Thursday, October 18, 2007

Star Is Right: Lawrence Water Deal Stinks

A Star editorial today calls Lawrence Mayor Deborah Cantwell's deal with the political cronies who walked off with Lawrence's water utility six years ago with the assistance of former Mayor Tom Schneider an "embarrassing abuse of public trust." The editorial accurately describes what happened:

Cantwell inherited this mess from her predecessor, Tom Schneider, who handed over the water company to a few political cronies six years ago. That deal was so cushy it would have made a Chicago alderman blush. No bids were taken. The principals in the transaction invested $1,000, and the city tossed in $4.84 million in cash, vehicles and other assets to help their new company get its feet wet providing water to Lawrence.

Now, those same investors, along with friends, relatives and others connected to Lawrence Utilities LLC, will receive $300,000 at the deal's close, plus $3 million paid with interest over four years. Water may be a natural growth agent, but that rate of return is ridiculous.

The Star's editorial writers think Cantwell is rushing a deal because an election is three weeks away. They also believe she's guilty of the same hubris of which she criticized her predecessor. "An agreement that enriches a few at public expense," it reads. "Scant accountability for the mayor who arranged the transfer." "Handling a municipal asset in a fashion that has more to do with protecting political interests than in guarding the public's trust."

I've never understood how the local FBI office could have investigated this deal and walked away from it without bringing any criminal charges. You would be hard-pressed to find deals as bad as this that haven't been prosecuted in Chicago in recent years by the same federal law enforcement agency. I don't know what's going on with the Justice Department in this town, but it seems to have a cozy relationship with all the folks who have been abusing the public trust for decades now in this town. The litigation the city has against the the utility has already established the former mayor broke state law by awarding the deal with the assistance of the state's major law firm, which for the record, was acting as a mere "scrivener." If the feds were unwilling to protect the public, you would think someone in our prosecutor's office or the state attorney general's office would do something to protect the public from this abuse. That would just be wishful thinking though.


Anonymous said...

I'm very, very familiar with this deal and the mayor's attempts to get the utility back.

First, to answer your question reagrding the Justice Department's failure to prosecute Schneider or his cronies over this cozy deal, the answer is two words: Ice Miller. Seriously. Then think "Scrivener's Notes." Bringing down the utility would've taken down Ice Miler, adn the resulting unraveling would've been disasterous for multiple units of government who depend on IM's flll-in-the-blank bond counsel deals. It's a house of cards.

Schneider, Crouch and those thieves went right up to the edge of the law, looked voer the edge of the cliff, and didn't jump. But I'd like their insider view on investments: where else can you parlay $1,000 into a few million? With a no-bid no-notice deal, yet?

Cantwell was faced with years of more litigation, at no small expense, or this deal...and she took the deal. The other side thought, conservatively, they could tie this up for at least 4-5 more years. They've beat her up for 4 yrs. because of this deal and the fallout. I think she's worn out. Plus, not many firms are willing to take on Ice Miller. Ask around if you doubt me. Their tentacles are deep--their bud Carl Drummer had himself appointed to the Ft Harrison Reuse Authority board, and is chairman now...God knows what the Center trustee needs with that.

Cantwell dialed out the City Council because Kyle Walker and his cronies over there are nuts. Completely whacked out. They are guided entirely by Paul Ricketts and his vengance machine.

Cantwell will win another term. Easily. But she'll likely still have a Republican council to deal with. And they just can't get over the fact that one of their cronies is not mayor.

Anonymous said...

It took Schneider 16 years to become corrupt enough to pull this kind of !@#$%.

It took Cantwell a single term to !@#$% the citizens of Lawrence.

They are both the same. Schneider was run out of office four years ago. Cantwell will now be sent packing right behind him.

Good riddance to bad rubbish. Both of them stink to high heaven!

Anonymous said...

If she is "worn out" as the previous poster suggests, then maybe she should announce that she is stepping down. If she is not up to the challenge, she should not be running.

Anonymous said...

I think you are missing the point. The deal that Cantwell just closed is EXACTLY the SAME as the deal Schneider closed. She like Schneider circumvented checks and balances to close a deal that will make the Owners of the Water Company rich. Schneider and Cantwell are the same. That is the whole point of the Start editorial. There is no difference between Cantwell and Schneider. Period.

Anonymous said...

Isn't privatization always wonderful and in the taxpayers' best interests?

Anonymous said...

The voter in 2006,by referendum, passed by 84% to create a Utilities Service Board to oversee the operations of water and sewer utilities. Where is that in the misinformed Star editorial.

Anonymous said...

The Star is indeed misinformed, and so are most of the posters here: this is NOT the same deal Schneider got.

Look, the Ricketts crowd has hounded this mayor 24/7 for almost four years. She's stumbled sometimes, but she has tried to do what's right. The water case has worn her out. So, because of that fatigue, she should quit and hand over the city to Ricketts? Are you freaking crazy?

Try to find a lawyer in this town, if the other side has an Ice Miler connectioon in any possible way. Go ahead. I'll wait.

Their reach is incenstuous and borderline illegal. They're everywhere. It's like a huge sucking sound, taking all the troubled cases out of the legal system because no one wants to go up against them.

Merle Miller would be ashamed. Ditto Harry Ice.

Ever see the legal movie with Tom Cruise, who comes all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed to his first law job to a Memphis firm with connections to virtually everything? Well, change the names and you've got Ice Miller.

They don't have people rubbed out, so far as I know, but they're powerful. How powerful? Well, as Gary suggests, they got the Justice Dept. to hang ten on a case that was full of corruption, bribes and payoffs. You do the math.

My earlier post only meant to suggest that the mayor has spent city funds to chase this deal for almost four years. She made a judgment that this was the best deal she was going to get without 4-7 years of pricey litigation. A bird in the hand. Let's not forget, that the deal should never have been made in the first place, and now that it has, the "investors" have truly pumped money into the company. It's ratepayer money, but hey, that never stopped Indpls. Water Co. from enriching its execs, so why should this water company in Lawrence be any different? The longer the litigation get carried out, the more the "investors" had a right to claim they needed more money, because after all, a water utility is not a cheap thing to run, and it's not missed a drop in decades.

Anyone who thinks it was the same deal Schneider gave away, has no clear understanding of basic settlement procedures, contract law or history. Time was the "investors'" ally. That and Ice Miller, whose original legal advice to these "investors", shoddy though it was, when opened up to public review in court, was summarily changed to "Scrivener's Notes" by IM instead of legal advice. Because they looked slimey otherwise. And anyone who knows about these things will tell you that's an unprecedented move.

Anonymous said...

Cantwell should not have had to make a deal; the so-called investors should be in jail already if this deal was properly investigated and prosecuted.

It is amazing what some people get away with while others get their a** handed to them every day.

Anonymous said...

9:49 is exactly right.

But for some unkown reason, the FBI stopped just short of fidning criminal intent, and the "investors" are nt in jail.

Go figure. Who says you can't buy justice?

I'm told by people who know, that the FBI did turn over some damning information to the local US Attorney. But those brilliant attorneys thought the case was daming, but way too difficult to prove in court.

The Bush DOJ uses the law for its own convenience.

And let's not forget our own brilliant prosecutor did absolutely nothing with the information his office was provided, about former Mayor Schneider, former Sheriff Cotteyy, Couch and the othyer "investors" in this deal.

I widh Lawrence had gotten a better deal. But with the state and federal prosecutors tip-toeing around the violations so delicately, who could blame her? She did the smar tthing straight away three years ago, and filed a civil suit, just in case the prosecutors got cold feet. They did.

Her civil suit was the only vehicle left, and there would've been at least three, maybe up to seven more years of litigation.

Sometimes, you take what you can get.

A sad day for justice.

Anonymous said...

"I'm told by people who know, that the FBI did turn over some damning information to the local US Attorney. But those brilliant attorneys thought the case was daming, but way too difficult to prove in court."

Who do you think was in charge of the U.S. Attorney's office? Answer: Susan Brooks, a former Ice Miller attorney. Ice Miller made sure she was rewarded with the job as VP and General Counsel of Ivy Tech.

Anonymous said...

It may be added that Susan Brooks hubby was Schneider's campaign Manger. But heck that wouldn't make any difference would it Gary. See Gary, your on the wrong side again.

Anonymous said...

Lighten up. The IM tentacles are everywhere. But that doesn't make Gary wrong.

God Almight Dollar. That's what IM is all about. And nothing else.
It's their world, and we're just passing through.

The sooner we all realize this, the more relaxed we can be.

(Qualudes kicking in...ahhhhhhhh)

Stepford Wives unite!