Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Harry & Brizzi's Not To Be?

It's beginning to look less likely Harry & Izzy's will be issued a liquor license with Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi as a 10% shareholder, if the state's Alcohol & Tobacco Commission has any say in the matter. The IBJ reports today:

A liquor permit sought by St. Elmo-spinoff Harry & Izzy's could be in jeopardy because one of its owners is Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi.

Brizzi has a 10-percent stake in the new restaurant, which is slated to open in April in Circle Centre mall. He is one of five shareholders in the $4 million venture, which is led by St. Elmo owners Stephen and Craig Huse.

State law forbids liquor permits to be issued to law enforcement officers, which the code defines as including prosecuting attorneys.

Dave Heath, chairman of the state's Alcohol and Tobacco Commission, told IBJ that the permit seems inappropriate. "The way the statute reads, it probably couldn't be granted," Heath said. Heath said he plans to meet with Harry & Izzy's attorneys today and then seek an opinion from the attorney general.

A Marion County hearing on the permit application is slated for Monday. A final decision would rest with the state commission.

In an interview about the restaurant with IBJ last week, Brizzi said he doesn't see a conflict. He said he wanted to get back into the restaurant business as a "silent partner" after a decade-long hiatus.

Over the years, Brizzi worked at his mom's Italian restaurant, shuttled fried chicken at Indianapolis Motor Speedway for Jug's Catering, and waited tables during law school.


I personally have a great deal of respect for Brizzi, but I just can't figure out how this one got this far along the way before anyone asked the right questions. In the first instance, Brizzi should know better. The inherent conflict in being a prosecutor and holding a liquor license should have been enough, particularly when your business partner is a major contributor to your political campaign. Secondly, his wife is the former deputy commissioner of the ATC. It might have been a good idea to consult with her before making this business decision. And finally, it's the job of the attorneys who prepared the license application to know the law. It takes a pretty tortured interpretation of the statute to conclude the prohibition for law enforcement officers doesn't apply to Brizzi. He is after all one of the most powerful law enforcement officers in the state as the prosecutor for the state's largest county and seat of state government.

Brizzi should immediately divest his interest in Harry & Izzy's and put this matter behind him. The longer it drags on, the more it's going to take a toll on his credibility. Marion County can ill-afford to have a crippled prosecutor at a time when our crime rate is soaring out of control. It doesn't seem he's getting it yet though. The Star's Jon Murray in a late afternoon online update writes:

Brizzi said he was not aware of the restriction when he invested in the restaurant venture and would wait for the legal opinion before deciding whether he needed to back out. He has a 10 percent stake. The major investors are Stephen and Craig Huse, who own St. Elmo and each own a 35 percent share in Harry & Izzy's. Thomas R. Browne and Christopher Clifford each own 10 percent shares.

The restriction makes little sense, Brizzi said. "It's not like I'm opening up a bar in the prosecutor's office," he said, adding that common sense should prevail.

The restriction makes little sense? You've got to be kidding, Carl. This issue is moving fast. As I write, WTHR is now leading off its news cast with this as its top story. Dave Heath tells Jeremy Brilliant the same thing he told the IBJ--the statute is clear--it applies to law enforcement officers and the prosecutor is a law enforcement officer. In a telephone interview, Brizzi compared his investment to that of an investor in a publicly traded corporation because he's a mere passive investor. Nice try, but this isn't a publicly traded corporation. It's a close corporation with only five investors. That's a big difference.

UPDATE: The IBJ is reporting Brizzi is pulling out as a 10% investor in Harry & Izzy's for the time being to avoid holding up the approval of the liquor license. The IBJ reports:

"I'm going to get out of the deal for now so the liquor license is not delayed," he said this afternoon.

He said he doubts the intent of the law is to prevent any law enforcement officer from owning stock in any establishment that sells alcohol, including grocery stores and restaurants. Brizzi said he hopes to get back in the restaurant deal, as a "non-voting minority shareholder."

"No one ever thought this would be an issue," Brizzi said. "The really ridiculous thing about this is if my wife was the person on the license, that wouldn't be a conflict."

The point about his wife has already been raised in the comments here. I'm surprised he didn't think of it. His point about the intent of the law is just flat wrong.

28 comments:

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

With 10% ownership, it wasn't as if Brizzi was going to really be back in the restaurant business again. I find it curious as how the owners of St. Elmo's thought it would be nice to cut Carl in the business. It's not likely they needed his capital - what did they expect to gain from bringing him in?

Anonymous said...

It's done all the time in the private sector, Wilson. Friends ask friends to be investors in projects.

Nonetheless, Brizzi should've known better. AI is right.

But, no one ever accused Brizzi of being the brightest bulb in the chandelier.

If he divests and moves on quickly, he can survive this. If not he'll likely get branded with this for a long, long time. He barely won re-election. With this kind of indiscretion, not quickly corrected, he'd likely not see ballot victory again.

He showed his true colors to me, when he lied about his knowledge of the bail status for the alleged murderer last fall, when testifying to the City Council. If I'm not mistaken, a formal complaint was filed on that by Greg Bowes, and it's pending.

The correct answer to the press questions should've been: "I didn't know, but should've, and I'm going to get my money back and let the investors go forward without me. I'm sorry."

Bobb said...

my thoughts exactly-- I presume the Huse boys didn't need his cash-- speaking of which, I wonder what he actually put into this.

"Getting back into the restaurant business" rings about as true as "to spend more time with my family."

Carl's "birthday party" huge dollar fundraiser is at St E next week-- I think actually on the same day as the permit hearing. Don't think I could hold my nose and write a $1000 check to be there, but sure would be interesting to be a fly on the wall.

Wilson46201 said...

Prosecutor Brizzi just won re-election last November - why is he having a big-ticket fund-raiser so soon? Did he run his campaign with deficit-financing? Is he retiring debts?

Is this birthday party just for Brizzi or are other Republican entities beneficiaries? Is Carl trying to pile up the big money to help a hard-hitting GOP municipal campaign this year?

I am amused that his new business partners are also helping Carl with major political fundraising already.

Wilson46201 said...

Will the Fat Yellow Chicken be outside this fundraiser clucking disapproval?

Just askin'

qaxgrfc said...

Maybe he should have put it in his wife's name and plan to appear at the hearings to make sure everything is "approved", just like Monroe Gray did.

Bobb said...

Carl has this fundraiser every year at St Elmo. All the high rollers and big R's are there... i.e. the Gov. & etc.

This is just for Brizzi. But hell, are there any other R candidates in Marion Co to share with at this point?!

clutch said...

brizzi's wife use to be on the ATC Commission. It's a done deal.

clutch said...

I meant Alcohol and Tobacco Commission. Sorry for redundancy.

Anonymous said...

What's a done deal? Did you read the quote from the Chair saying it probably can't be granted? You really think he'll get past the local board hearing in early March?

Short stop said...

Brizzi probably "could" have gotten past the local board hearing...just like 300 East, if it had not been "reported".

I can't imagine that he and his wife would allow the application to go forward with him as an owner if they had not EXPECTED that it "was" a done deal. Was this a "done deal gone bad", i.e. public?

This is a classic example as to why public officials, especially law enforcment, should not own liquor establishments, nor should they even ATTEMPT to; it prevents them from doing their job and pursuing other public officials illegal actions. Brizzi has been ignoring the outcry from the people, both from the left and the right, and has totally baffled those who expected him to act. We've all been waiting and wondering...when is he going to prosecute Monroe Gray or Carl Drummer or speak out about the peashake houses? When is he going to standup for law enforcement? When will the political posteurizing and alienation stop?

I don't have anything personal against the man, it's just that he seems so distant and pre-occupied.

We're under "total tyranny" with Mayor Bart Peterson, the unbalanced Indianapolis City-County Council along with their scandals, and the miserable losses from the last election...we only won ONE OFFICE!!!!! We don't need Brizzi to work for the otherside...and yes, simply "being quiet" when you are the Chief Prosecutor IS helping the otherside, we need Brizzi to work for the rest of us...the other 99.80%!!!!! That includes republicans, libertarians and democrats because ALL are sick of it, all except the few who are benefiting the most.

Anonymous said...

Good one, 7:20.

Only Mr. and Mrs. Brizzi, to my knowledge, have not set up a shell company to get cushy public contracts, trading off his public personna with zero experience in the craft for which he's getting paid. And the Brizzis haven't failed to pay their company bills, and haven't had critical equipment repossessed or his public salary garnished.

So until a better story comes out (it will) the Grays still own the prize for biggest gall by a public servant and spouse.

Anonymous said...

"Dave Heath tells Jeremy Brilliant the same thing he told the IBJ--the statute is clear--it applies to law enforcement officers and the prosecutor is a law enforcement officer."

As I previously pointed out on here, the above all depends on which definition to use for Title 7. Do we use the criminal code definition (Title 35) or the traffic code definition (Title 9).

Anonymous said...

Murray Clark, the state Republican Party Chairman, provided legal advice to Brizzi according to today's Star and told him the law permitted him to invest in a business which owned a liquor license. Clark couldn't have been wearing his political hat when he gave Brizzi that advice.

Anonymous said...

AI, you should be listening to Abdul defend his good buddy Brizzi. I'm losing my respect for his so-called "objectivity" real fast. He wanted to nail Melina Kennedy to the wall because she took her law license to inactive status while she gave birth to her twins. He falsely claimed that she allowed her law license to lapse. Now he's making all kinds of excuses for Brizzi's huge error in judgment.

clutch said...

Here's what's going to happen. Brizzi will publicly withdraw his investment (which he's already announced). The permit will be granted by the state and local board. The news will die down. A few days or months down the road, Brizzi will receive a personal letter ruling from the A.G. that states "the law is unclear", "no majority interest", "walled off from prosecution of alcohol offenses". Viola! - back in the game. In the alternative, if the issue is too hot for the A.G. (which stands for Aspiring Governor), several shell corporations and LLC's will be established to the point where it will be next to impossible to track who personally owns the interest in these entities.

This cat will be skinned.

Anonymous said...

If you all can get common sense and stop attacking Brizzi, please
answer what is the intent of the law. If a law officer can't diversify income and invest regardless of where..does that make them more holy. This law is a clear case of discrimination. What is ok for one MUST be ok for all county officials. This is a family restaurant that serves
alcohol beverages just like St. Elmo's. IT IS NOT A STRIP JOINT
AND DIDN'T TAKE WHATEVER LITTLE
PLAYGROUND THERE WAS AWAY FROM KIDS FOR A PARKING LOT. Your outcry should be behind Brizzi to
fight the city county and the general assembly and the mayor for
their foolish management of the
city. This law is ridiculous and
if you can't see beyond your own
pleasure of just slamming the guy
then you have serious challenges
in your THINKING power to deal with. Where is the harm and what is the ourpopse of the law that would not hold true for every other county,city and state official.

Anonymous said...

Matt Tully awards Brizzi the "Bonehead of the Year" award over at his blog.

clutch said...

I can't believe Tully would award his "Bonehead of the Year" prize so early. There are so many boneheads and so many months to go. Gray in January, Brizzi in February. I can't wait for March.

Anonymous said...

Someone is still reading Tully?

Anonymous said...

Wilson46201-->> Same thing tha Mr., Mays expected in return for getting Mrs. Gray involved in the 300 East project.
"Something illegal going on, but please use your influence to get me out of it"
Who are the investors in 300 East? All political allies of Mayor Peterson. Did Julia Carson want the bar in her namesake bldg? Hell yes she did. Mr. Mays is a big contributor to her as well.

Anonymous said...

I don't think Tulley should be giving awards out for bonhead of the year. That title is reserved for him after endorsing Carson for
re-election and then calling her
unfit after she wins. Seriously, that award goes to Tulley for the
senior moments he's experiencing.
A brief tidbit for the dogs to chew on. It took ATC attorneys two hours to find the law that has
a few morans tied up in their underwear. Why does anyone feel Brizzi should have known that law, he is a criminal lawyer.
Remember Melina Kennedy..her expertise was in enviromental law
which did not qualify her for a
top position in criminal law.
A 10% investment is not setting the world on fire but should the establishment do well and the
possibility of franchising comes
in to play..it would prove to be
a wise investment for Brizzi. One last note. Scott Newman said that
if any crime ever happened at St.
Elmo's Brizzi would have to seal
himself off froma nyprosecutorial
decisions as an investor. i believe we have seen in the past such action from Brizzi when he appoints an independent posecutor to investigate high profile cases.
Come on people, can the state of Indiana grow up and meet the rest
of the world with some good old
common sense. Let's fight the bad guys not Brizzi's investment

short stop said...

We're out here fighting the bad guys, WHERE IS BRIZZI? Can he please come join us in the fight?

Anonymous said...

Short Stop like most of us must have stopped short in taking back Marion County. Crime rate up, sleezy politicians still robbing from us and the silent majority who re-elected Brizzi remain silent. The voters want it both ways. A respected and committed man in the posecutors office but the scum in all the others. Brizzi
is a guppie swimming in a pool of
desperate Sharks who screw us and
our children minute by minute. Should we organize a date and flood some high visability offices
with mail and phone calls telling
them that America's Constitution is of the people and by the people
and we people had enough. You tell
me? Did any of us back Brizzi
in this ridiculous fight to show
the decision makers that they will have a force to be reckon with if they don't take the
needs of this county, city and state to heart.

Indy Star exploited Brizzi's personal business affairs that had
nothing to do with the fight just
because they could. They owe him an apology. Please note that they
couldn't do that with other powers
because they shelled them. Ummmmm?

With one of the dirtiest political races ever for this office this past November, they had to resort to his office, a car
and his salary as tatics.

Remember the slogan Brizzi lied.
Brizzi lied. Although that's not true the biggest lie is the one we tell when we say we want righteousness and justice in our
communities. The tongue a most
powerful force spoke loud and clear this past election. We want to continue to be victimized so that we still have a platform to complain and no worries here,we'll
do nothing to change it. Blame, not us. In a county of thousands
who could change the tide do nothing. Try standing behind Brizzi and any other official who is good and show that the FORCE is with them and we want change in all areas that is good and fair for all. This law of discrimination against law officers is wrong. Ask an IMPD officer how else their getting the
shaft...they'll tell you.

10001110101 said...

Yikes! 11:01 Anonymous, put a cold compress on the back of your neck. Your steamin'.

Anonymous said...

I'm not steamin just calling it the way i see it. Even Tulley has lost it by comparing a straight
arrowed business investment to the mess at 300 East. Where the hell is the comparison.He's just one more guy that flaps his gums
thinking that people don't remember his bonehead moves of the
year. Wasen't it reported today the poor state of affairs Indiana
is in compared to other states.
One I seem to recall was socially
disadvantaged. I believe if we allow this downward spiral to continue, a more descriptive word
to use would be braindead instead
of socially disadvantaged.

I apologize for being so direct but where I came from we had the
stomachs to dish it out and take it. The words tolorence and
politically correct is just another way of saying I stand for nothing and therefore fall for anything. Another election is coming up let's see if we learned
anything. I pray there's a
strong young person with the spirit of M L King that would carry the mantle for change out there. Thanks for hearing me out.
Goodnight and goodbye.
P.S. Note to Tulley....Brizzi, I
believed could have beaten Peterson for the mayor's race.
Brizzi gave his word he would not run but complete his term as prosecutor. That's integrity, that's what needed in our political offices and that's why I
say we should stand behind him. He
did nothing wrong, the law is outdated, it's intent can't be defined that would not include every other official and above all is discriminating against a certain class of people only.
If you want Brizzi to fight for you he should know that the citizens are behind him loud and clear. That's the juice that gets change because they all want your
vote. I have overstayed my welcome
so I will retire now. Keep dialogue high and slamming down.

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