Let's be clear: Indianapolis City-County Council President Monroe Gray deserves censure for failing to disclose his business ties to a city contractor. His failure to set and follow high ethical standards reflects poorly not only on himself but the entire council.
At the least, the council should set up a bipartisan panel to investigate why Gray did not accurately complete ethics forms that would have shown his financial connections to James Trotter, a contractor who has handled millions of dollars in business with
Unfortunately, Gray and fellow Democrats on the council are refusing to take the issue seriously. They've dismissed calls to create an investigative committee as purely partisan in motivation.
But even partisans can make sensible points on occasion. And council Republicans' questions about Gray's potential conflicts of interest shouldn't be quickly brushed aside.
Gray has shown a pattern of playing loose with facts when it comes to his personal involvement in the city's business. He denied, for instance, any connection to the development of a restaurant and bar at the Julia Carson Government Center. His wife, however, was an investor in the project.
The Star also takes a swipe at City-County Council attorney Aaron Haith, who is personally representing Gray in his business dealings at the same time he's performing work for the council as a whole. Although the editorial doesn't mention it, Haith is also defending City-County Councilor Ron Gibson against charges he shoved a sheriff's deputy during last year's Black Expo. The Star writes:
Then there's the matter of council attorney Aaron Haith, who initially blocked a resolution to have a committee investigate Gray for possibly violating the city's ethics code. Gray himself intervened to allow the resolution to move forward. Council Republicans are expected to submit the proposal Monday.
Haith not only represents the council but also works as Gray's private attorney and handles legal work for Mid Region Concrete, a failed company owned by Gray. Mid Region is named in at least nine lawsuits that accuse Gray of failing to pay workers and suppliers.
The potential conflicts of interest are piled high. Yet neither Gray nor Haith is willing to acknowledge the problem.
I think it's a good idea for the council to investigate Gray, but I think it is even more important what our county prosecutor is doing--or not doing, as the case may be. It's been more than eight months since serious questions were raised about Center Township Carl Trustee's conduct surrounding the 300 East bar in which Gray's wife has a financial interest. It's also been four months since an IBJ story raised additional questions involving conflicts of interest and potential misuses of township property by Drummer. The prosecutor's office has been completely mum on both accounts so it is also no surprise we've heard nothing about an investigation of Gray coming from the prosecutor's office. And at least in Lake County, there's a U.S. attorney who will actually investigate and prosecute these matters. The U.S. attorney in Indianapolis seems only interested in prosecuting petty drug dealers. Note she had another press conference yesterday about some small-time drug dealers who were busted.