the Repubs controlled everything and it took several US Atorneys to bring them down.

Wilson46201 said...

"Ghetto Mafia" ? Huh? It looks like one of the Deadbeat Twins is posting again under a fake name...

Anonymous said...

Ah. Peter Manous. What a good idea to get a US Atty involved in the Gray imbroglio. The one who indicted Manous, Joseph S. Van Bokkelen, has been nominated to be a US district court judge. Below is the DOJ press release regarding Manous.

//

U.S. Department of Justice

United States Attorney
Northern District of Indiana

5400 Federal Plaza, Suite 1500 (219) 937-5500
Hammond, Indiana 46320
FAX: (219) 852-2770 TTD: (219) 933-1250

September 8, 2003

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
PRESS RELEASE


THREE INDICTED
United States Attorney Joseph S. Van Bokkelen today announced the return of a 16-count indictment against PETER J. MANOUS, KEVIN T. PASTRICK, and GERRY L. NANNENGA.

The charges in the indictment relate to the purchase of land in Coffee Creek, a residential and commercial development located in Chesterton, Indiana. In March, 1999, the Northwest Indiana Carpenters Union pension fund purchased 55 acres in Coffee Creek for approximately $10 million dollars. This action was taken, the indictment alleges, notwithstanding a report indicating that the real estate was worth far less than the purchase price. The seller of the property was Lake Erie Land.

MANOUS, age 41, of Munster, Indiana was the attorney for the Northwest Indiana District Council of Carpenters. PASTRICK, age 36, of Munster, Indiana was a realtor and owner of Sand Creek Sales and Development. NANNENGA, age 51, of Zionsville, Indiana, was an employee trustee of the pension fund and was also the executive secretary/business manager for the Carpenters Union.

Under federal law, NANNENGA, a fiduciary of the pension fund, could not solicit or receive any money in connection with this transaction. Similarly, MANOUS, the attorney and agent for the union, could not solicit or receive any money in connection with this transaction. PASTRICK, who was not connected with the union, is otherwise prohibited from agreeing to pay and paying any money to NANNENGA or MANOUS because of or with intent to influence their actions with respect to the union pension fund.

Sand Creek Sales and Development received a $600,000 commission from this sale. PASTRICK made a payment of $200,000 to MANOUS out of that commission. PASTRICK and MANOUS paid NANNENGA approximately $65,000. The payments to NANNENGA were in his wife’s name and paid through a bank account in the name of Olympic Services.

The indictment alleges that MANOUS, PASTRICK and NANNENGA fabricated documents to make it appear that Olympic Services was an actual business producing a legitimate work product when, in reality, it was merely an account utilized to transfer funds from PASTRICK and MANOUS to NANNENGA.

All three defendants are charged in Count 1 with conspiring to violate Title 18, United States Code, Section 1954. Section 1954 prohibits the offer, acceptance or solicitation of payments in connection with union pension funds.

Counts 2-5 charge MANOUS with specific violations of Section 1954 for receiving $200,000 from Sand Creek Sales and Development and for paying money, through Olympic Services, to NANNENGA.

Counts 6-8 charge PASTRICK with specific violations of Section 1954 for his payments of money to MANOUS and NANNENGA.

Counts 9 and 10 charge NANNENGA with specific violations of Section 1954 for his receipt of money from MANOUS and PASTRICK.

Count 11 charges MANOUS with making a false material statement to the Department of Labor when MANOUS stated that his only involvement in this transaction was attending a single meeting at Lake Erie Land.

Counts 12 and 13 charge PASTRICK with making false material statements to the Department of Labor concerning MANOUS’s role in this transaction and concerning the agreement to pay MANOUS from Sand Creek Sales and Development’s Commission.

Count 14 charges PASTRICK with a violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1519 for falsifying documents relevant to this investigation.This count alleges that PASTRICK created and altered documents to make it appear to the Department of Labor that Olympic Services provided a genuine work product. Section 1519 was passed by Congress in July 2002 as part of the Oxley-Sarbanes legislation aimed at corporate fraud and preserving the integrity of corporate documents during investigations.

Count 15 charges a similar violation by MANOUS in connection with the creation of a series of letters purportedly written in 1998-99 in connection with Olympic Services when they were created only after the Department of Labor began its investigation.

Count 16 alleges that MANOUS provided false material statements to the Department of Labor when MANOUS stated that his father hired NANNENGA’s wife to work for Olympic Services.

This indictment was the result of an extensive investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Inspector General and Office of Employee Benefits Security Administration, and the U.S. Secret Service. This case has been assigned to and will be prosecuted by First Assistant United States Attorney Dave Capp and Assistant United States Attorney Thomas L. Kirsch II.

“This indictment is yet another example of illegal profiteering by individuals at the expense of union members and the funds they have set aside for their pension or retirement plans,” stated J.D. Nichols, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Department of Labor Office of Inspector General, Office of Labor Racketeering and Fraud Investigations.

“Theft of plan assets jeopardizes the benefits of American workers and their families,” said Kenneth M. Bazar, Director of the Chicago Regional Office of the Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA). “Federal enforcement agencies worked closely to bring criminal charges against these defendants, who abused their positions of trust.”

If convicted, the sentences and fines against any defendant will be determined by the Federal Sentencing Guidelines.

The United States Attorney’s Office emphasized that an Indictment is merely an allegation and that all persons charged are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty in court.


- END -

Advance Indiana said...

As is the case in Chicago, the electoral process doesn't clean up public corruption. Only diligent U.S. prosecutors like Patrick Fitzgerald act as a check by putting the corrupt pols behind bars. If we only had a U.S. attorney in Indianapolis who cared about combatting public corruption as much as Fitzgerald, people like Gray would be appropriately investigated and prosecuted, if the circumstances warranted it. Unfortunately, our U.S. attorney seems more interested in prosecuting petty drug dealers and low-level government employees.

Anonymous said...

AI, are you referring to Susan Brooks or Carl Brizzi?

Veritas said...

Council Pres Gray, is either suffuring from a sever case of dementia or engaged in corrupt business practices. At the least he should be removed from the city council and subject to a Federal and State IRS audit. When the ethics forms aren't properly filled out they call for further review. If Gray is being deceptive and untruthful he has no business in a position of public trust. Could be he and a few others need to visit the IMI exec's in federal prison. Amazing, council pres doesn't know work on IPS school is work for the City. If Bart Peterson believes this guy, I would take a long hard look at Bart P. too.

Anonymous said...

Help! Police! Prosecutors! Monroe Gray is committing a crime! Please help the community!

I will say, Rudi Guilliani made quite a name for himself going after people legally.

I can't believe the Rag wrote such an article, it is not what I expected but good. And if AI's request prompted such a piece I say what other requests do you have AI?

Advance Indiana said...

Brooks is the U.S. Attorney.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps somebdy will file a qui tam suit. Surely, some of these local public works projects have federal money in them and may provide a basis for a colorable claim.

Anonymous said...

Tired of corrupt politicians and lazy elected officials? Go to, TheIndyChicken.blogspot.com. Vote your choice to receive the “Egghead Award“. Gray just might beat out Peterson with your vote.

Wilson46201 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
feduptaxpayer said...

Wilson, you have no idea who I am. You want so bad for me to be one of your "enemies" so you can smear me across these blogs. Truth is, I'm an honest, hard-working, taxpaying citizen of Marion County who is fed-up with all the crap those in charge are getting away with. But, like always, you resort to partisan political bickering to try and distract from the real issues......
P.S. I'm a Democrat but won't be voting for any incumbent in this county come November!

callme-ishmael said...

I quite agree with hailstone: if you don't agree with Gray, vote for his Republican opponent this fall in that District. Simple enough?

Wilson is Right. While everyone may understandably gnash their teeth over this man, the fact is, is that until the voters in Grays' district get tired of his BS, he will be inflicted upon All citizens of Marion County again and again. Dont count on him having the moral courage or ethics to leave, nor for Bart Peterson to call for his resignation/prosecution for the same lack of testosterone. For sure you wont find 'Taking Down Words' call for him to leave..even though Gray is the Democratic parties' biggest embarrassment.

Kudos to Brendan O' Shaugnessy for bringing this info to public light. Hopefully he wont be exiled to writing obituaries.

Hopefully someone in attendance at tomorrows CCC meeting will bring this subject up, with a call for Gray to step down as President. Although an $8500 pay raise would take care of Gray's $8400 garnishment from IFD, the fact is, is that Public Office/Public Service is voluntary, and not meant to enrich ones' lifestyle or pay for ones bad judgements.

GaryJ said...

Wilson.. You agree that we should get Sweet Pea out??
Are you finally getting the light and leaving the "dark side"?

indyernie said...

Feduptaxpayer give up, you will never get your point across to Wilson...the brain cells are long dead.

Just keep reputing him like others do. Maybe we can save the newbees who come to read the blog.

indyernie said...

Holy cow Garyj Wilsons going to think we are the same person again

Sir Hailstone said...

Wilsons going to think

So that was the smoke on the near east side!

Jeff Newman said...

You know, your guys' obsession with Wilson Allen is not only wearing thin, but it's making you all look just a little bit pathetic. Why are you so threatened by this guy? Are you afraid he might actually be right every now and then?

And more importantly, aren't you guys on the right smart enough to refute his points without saying things like "the brain cells are long dead?" When you resort to saying sh*t like that you lose the argument to the very guy you dislike so much.

Anonymous said...

MAYOR'S BOARD OF ETHICS
Olga Villa Parra.......Council Appointed (Monroe Gray Sponsored)

Daniel A.Ladendorf.....Mayor Appointed

Janet Madden Charles...Mayor Appointed

Paul E.Morgan..........Mayor Apppointed

Monroe Gray was Olga Villa Parra's sponsor to the Mayor's Ethics Board.

The ethics board needs to be immediately held accountable for accepting incomplete paperwork from Monroe Gray.

Mayor Peterson needs to step up without delay, take the reigns, and become accountable for the appointments he made to this board who likely turned their heads while Monroe Gray used his "juice" on us all.

Why have an ethics board if their is no accountability to ethics or even accountability to file complete paperwork?

erin said...

Olga Parra is a very good person who has, with her husband, been involved with the latino community since at least the 1970's. She is a person of very high integrity. I would also point out to you, anonymous, that the sponsoring decisions on the council don't have anything to do with the person's personal relationship with the sponsoring councillor (in rare situations, yes, but usually, no). It has to do with committee chairmanships and party leadership roles- of which Monroe Gray, prior to being the president, was a part of.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Jeff - the people who fall for the actions of local dumpster divers should know better, you would think. I skip those ramblings and see what others have to say on the TOPIC.