Friday, August 31, 2007

Daniels Plans 67-Member Junket To Japan

Taxpayers will fund a junket for 67 people to travel to Japan and pretend to promote trade with the state of Indiana. The list of junketeers includes the usual suspects. Gov. Daniels will have more than ample staff to assist him. Nate Feltman of IEDC will make the trip with three other staffers from his agency, plus two hangers-on from the Governor's office, Jan Jankowski and Ben Ledo and two wannabes from the Department of Agriculture, Andy Miller and Beth Bechdol. Senate President Pro Tempore David Long (R) is along for the ride as is Sen. Sam Smith (D), the legislator who resigned and then withdrew his resignation after party leaders refused to install his wife as his replacement. Rep. Clyde Kersey (D) is hopping a ride with Rep. Jim Buck (R). There's a bunch of mayors on the list as well. Don't they know this is an election year? And since we know the law firm of Ice Miller (former law firm of Nate Feltman) is really who is in charge of the Daniels' administration, the firm's managing partner, Melissa Reese, is included on the trip to make sure her firm's clients receive their share of taxpayer-funded incentives (as if they aren't already). Here's the entire list of people who will travel on this latest junket in case you want to be informed:

Governor Mitch Daniels
Nate Feltman, Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC)
Chad Sweeney, IEDC
Steve Akard, IEDC
Kai Chuck, IEDC
Andy Miller, Indiana State Department of Agriculture
Beth Bechdol, Indiana State Department of Agriculture
State Senator Sam Smith
State Senator David Long
State Representative Clyde Kersey
State Representative Jim Buck
Jane Jankowski, Governor's Office
Ben Ledo, Governor's Office
Don Babcock, Northern Indiana Public Service Company
David Barrett, Gene B. Glick Co., Inc.
Mike Beard, Indiana Pork Producers Association
Brandt Burdick, National City Bank
Stephen Corwell, Indianapolis Power & Light
Michael Dellinger, The Indy Partnership
Bill Dory, Greencastle/Putnam County Development Center, Inc.
Kathryn Ertel, Jennings County Economic Development Corporation
Mike Fincher, mayor of Logansport
Scott Furgeson, mayor of Shelbyville
Harold Force, Force Construction Company, Inc.
Tamayo Fukumoto, Japan-America Society of Indiana
Gary Gentry, Knox County Development Corporation
Robert Grewe, Dubois Area Development Corporation
John Hall, mayor of North Vernon
Nubuo Hara, JP Morgan Chase Bank
Takayasu Hara, Fifth Third Bank
Yuichi Hasegawa, National City Bank
Michiharu Homma, Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak and Stewart, P.C.
Bruce Hosier, mayor of Portland and Energize ECI
Kyle Hupfer, ProLiance Energy
Larry Ingraham, Ingraham & Associates, Inc.
Hideyuki Kawashima, MJ Insurance
Vicki Kellerman, Economic Development Corporation of Greensburg/Decatur County
Christopher Kinnett, Perry County Development Corporation
Jeffrey Knight, Old National Bank
Mark Kosiarek, VAI Technology, Inc.
Theresa Kulczak, Japan-America Society of Indiana
John MacNab, MJ Insurance, Inc.
Dennis Maloy, Hancock Economic Development Council
Richard McConnell, Bose, McKinney & Evans, LLP
Mark Miller, Cornerstone Environmental, Health & Safety
Terry Mooney, mayor of Vincennes
Cheryl Morphew, Johnson County Development Corporation
Peter Morse, Barnes & Thornburg, LLP
Terry Murphy, Muncie-Delaware Economic Development Alliance
Mick Nakada, Force Construction Company, Inc.
Marie-Christine Pence, Duke Energy
Jeffrey Pittman, Ivy Tech Community College
Joseph Plankis, Economic Development of Westfield
Jim Plump, Jackson County Industrial Development Corporation
Melissa Reese, Ice Miller, LLP
John Sampson, Northeast Indiana Regional Marketing Partnership
Dennis Sargent, National FFA Foundation
Wayne Seybold, mayor of Marion
Gina Sheets, Clinton County Economic Development
Robert Sparks, Anderson/Madison County Corporation for Economic Development
Randall Stephens, Chase Commercial Banking
Don Stock, mayor of Frankfort
Toyohara Tamura, Fort Wayne-Allen County Economic Development Alliance
Danny Theobald, Shelby County Development Corporation
Kip Tom, Tom Farms, LLC
Greg Wathen, Economic Development Coalition of Southwest Indiana
Ayako Yamamoto-Girt, City of Anderson

Roob's FSSA Management Costs State $10 Million In Lost Funding

Indiana's Family and Social Services Agency failed to meet federal targets for moving welfare recipients into jobs and off public welfare rolls--the only state in the country to fail to meet the target. The state now faces a $10 million penalty in lost funding. The AP's Ken Kusmer writes:

Indiana was the only state that failed to meet its target rate for work participation for families receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. Those rates vary from state to state depending on the size of caseloads and success in reducing them.

Indiana's target rate was 27.1 percent, but it had only 26.7 percent of TANF families participating in work-related activities, which include job training. The 2006 performance compared with a target rate of 33.4 percent in federal fiscal year 2005 and an actual rate of 30.9 percent, according to tables posted on the Web site of the Office of Family Assistance in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

"Indiana's welfare-to-work problems didn't just appear in 2005," FSSA spokesman Marcus Barlow said.

However, tables posted on the Web site indicate that before 2005, Indiana met its target rates every year since at least 2002. Also, since 2005, Indiana has been the only state that has failed to meet the federally set targets for all TANF families participating in work activities.

How many mulligans will FSSA Secretary Mitch Roob be allowed by Gov. Daniels before he's asked to exit the course?

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Iowa Court Rules In Favor Of Same-Sex Marriages

An Iowa trial court ruled today that same-sex couples in that state were deprived of their right to due process and equal protection under the Iowa Constitution when the state refused to issue them marriage licenses. An Iowa state law specifically provided that "only a marriage between a female and a male is valid." The trial court found that the state law excluding same-sex couples from marriage stigmatized their relationships and families and made them more vulnerable in comparison to heterosexual couples. "Through the marriage exclusion the State devalues and delegitimizes at the very core of the adult Plaintiff's sexual orientation and expresses, compounds, and perpetuates the stigma historically attached to homosexuality, for them and all gay persons," the trial court judge ruled. "Plaintiffs are continually reminded of their own and their family's second-class status in daily interactions in their neighborhoods, workplaces, schools and other arenas in which their relationships and families are poorly or unequally treated, or are not recognized at all," the court said.

Under Iowa's Constitution, the trial court determined that marriage is a fundamental right, which requires a strict scrutiny analysis, unlike the less rigorous rational basis analysis applied under Indiana's Constitution. Strict scrutiny shifts the burden of proving the constitutionality of the law limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples to the state. The trial court judge noted that Iowa courts have been at the forefront in preserving civil rights of their citizens in areas such as race, gender and sexual orientation. The court analogized its ruling extending the fundamental right of marriage to same-sex couples to similar court decisions striking down laws prohibiting interracial marriages, noting there had not been a historical tradition of interracial marriages either before miscegenation laws were ruled unconstitutional. Arguments that limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples was necessary to promote procreation, stability in opposite-sex marriages and preserving traditional marriage were rejected by the court as a compelling state interest in the state's law. Accordingly, the state law failed on due process grounds.

Similarly, the court found the state's marriage law violated the equal protection rights of Iowa's same-sex couples. The language of Iowa's equal protection clause is nearly identical to Indiana's equal protection clause. It reads, "All laws of a general nature shall have a uniform operation; the General Assembly shall not grant to any citizen, or class of citizens, privileges or immunities, which, upon the same terms shall not equally belong to all citizens." Again, unlike Indiana, Iowa applies a more stringent standard in its equal protection cases. Specifically, it applies an intermediate scrutiny analysis, which too shifts the burden to the party seeking to uphold the constitutionality of the statute. The court found that the statute's classification of same-sex couples was not substantially related to an important state interest. Even if it applied a rational basis analysis, the court held that the statute would still fail to pass muster under Iowa's equal protection clause because it is not rationally related to a legitimate government interest.

Invariably, folks like Eric Miller and Micah Clark will jump on the Iowa decision as further evidence a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages is needed in Indiana. If you take a look at the Morrison v. Sadler decision, a Court of Appeals opinion upholding Indiana's Defense of Marriage Act, you will understand why these folks would be wrong to conclude this. Marriage is not a fundamental right according to the Morrison court. As noted above, Indiana neither applies the strict scrutiny analysis nor the intermediate scrutiny analysis as Iowa courts do when reviewing the constitutionality of a state statute on state due process or equal protection grounds. Instead, Indiana applies a rational basis analysis, which imposes a very heavy burden on a party to prove a state law is unconstitutional under either due process or equal protection grounds. If you look at the case law in this area, you will find only a handful of cases which have ever ruled in favor of a party seeking to overturn a state statute, which is quite striking considering the number of discriminatory laws our state legislature has enacted during its checkered history.

Burton And Carson Drive In Style At Your Expense

Taxpayers are footing the bill so members of Congress like Rep. Dan Burton (R) and U.S. Rep. Julia Carson (R) can drive around in style. A Cadillac DeVille for Burton costs $702 a month, while the Chrysler 300 Carson drives ranks as the most expensive car in Indiana's congressional fleet at $768 a month. Burton's primary opponent, Dr. John McGoff, held a press conference today to complain about Burton's wasteful spending. "I'm sure the average Hoosier taxpayer struggling to pay their own bills will be comforted to know that they are paying for Dan Burton to enjoy a luxurious Cadillac DeVille for over $700 a month," said John McGoff, an Indianapolis doctor. Burton's office also leases a Dodge Caravan for over $400 a month.

McGoff's campaign issue prompted a closer examination by the Star of this wasteful spending by our congressional delegation. According to the Star's Maureen Groppe, only U.S. Reps. Steve Buyer (R) and Brad Ellsworth (D) among Indiana's congressional delegation do not spend taxpayer funds on leased automobiles. The last I heard Carson was no longer driving due to her declining health. I wonder who gets the privilege of driving around in that expensive Chrysler 300 at taxpayers' expense? Yet another effective hit by McGoff in his uphill battle to unseat Burton.

Clark Stumps For Indicted Kelty; Ignores Ballard

In a move likely to draw more attention to his lack of support for the campaign of Indianapolis GOP mayoral candidate Greg Ballard, state GOP chairman Murray Clark visited Fort Wayne to drum up support for indicted mayoral candidate Matt Kelty. "The State’s GOP Chairman acknowledges the nine-indictments Kelty faces do not help his quest to be mayor," reports Indiana Newscenter. "But the Chairman contends Kelty’s a fierce campaigner, and the party anticipates a win in November." He tells local reporters Kelty's recent 9-county indictment is a mere "bump in the road."
Meanwhile, local Indianapolis Republicans complain that Clark and the state party aren't lifting a finger to help Greg Ballard's candidacy against Mayor Bart Peterson. Most observers agree that both the Fort Wayne and Evansville mayoral races are lost causes for the GOP this year. Polls show the race in Indianapolis, the state's largest city, is winnable for Ballard. So why won't Clark help Ballard? Is it because his law firm has a vested interest in Peterson's re-election. Or is it because Clark wants the seat to remain in Democratic hands until he's ready to make the run himself? Take your pick. Critics are offering both explanations.

All Indiana Sheriffs Pocket Percentage Of Tax Warrant Collections

In the ongoing debate between the St. Joseph Co. Sheriff and the county commissioners there, a follow up report in today's South Bend Tribune by James Wensits indicates that every sheriff in the state of Indiana is pocketing 10% of the state tax warrants he collects. Wensits writes:

It was at that Monday session that Canarecci revealed that he has been profiting from the tax collections since the beginning of the year through an arrangement with the state that gives him a 10 percent cut upon collection of unpaid state taxes.

The arrangement is not only legal but is in use in every county in the state, according to Stephanie McFarland, director of public relations for the Indiana Department of Revenue.

That comes as a surprise to me. I thought many counties had done away with this practice. For the St. Joseph County Commissioners part, they plan to get even with Sheriff Frank Canarecci by cutting the county police budget by an amount equal to what he pockets from state tax warrant collections and let him explain the cut to his officers. "He will have to explain to his employees how he is endangering his officers by underfunding his budget," [County Commission President Steve] Ross said. It looks like this is a practice which needs to be ended statewide. I've never understood why the taxpayers of Indiana are expected to pay their sheriffs more than any other sheriffs in the country while many other public employees, particularly prosecutors and public defenders, are often grossly underpaid.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Nuvo Continues Coverage Of Dexter Lewis Case

The brutal hate crime beating of Dexter Lewis, an African-American male, at the hands of three white men associated with the Vinlanders, a local skinhead organization, continues to warrant coverage by Indianapolis' alternative weekly newspaper, Nuvo, but not the Indianapolis Star. Nuvo's Wayne Bertsch provides this update on the case:

The wheels of justice inched forward last week when members of the Vinlander Social Club appeared in Marion County court.

The defendants, Eric Fairburn, Josh Kern and Timothy Dumas, appeared at a pre-trial hearing before Judge Tanya Walton-Pratt. The three are charged with assaulting Dexter Lewis, a black male, in downtown Indianapolis on March 26, 2007. (NUVO “Hate Crimes in Indiana,” June 20, 2007;

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Vinlanders are “a skinhead warrior clan devoted to drinking and fighting.” Co-founded by Fairburn in 2004, the group maintains an Indianapolis “clubhouse” on the 2500 block of English Avenue, the primary residence of Fairburn and Dumas according to court documents.

Despite record-high temperatures, Kern and Dumas, both out on bond, appeared in court wearing long-sleeved shirts that hid the racist tattoos that cover their arms. Fairburn, who remains in police custody, was unable to obscure his numerous tattoos in his prison-issue orange jumpsuit.

Dumas has a tattoo of the symbol of Hitler’s Waffen SS while Kern and Fairburn each have the number “28” tattooed on top of their heads. The 28 stands for the second and eighth letters of the alphabet, short for “Blood & Honour,” the European racist organization with whom the Vinlanders align themselves. Fairburn also has a large tattoo of the word “MURDER” across his throat.

Mark Inman, the public defender representing Fairburn, requested and was granted a continuance to allow time to depose witnesses to the assault, who allege that they were threatened with death if they called the police. Depositions will be taken Sept. 21. A jury trial is scheduled for Oct. 15.

I just don't get the Star's editors. They seemed determined to slant the paper's news coverage to avoid boosting the case for the passage of hate crimes legislation in Indiana, a proposition its editors oppose, even if it means ignoring a victim like Dexter Lewis. Hats off to Nuvo for keeping the spotlight on cases like that of Dexter Lewis and Aaron Hall.

Brooks Departure Offers Glimmer Of Hope

Fighting public corruption has been one of the lowest priorities for U.S. Attorney Susan Brooks, who today announced she is leaving her post to become the chief legal counsel for Ivy Tech Community College. Given the low esteem that institution is held by most educated Hoosiers as an institution of higher education and the cesspool of political cronyism it has become, some observers might find Brooks' new place of employment quite fitting. Looking beyond Brooks' lackluster performance in the local U.S. Attorney's office, her departure provides an important opportunity to refocus the Indianapolis office under new leadership.

In recent history, both political parties have turned to political insiders for this key law enforcement position. Whether Republican or Democratic, the U.S. Attorneys in the Indianapolis office have turned in a lousy performance when it comes to prosecuting public corruption cases. As a consequence, unchecked public corruption has run rampant in the Southern Indiana district in comparison to the Northern Indiana district, where there has been a plethora of high profile public prosecutions under the leadership of nonpartisan, professional prosecutors.

As Indiana's senior senator, Richard Lugar (R) will have an opportunity to recommend a replacement for Brooks to President Bush. Instead of turning to political bosses for advice on who to nominate for this important post, he would be well-advised to follow in the footsteps of a former Republican colleague from Illinois, who turned down the choices of local political bosses and turned to an out-of-state seasoned professional prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, who had absolutely no ties to Chicago politics. His performance has been nothing short of dazzling. He has prosecuted scores of high-ranking politicians and their cronies, including former Illinois Republican Gov. George Ryan, and still found time to successfully prosecute Scooter Libby in his role as a special prosecutor in the high profile Valerie Plame case.

Sen. Lugar, if you care about the future of the city you once proudly and honorably served as mayor, please help rescue us from the grasps of the widespread public corruption which has a stranglehold on our city. There is nothing you could do to help your beloved city more than to find a hard-charging, seasoned prosecutor to clean up our city. Please don't let us down again by recommending another political hack for this critical law enforcement job.

Counting Abduallah's Votes

Since Advance Indiana disclosed that Patrice Abduallah didn't live in his 15th City-County District he's been representing for the past 4 years, and for the same office which he unlawfully filed as a candidate for re-election this year, there has been discussion about whether votes he cast this past year on the City-County Council, including the controversial $90 million, 65% increase in the county option income tax, are void, thereby invalidating any ordinance approved by a single vote with his support. Abduallah, of course, was forced to resign his seat and a special caucus of the Democratic committeepersons in District 15 met last night to select his replacement. You have no doubt heard by now that Andre Carson, Congresswoman Julia Carson's grandson, was chosen to take his place. You probably haven't heard what I'm about to tell you, which will only cause you further outrage.

A well-placed source informed Advance Indiana today that Abduallah was not only present at last night's caucus meeting, he cast a vote as a Democratic precinct committeeperson supposedly residing at the Sheffield Avenue address he claims as his registered voting address. We now know that he hasn't lived at that address since at least last January because he told us he's been living at a home owned by his mother on Warman Avenue outside District 15. Doesn't it seem a little odd that the man who precipitated last night's caucus because he abandoned his residency in the district would be allowed to cast a vote to select his own replacement?

This source also tells Advance Indiana that last night's vote only secured Carson's appointment to replace Abduallah on the ballot through the end of his term. Yet another caucus meeting will need to be held, according to this source, if Democrats are going to attempt to place Carson's name on the November ballot. Some election law experts believe the deadline for Democrats to place another person's name on the ballot has passed under law because Abduallah never legally qualified to have his name placed on the ballot. By his own admission he had already vacated his residency in the district when he filed his statement of candidacy with the Clerk's office.

Ghost Employment Issue Raised In St. Joseph Co. Sheriff Pay Dispute

Sheriff Frank Canarecci (D) earns as much or more from the 10% fee he pockets for collecting unpaid tax warrants as he does from his annual $110,000 statutory salary as St. Joseph Co. Sheriff. Deputy sheriffs paid by the taxpayers, however, actually perform the collections work for him. That has raised the question of whether the use of deputy sheriffs to perform collections work solely for the benefit of the sheriff constitutes ghost employment. County Commission President Steve Ross is demanding tax records from Canarecci. The South Bend Tribune' James Wensits reports:

The commissioner said he wants copies of the sheriff's income tax forms regarding the collections, as well as income tax forms for the contract employees.

Ross also said that if the collectors are county employees who made the collections on county time, they may have violated ghost employment laws.

Both Ross and Dobson contended that the sheriff never presented a contract to the commissioners.

However, Canarecci said he has sought repeatedly to get a contract with the commissioners and even had one effort returned unsigned. Canarecci said he can't return any of the fees he has collected because he's already had to pay federal income taxes.

He promised to provide the documentation sought by the commissioners.

The sheriff said two county deputies are making the collections but added that he doesn't know if they do so on county time.

If they do, Canarecci said, dismissing any possibility of ghost employment,
it is permissible because it is a function of their jobs as county police officers.

"This is not double dipping. It's a function of their jobs," he said. Canarecci also revealed that the county police civil division also participates in the tax collections and that he receives a bonus from those efforts as well.

Although Canarecci has contended that the fees he has collected since the first of the year range from $2,000 to $6,000 a month, Dobson said he has learned that for at least one month the sheriff received $8,000.

Help me out here, but I thought the township constables were required to pay persons who serve court papers out of their own pockets because the collection fee for serving the court papers belonged to the constable. Why should it be any different for the sheriff?

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Carson Takes Abduallah Seat

One-third of the eligible precinct committeepersons skipped an important caucus meeting tonight to select the replacement for the 15th District City-County Council seat vacated by Patrice Abduallah after it was publicly disclosed by Advance Indiana that he did not live in his district. Andre Carson, grandson of U.S. Rep. Julia Carson captured 14 of the 20 votes cast at tonight's meeting. JoAnn Williams, a Wayne Township Trustee's employee, received 4 votes while Mary Ann Sullivan picked up just two votes. According to the Star, 32 persons were eligible to cast votes at tonight's caucus meeting.

According to a Star report, Carson's name will appear on the November ballot. It is my understanding the deadline has passed to replace Abduallah's name on the ballot. There is a strong legal argument the Democrats should not be able to have any candidate on this November's ballot since Abduallah admits he abandoned his residency in the district as early as this past January. Republicans did not field a candidate in the May primary and are barred by law from placing someone on the ballot now. So why should the Democrats be allowed to place a candidate on the ballot at this late date when their original candidate was never qualified to go on the ballot from the very beginning? Those same deadlines which prevent Republicans from naming a candidate for the November ballot should apply equally to the Democrats. Once again, we are seeing our election laws twisted to suit the political whims of those in charge.

This is wrong, and its legality should be challenged. But let me take a stab in the dark and guess it won't be. If no candidate were eligible for the November ballot, it would fall to the newly-elected council to select a person to fill the vacant seat for the next four years. I'd roll the dice on the hope of that choice being better than what the Democrats served us up tonight--yet another career government employee deciding how our taxpayer dollars are spent. Beth White and the clowns she has running our elections already screwed the voters of the 15th District once this year. Looks like she and her gang are going to screw those same voters yet again.

St. Joseph County Sheriff Earning $200K Plus A Year

St. Joseph Co. Sheriff Frank Canarecci's annual salary is $110,000, but he's also pocketing a percentage of state tax payments he collects, which could be boosting his annual pay $85,000 to $120,000 per year. This news apparently came as a surprise to county officials, who are supposed to know what's going on. The county, by law, can limit the sheriff's pay to his statutory salary, but the county hasn't had a contract with Canarecci since he's been in office according to the South Bend Tribune. "I've never been so angry," said [County Commissioner Mark] Dobson, adding that he will ask the county attorney to investigate the situation."Statutorily it may be correct," Dobson said, "but that doesn't make it right." "The commissioner called the situation 'morally reprehensible' and complained that Canarecci is 'pocketing a revenue source' at the same time that county officials are struggling to provide raises for jail guards," the Tribune reported. The president of the County Commissioners, Steve Ross, said he didn't even know the county didn't have a contract with the sheriff. "Now we're going to be asking questions," Ross promised. Shouldn't he have been asking those kinds of questions as soon as he took office?

Monday, August 27, 2007

Senator Craig Pleads Guilty To Airport Bathroom Solicitation Incident

There have been rumors as long as he's served in Congress that Sen. Larry Craig (R-ID) is a closeted gay man, and those rumors are only going to grow in the wake of his guilty plea in connection with an undercover police sting in a bathroom at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. The NY Times reports on this latest case of GOP hypocrisy:

Senator Larry E. Craig, Republican of Idaho, pleaded guilty to a disorderly conduct charge earlier this month after his arrest in June by an undercover police officer in a men’s bathroom at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

A second charge of interference with privacy against the 62-year-old senator was dismissed. Mr. Craig was fined more than $500 at the Aug. 8 proceedings and was placed on unsupervised probation for one year. His 10-day jail sentence was suspended, according to a copy of a court document in the case.

According to a police report obtained by Roll Call, the Capitol Hill newspaper that disclosed the episode and guilty plea today, a plainclothes police officer investigating complaints of sexual activity in the bathroom arrested the senator on June 11 after hat the officer described as sexual advances made by Mr. Craig from an adjoining tall.

Roll Call reported that the officer said Mr. Craig tapped his foot as a signal to engage in lewd conduct, brushed his foot against the investigator’s and waved his hand under the stall divider several times before the officer showed him his badge. After his arrest, the senator denied any sexual intent and in a statement issued this afternoon he attributed the matter to a misunderstanding.

“At the time of this incident, I complained to the police that they were misconstruing my actions,” Mr. Craig said in a statement. “I was not involved in any inappropriate conduct. “I should have had the advice of counsel in resolving this matter. In hindsight, I should not have pled guilty. I was trying to handle this matter myself quickly and expeditiously.”

Mr. Craig, whose seat is up for election next year, is the second Republican senator in recent weeks to find his personal behavior under scrutiny. Senator David Vitter of Louisiana was implicated in a separate case in the Washington area when his phone number turned up in the records of an escort service. He made a public apology for what he described as “a very serious sin in my past,” but he has not been charged with any crime.

In the Senate, Mr. Craig, who is married and has three children, is known for his advocacy for the rights of gun owners and has a close association with the National
Rifle Association
. When Republicans controlled the Senate in the last Congress, Mr. Craig was chairman of the Veterans Affairs Committee. He is a former member of the party’s Senate leadership. He represented Idaho in the House before first winning election to an open Senate seat in 1990 and he was easily re-elected in 1996 and 2002.

In 2006, Mr. Craig publicly rejected allegations by a gay rights advocate that he had engaged in a homosexual behavior, calling them “completely ridiculous.”
He's a U.S. Senator, married and has three children and he's looking for sex in airport bathrooms? Ironically, Craig publicly denied allegations of having sex with male pages and using cocaine during an earlier congressional scandal back in the early 1980s, which resulted in two congressmen being censured for having sex with House pages, including my own congressman in Illinois at that time, U.S. Rep. Dan Crane (R). Mike Rogers at has previously reported that he has spoken to men in the D.C. area who have engaged in sex with Craig in public bathrooms, including Union Station. Craig, of course, votes against gays down the line on issues which come before Congress.

Council Democrats Block Investigation Of Gray

Democratic members of the City-County Council succeeded in blocking a legislative proposal to investigate City-County Council President Monroe Gray's financial ties to a concrete company he owns but originally failed to disclose on his statement of economic interest. The Rules & Public Policy Committee sent Proposal 182 to the full council with a 4-2 recommendation to strike the proposal. Councilor Rozelle Boyd, chairman of the Rules & Public Policy Committee, argued that Gray's subsequent amendment to his statement of economic interest, as instructed by the Ethics Board, cleared the matter. Council Minority Leader Phil Borst disagreed with the Committee's finding, arguing that the Ethics Board had failed to look into allegations Gray had received compensation for work performed for United Water as a subcontractor on a city-financed project. Borst contended the Ethics Board only looked into the issue of gifts Gray may have received. He also found claims by Gray that he had not performed work for United Water as reported in the Star dubious.

When the full council voted, absent the recently-resigned Democratic Councilor Patrice Abduallah (D), on a motion to strike the investigation of Gray, an indecisive 13-13 vote was reached. Gray abstained from voting on the matter. Councilor Borst then offered a motion to pass Proposal 182 as introduced, which the Council's legal counsel, Aaron Haith, declared out of order. Borst objected to Haith rendering a ruling on the matter since he was also serving as Gray's personal attorney, arguing Haith had a clear conflict of interest on the matter. Councilor Joanne Sanders, who presided for purposes of the motion, allowed Borst's motion to go forward. It, too, ended in an indecisive 13-13 vote. As it now stands, Proposal 182 is in limbo until either side can muster the votes to either approve or defeat the proposed investigation of Gray.

ATC: Carson Can Serve On City-County Council

Current regulations for the state's excise police officers allow them to engage in political activities according to a spokesperson for the state's Alcohol and Tobacco Commission, Jennifer Williams. She says the Secretary of State's office sets those guidelines for employees at the ATC and, according to those guidelines, Andre Carson can run for election to and serve on the Indianapolis City-County Council.

Williams confirmed that Carson is currently assigned to the Indiana Intelligence Fusion Center within the state's Department of Homeland Security, where he says he is working counter-terrorism. Employees whose salaries are paid in whole or part by federal funds are prohibited from engaging in any political activities under the federal Hatch Act. A July 19, 2007 press release from the state's Department of Homeland Security indicated the agency had been awarded $41.7 million in federal homeland security grants. Carson's salary, however, continues to be paid fully by funds from the budget of the Alcohol & Tobacco Commission according to Williams.

Interestingly, a state law prohibits local alcohol board members from holding any other lucrative office. State excise police, who are responsible for enforcing our state's alcoholic beverage laws, frequently appear and testify at local alcohol board hearings. Indeed, Carson has testified before, and participated in, meetings of the Marion Co. Alcoholic Beverage Board on previous occasions, which is chaired by local attorney Belle Choate, whose husband serves as chief of staff to Carson's grandmother, U.S. Rep. Julia Carson (D). Choate also shares a law office with the City-County Council's legal counsel, Aaron Haith.

Think about it. If you are a bar owner and you are solicited to contribute to Carson's campaign, would you not be more inclined to contribute to his campaign knowing he works as an excise police officer? Looks to me like we need to change our current law if this is permissible.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Mayoral Candidates Enter Bishop Benjamin's House Of Worship

Tonight, both Mayor Bart Peterson (D) and Republican Greg Ballard spoke at a property tax forum at the Light of the World Church presided over by Bishop Thomas Garrot Benjamin. You may recall he was one of several local ministers demanding that Mayor Peterson provide money to churches for faith-based initiatives to combat the city's spiraling crime. Some supporters of both Peterson and Ballard may be asking what the two candidates feel about Benjamin's views on homosexuality. As Advance Indiana previously reported on one of his sermons entitled the "High Cost of Low Loving, Benjamin is quoted as saying:

The most dastardly thing about homosexuality is silly silly homosexuals going around trying to convince people that what they're doing is normal. That’s the sin; the abomination. Instead of saying I have a serious problem and I am struggling with it and I know that it is wrong . . . Homosexuality is a spirit of the underworld and you who collaborate with that spirit collaborate with the devil himself. But be careful on who you think is a homosexual and who is not. Everybody that is effeminate is not a homosexual, they just didn’t have the kind of parenting where a father said ‘son take that switch out yo' walk boy, son we don't walk like that, or bend like that either.’ The first time a father sees his son do his wrist like this he needs to take his hand and say Your wrist goes like this. Men don’t talk up here (high). It’s a choice, you can change, you can choose, you can choose. Every effeminate person is not gay and every weight lifter is not straight. He might be the biggest girl in the city.” Uproarious laughter breaks out in the congregation.
Now, if Greg Ballard alone had attended tonight's event, you can bet there would be plenty of Democrats complaining about his appearance at an event sponsored by Benjamin and interpreting it as an endorsement of Benjamin's homobigoted views. What do you want to bet you won't hear any of those same Democrats complaining about Peterson's appearance at Benjamin's church tonight?

UPDATE: The Star's Brendan O'Shaughnessy has a story on the forum today, but it sheds little light on the views of the two mayoral candidates. He writes of the two:

Mayor Bart Peterson echoed the themes of his recent budget and income tax speeches -- that local spending was only part of the reason taxes increased. He said the state legislature should be meeting to fix the tax problem right now, or at least to turn a proposed rebate program into a credit on November bills.

His opponent in November's election, Greg Ballard, also gave his stump speech about why he should replace Peterson and make government more accountable. Ballard also said some people were scared of losing their homes, while others were moving out.

"The current property tax system is beyond repair," he said. "It must go."

I understand the most important information from the two came during the Q&A. If anyone was in attendance and can share what the candidates said in response to specific questions, please share it.

Daniels Uses Loophole To Shield Reform Commission From Public View

Last Thursday, Advance Indiana commented on a Niki Kelly story in the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette in which she reported the real decisions of the Governor's Commission on Local Government Reform would be made behind closed doors and asked if that didn't violate Indiana's Open Door Law. In a shameless attempt to sidestep Indiana's Open Door Law, Gov. Mitch Daniels has apparently set up the Commission as an advisory group without issuing an executive order. By this simple step, the Governor permitted the group to conduct its work behind closed doors without public input. The Louisville Courier Journal's Lesley Stedman Weidbener writes:

The open-door law requires those agencies, commissions and boards to provide notice about their meetings, post any agenda and keep minutes of the proceedings. The public must be allowed to attend any meeting during which those groups receive information, deliberate, make recommendations, establish policy, make decisions or take final action.

But in this case, the governor's Commission on Local Government Reform is actually an advisory group, meaning it was created not to take any official action but to make recommendations to others for action.

Advisory commissions also can be required to meet in public -- but the law says that's only if they are "created by statute, ordinance, or executive order to advise the governing body of a public agency."

In this case, Daniels didn't use an executive order to create his commission, so it's not subject to the law . . .

Daniels said last week that he didn't instruct the group to deliberate in private and it's not clear whether he intentionally chose not to create it by executive order to avoid the open-meetings law.

Instead, Daniels said he's confident there will be plenty of public input on the issue.

"I trust Chief Justice Shepard and Gov. Kernan, the co-chairs, both of whom are extremely sensitive to the need for transparency and openness, to find the right balance here," Daniels said last week. "As in any such context, there will be the need for at least some private deliberations."

This is nothing short of outrageous. What these folks want to hide is the deliberations which lead them to make certain recommendations. They don't want the public to hear who and what influences them to make ultimate recommendations. If the taxpayers are funding the work of this Commission, then every bit of its work should be conducted in the open. Looks like Hillary's health care reform commission all over again.

Carson To Run Again

The Star's "Behind Closed Doors" is reporting this morning that U.S. Rep. Julia Carson (D) has made it official. She will seek a seventh term in Congress next year despite increasing signs that her declining health is making it virtually impossible to perform the grueling job of being a member of Congress. The item reads:

Politicos, especially her detractors, have speculated that she would step down after this term because of health problems that have forced her to consistently miss votes for a number of years. She has also let her fund- raising slip the past two quarters.

This past week, however, the Democrat made it clear she plans to be on the ballot next year. She did so after her grandson, Andre Carson, declared himself a candidate for a recently vacated seat on the City-County Council.

The congresswoman's critics immediately theorized that she was grooming her grandson to take over her seat when she steps down. He was featured in one of her campaign commercials last year and has spoken in her place at some events.

Carson said she would be active in his campaign because, "I like this kind of stuff, and I like to go out and talk to people about it."

Asked if she hopes to bequeath her seat to Andre eventually, she deferred.

"I haven't got that far up the road yet," she said.

It is now clear Carson intends to hold the seat until she dies. This self-serving attitude will leave voters of the 7th District essentially unrepresented in Congress until she is gone. Local Democrats are too aware of her declining health and the problems they pose for her to ignore this problem. As for any attempt to anoint Andre Carson as her successor, you can count on organized opposition to that effort within the party. There is continued speculation her 2006 GOP opponent, Eric Dickerson, would like to take another crack at her. Other Republicans have suggested Rep. Jon Elrod might run for the seat. Republicans are preparing for the real possibility of a special election brought on by Carson's death as opposed to her retiring at the end of her term.

On that Democratic caucus to fill the vacancy created by the resignation of 15th District Councilor Patrice Abduallah because he didn't live in the district, the outcome on Tuesday night will only determine who holds the seat through the end of Abduallah's term. That's because it's too late for Democrats to put his successor's name on the ballot. Because Republicans nominated no one to run for the seat, only Adbuallah's name will appear on the ballot. Democrats will have to caucus again after the November election to appoint someone to hold the seat for the four-year term. In other words, if Andre Carson is chosen to take the seat at Tuesday night's caucus, he won't be able to win the seat in November in his own right. Some legal experts theorize that Republicans could legally challenge Abduallah's name from appearing on the ballot because his absence from the district dated back to at least January of this year. A successful challenge on that issue would leave it to the newly-elected council to choose a replacement for Abduallah's seat. If Republicans won control of the council, they would get to choose Abduallah's successor. I'm told this legal challenge is unlikely to happen, but it would make things much more interesting.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Storm Clouds Gather Over Indy

The dark storm clouds over downtown Indianapolis last night proved to be an ominous sign of a violent weekend. A 24-year-old man was shot to death last night on the front porch of his house on the near northside. Police say robbery was the motive. A 28-year-old was shot to death after he and a companion in his car stopped at a gas station on West 16th Street last night when two assailants carjacked their car. The companion in the car was pistol-whipped but managed to survive. And police were forced to shoot and kill a 22-year-old man on the city's near southside who was wielding a machete when officers entered the home in response to a domestic dispute and discovered one injured male down. Rest assured, though. The Mayor says we're winning the war on crime.

More Vote Fraud Convictions In East Chicago

The Lake County Joint Voter Fraud Task Force has obtained 2 more convictions from voting irregularities which occurred in the 2003 primary election in East Chicago, bringing to 32 the total number of convictions obtained to date. The Northwest Indiana Times writes:

Two more guilty pleas in the 2003 East Chicago primary election bring to 32 the number of voting fraud convictions since the maligned polling took place, prosecutors announced today.

Ashley Dunlap, of East Chicago, has pleaded guilty to one count of aiding the fraudulent application of a ballot, a Class D felony. He is scheduled to be sentenced Sept. 27. In March 2006, Dunlap was charged by the Lake County Joint Voter Fraud Task Force -- a cooperative effort between Indiana Attorney General Steve Carter and Lake County Prosecutor Bernard Carter.

Raymond Carillo, of Hammond, has pleaded guilty to one count of voting in a precinct in which he did not reside, a Class D felony. He is scheduled to be sentenced October 3, the attorney general reported. Carillo was a health inspector with the City of East Chicago when he was charged in August 2006.

And who said vote fraud doesn't happen in Indiana? All the more reason we need a voter ID law in Indiana.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Special Prosecutor Appointed To Investigate Murphy Sexual Assault Case

Indianapolis criminal defense lawyer James Voyles succeeded in obaining the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate allegations his client, Glenn Murphy, Jr., sexually assaulted a 22-year-old man while he slept late last month. The Jeffersonville Evening News & Tribune is reporting that John Colin, chief deputy prosecutor for Harrison County, will serve as the special prosecutor in place of the Clark Co. prosecutor's office. An online article in the Evening News & Tribune indicates that Collin investigated a Utica councilman last year for allegedly offering to fix drug charges against a woman in exchange for sex. In that case, Colin ruled there was no evidence the councilman had committed a crime.

Murphy had been represented in the criminal case by local Clark Co. attorney Larry Wilder. Wilder told the Evening News & Tribune he asked Voyles to handle the case. “I have asked Jim to represent Glenn at this juncture in this matter,” Wilder said. Voyles said the appointment of a prosecutor was necessary to avoid an outcome driven by political motivations. The Clark Co. prosecutor, Steve Stewart, is a Democrat. "The motion sites not only Murphy’s political involvement — which includes seven years as the county’s Republican Party chairman — but references the fact that his father, Glenn Murphy Sr., has served and is currently a candidate for Utica Town Council and that the elder Murphy owns a screen-printing company that has done campaign work for countless Democratic and Republican politicians," reports the Evening News & Tribune.

Murphy served as the Clark Co. GOP Chairman and president of the Young Republican National Federation prior to being accused by a 22-year-old man of performing oral sex on him while he slept after sleeping over at the victim's sister's home after a YR party at which both men consumed alcohol. Murphy resigned both party positions after the allegations became public. Murphy concedes he had sex with the man, but he insists it was consensual. Murphy has in the past served as a consultant to conservative GOP candidates, such as former U.S. Rep. Mike Sodrel (R), who use anti-gay themes to drum up support from the religious right.

Ballard Wants Three Televised Debates With Peterson

GOP mayoral candidate Greg Ballard sent letters to three local television stations asking for three televised debates between him and Mayor Bart Peterson. "There has been a large outcry from the public and the media in recent weeks to hear my opponent and I talk about the issues face to face," said Ballard. "I embrace any opportunity to discuss the problems facing our city and to compare our plans for Indianapolis' future."

According to a press statement released by the Ballard campaign, he earlier this week agreed in principle to a debate moderated by WISH-TV's Jim Shella, but Ballard wants two more debates which include both moderators and a town hall format, respectively. Shella prematurely jumped the gun and dissed Ballard for the second time on his blog this week. Shella disengenuously wrote this morning:

We at WISH-TV enjoy staging candidate debates and, with that, you normally get difficult negotiations.

This year we encountered something drastically different from any previous year. It's a challenger who didn't leap at the opportunity.

Unlike most challengers, Greg Ballard did not request a debate. We offered one. Mayor Bart Peterson agreed and even issued a press release to that effect.

We await word that Ballard will take part.

Later today, Shella updated his blog. "Campaign representatives for Greg Ballard responded to the last posting in this blog by calling and saying they are "definitely in" for televised debate with Bart Peterson," Shella wrote. Personally, I think it is a mistake for Ballard to agree to a debate moderated by Shella alone. He has clearly demonstrated his bias towards Mayor Peterson on repeated occasions in the past. At times, he seems to be nothing more than a mouthpiece for the Democratic Party. It is highly doubtful Ballard will get a fair shake from Shella in this forum. Oddly, in this strange election year where Peterson's negatives are so high, it is the incumbent who has everything to gain and the challenger who has everything to lose in one of these events, which are really not debates at all. It is too easy for a biased moderator to stage the event so as to make the challenger look unprepared for the task of being mayor by tripping him up on irrelevant nuances. I've always preferred the Lincoln-Douglas style debate, to which candidates almost never agree these days.

It appears to me this whole turn of events today was staged by Peterson's campaign in full cooperation with Shella to trap Ballard into agreeing to this one pro-Peterson-staged event. Shella posts the negative blog item, sends Ballard's campaign into a panic and they quickly agree to a debate on Peterson's terms. Mayor Peterson won't agree to the two additional debates, and Ballard will be labeled the bad guy if he tries to pull out of Shella-run event because Peterson won't agree to more debates. That's how these things play out. Providing an informative discussion for the benefit of the voters is the least of the political players concern.

Kelty Campaign Destroying Allen Co. GOP

The president of the Allen Co. GOP's executive committee and influential fundraiser, Ken Neumeister, resigned his position over the party's continued support of indicted GOP mayoral candidate Matt Kelty. That led Allen Co. GOP chairman Steve Shine to dissolve his party's executive committee according to the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette's Benjamin Lanka. "The best thing for Fort Wayne right now is to support Tom Henry,” said Cindy Hawks, the party's former vice-chairwoman.

Matt Did It Again

For some reason, Star political columnist puts in yeoman efforts to destroy aspiring political leaders in this town while playing pussy foot with the corrupt crowd that's responsible for the mess we find ourselves in here in Indianapolis. Remember how he took after GOP congressional candidate Eric Dickerson, while giving the ineffective and chronically-absent Rep. Julia Carson (D) a free pass until after the election? Well, today he declares the candidacy of Greg Ballard a joke because he won't release a list of his campaign contributors before the state's campaign finance law requires him to release that information in October. And he picks up on the lame spinning being done by local Democrats that Ballard has somehow been missing in action for the past two weeks. Give me a break.

There is one particular item I'm particularly bothered that Tully included in his column today. "Truth is, Ballard doesn't want to talk about fundraising because he's having a hard time raising money," Tully writes. Truth is, Matt Tully doesn't know whether he's raising a lot of money and that's why he's all worked up. He's been badgering Ballard and GOP officials for this information for weeks, and they won't turn it over to him. So as a punishment, he declares Ballard's campaign a joke. Nice reporting, Matt.

Meanwhile, Tully isn't asking any questions about why Mayor Peterson's administration stop posting the statement of economic interest for public officials online a few years back. He's not asking tough questions about the games Mayor Peterson's administration is playing with city budget figures. He's not asking questions about what's happening at the Indianapolis Airport Authority. He's not asking questions about obvious ties between contributions to the mayor's re-election and the awarding of city business. And the list goes on. Matt might want to stick to writing about smoking bans. I think he does a better job with those columns.

More On The City That Doesn't Work

Bus drivers for IndyGo decided not to show up for work today, stranding those dependent on the bus service to get to work during the early morning rush hour. Apparently the bus drivers objected to a new requirement they wear name tags. The Star is reporting the dispute got resolved about 3 hours after the start of the normal work day for IndyGo bus drivers. I think the name tags are a swell idea. After all, who runs more red lights and refuses to yield the right of way to pedestrians crossing the street with the green light than the IndyGo bus drivers? I'd like to know some of their names too. Looks like the drivers don't want to aid customers in complaining about their driving habits or just plain bad manners.

Gil Holmes, the man in charge of IndyGo, is no stranger to this kind of dispute. When he served as Commissioner of the BMV under Gov. Frank O'Bannon, BMV workers called in sick one day, shutting down BMV operations all over the state. I still recall being over at the State House that day and talking to a lobbyist who had just come from the Governor's office and who witnessed O'Bannon Chief of Staff Joe Hogsett yelling and screaming at Holmes for failing to warn the Governor's office of the impending worker dispute. Holmes left the administration soon after that. I couldn't help but wonder whether a similar meeting is taking place in the Mayor's office between Holmes and John Dillon right about now.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Ballard Wisely Pushes Ethics Reform

GOP mayoral candidate Greg Ballard outlined an ethics reform proposal he would implement if he's elected Indianapolis mayor. "Taxpayers are being asked to pay for hundreds of millions of dollars in government spending ranging from huge construction projects to outside personal contracts. But there are virtually no rules governing the conduct of business or local government in such dealings," said Ballard. Some of the ideas Ballard is pushing include:

  • Require persons who lobby city government to register with the city and report any lobbying expenses they make, including any entertainment or item of value they provide to elected officials and public employees.
  • Bar lobbyists or other persons with a financial interest from serving on any commission or board that directly affects or deals with their lobbying or financial interests.
  • Establishing a code of conduct for city employees which bars them from soliciting contributions from individuals and firms which do business with the city.
  • Require statement of economic interests filed by public officials to be made publicly available online.
  • Require campaign finance reports be made publicly available online.

All of these proposals are good ideas which should be implemented regardless of who is elected mayor this year. The reaction of Councilor Patrice Abduallah to Star reporter Brendan O'Shaughnessy's recent question about who paid for his trip to the Super Bowl, "It's none of your business," highlights the need for this kind of disclosure. "Like most citizens, I was not shocked to learn Patrice Abduallah had accepted tickets to the Super Bowl," Ballard said. "What I did find surprising and offensive was his refusal to reveal who paid for the trip. This must change," Ballard stated. "It's time to restore ethics and public accountability to our local government. The internet gives the average citizen a chance to be a full participant in the government for which they pay; unfortunately, too few of our local government leaders are committed to using this tool to account for their behavior," said Ballard.

While I was in Florida this past week, I read an article in the Miami Herald about the police chief there accepting the free use of a Lexus automobile from an area automobile dealer. The police chief had not disclosed the gift until a local TV station reporter dug it up. The police chief wound up apologizing to the public and agreeing to purchase the automobile.

Note to Jim Shella: I've been getting press releases from the Ballard campaign at least two times a week for the past couple of months. There have been numerous press opportunities with the candidate in recent weeks. And he's been out at various public events and going door-to-door campaigning. Perhaps the appropriate question people should be asking is "Where is Jim Shella?"

UPDATE: Apparently during today's news conference, Star political reporter Matt Tully grilled Ballard, demanding that he release a list of all his contributors prior to the October filing deadline. Who do you think desparately wants to learn this information now instead of waiting until October? More importantly, why do you think those persons want to know that information now and what they intend do with it once they know it? Tully is asking Ballard to do something more than a state law applicable to all candidates requires him to do. Is he asking this same question of all candidates, or only Greg Ballard because he had the audacity to push for much-needed ethics reforms?

Let's not miss sight of what is at stake here. To suggest Ballard is somehow being hypocritical in calling for these reforms today but not doing more than the state campaign finances laws required of him in the way of reporting is simply unfair, particularly when the incumbent has over $3 million in the bank courtesy of many folks with a financial interest in Mayor Peterson's re-election. Why don't you just ask Ballard to lay down his arms and concede the battle in advance, Matt? That's essentially what you're asking him to do.

Commission Wants Help From Everyday Hoosiers

Only an elite group of insiders were chosen by Gov. Mitch Daniels earlier this summer to sit on the Indiana Commission on Local Government Reform. Now they want help from everyday Hoosiers. As Niki Kelly of the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette writes:

The Indiana Commission on Local Government Reform wants you. Sort of.

They want Hoosiers to give them ideas on how to improve and restructure local government.

In the wake of many Hoosiers suffering a form of property tax sticker shock, Indiana Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard and former Gov. Joe Kernan were appointed by Gov. Mitch Daniels in July to co-chair the commission, which has five other members.

Kernan said the ultimate goal of the commission is to streamline and modernize local government without compromising the quality of services delivered.

He and Shepard also hope the changes will result in cost-savings to Indiana’s taxpayers.

“Everything is on the table,” Kernan said. “Everything is fair game.”

According to Kelly's story, the panel plans only 3 public meetings where the public can be heard. These are very busy people after all. "But the real decisions will be made behind closed doors – as the group’s first meeting was Wednesday," Kelly writes. "Behind closed doors?" Don't these meetings have to be conducted in accordance with Indiana's public access law?

And Carson Has Two Opponents

It now appears Andre Carson will have some competition at next Tuesday's meeting of Democratic precinct committeepersons in District 15 to fill the vacancy created by the resignation of City-County Councilor Patrice Abduallah (D). Joanne Williams, a 47-year-old Wayne Township Trustee employee, has thrown her hat into the ring as has Mary Ann Sullivan. The 48-year-old Sullivan is a volunteer consultant for charter schools. "She said her political involvement has been mostly in policy formation, putting to work a master's in public affairs to help Mayor Bart Peterson and Jim Schellinger, a Democratic gubernatorial candidate," the Star's Brendan O'Shaughnessy writes. So is Sullivan Mayor Peterson's choice?

It still appears the Democratic Party is relegated to looking to the ranks of government employees to find candidates to run for public office. O'Shaughnessy notes Williams worked in state government and for the state party before joining the Wayne Township Trustee's office. Carson describes himself as in "investigator" for the Indiana State Excise police with an interesting twist. "He said he is assigned to counterterrorism efforts with the Homeland Security Department," O'Shaughnessy writes. Does this mean our bars are breeding grounds for home-grown terrorism? Someone should really ask some follow up questions on that one. Also, aren't there potential conflicts of interest in having an excise police officer serve on our City-County Council? Is it legal? Should it be legal?

On a historical note, Carson was hired for his job at the Indiana State Excise police during the controversial tenure of its former chief police officer, Gene Honeycutt. Honeycutt served as Julia Carson's campaign manager during her first run for Congress in 1996. Carson pressured Governor-elect Frank O'Bannon to hire Honeycutt, and he obliged. He later became embroiled in a scandal involving favoritism for certain strip clubs in town in exchange for sex. He was forced to resign and faced criminal charges for his actions as head of the Indiana State Excise police. Included in the criticism leveled at Honeycutt at the time of the controversy was his decision to hire two of Julia Carson's grandsons, one of whom was Andre.

I would be surprised if the deck isn't stacked in Carson's favor, given that only precinct committeepersons get to vote at next Tuesday's caucus. I would have to think the room would include many friendly faces for the Carson family.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Andre Carson Makes It Official

U.S. Rep. Julia Carson's grandson, Andre Carson, has made it official. He's in the race to succeed 15th District City-County Councilor Patrice Abduallah (D), who was forced to resign his seat on the council after Advance Indiana disclosed the fact he was claiming an address outside his district as his residence. Carson is employed as a state excise police officer for the Alcohol and Tobacco Commission. An online Star report says Wilson Allen, a former township clerk for the Center Township Trustee's office and frequent commenter on this blog, is identified as the secretary for the committee Carson has formed to launch his bid to be chosen by Democratic precinct committeepersons. There are not currently any other publicly-announced candidates to fill the vacancy.

IMPD Officer's Arrest

This issue is likely to ignite a lot of tension between IMPD and the Marion Co. Prosecutor's office in the near future. An IMPD officer, Adam Chappell, has been charged with battery for kicking a 17-year-old male during Black Expo. Police had originally charged the teen from Rockford with public intoxication, battery, resisting arrest and possession of alcohol by a minor, but the prosecutor's office dropped those charges after reviewing the video which shows Officer Chappel kick the teen during the arrest. The FOP is backing Chappel. It is not real clear to me from viewing the video whether the officer's actions were warranted. I would be interested to hear what the other officers at the scene felt about Chappel's actions. If they were telling the prosecutor's office the officer was out of line, then I would fully understand the charge. But based on the video alone, I don't see anything conclusive.

Abdul Hakim Shabazz, who formerly worked for the Illinois Attorney General's office, had a similar reaction after viewing the tape. "I see a rowdy drunk teen and I see several see several officers trying to restrain him," he said. "There may be something on the tape that I'm missing, but I don't see someone intentionally and maliciously trying to do harm to another person, but I do see an officer doing his job." The tape does clearly show the teen mouthing off to police who were trying to arrest him and forcefully resisting his arrest. I think it would be extremely unfortunate if a police officer's career is ruined unnecessarily because a teen-ager from Rockford, Illinois came into town for Black Expo, got drunk, turned rowdy and resisted police efforts to arrest him. I hope the prosecutor's office is relying on more than just that video tape as evidence.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Purdue Settles With Steffey Family For $600K

Although I heard a few legal experts express the opinion Purdue could not be held liable for Wade Steffey's tragic death by electrocution last January in a university dorm electrical room, Purdue has agreed to a settlement with the family, which will include a $500,000 payment to the family for the loss of their son and a $100,000 payment to establish a scholarship fund in his honor. I guess Purdue was anxious to put this matter behind it.

Warning To The Scribe

The person frequently posting on area blogs as "Scribe" has crossed the line into what we attorneys call "defamation" and make no mistake--it is actionable. The individual, angered by being outed by the IndyUndercover blog, has posted false, malicious and defamatory material on a blog claiming, among other things, that I am the person who writes the blog IndyUndercover, and that I am a person who frequently posts under the name "GaryJ". Everything in this published post is completely false. Consider youself, "Scribe", put on notice to immediately retract this false, malicious and defamatory information you made up out of whole cloth. I will not hesitate to take legal action against you.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Elbo Room Going Strong After Nearly 70 Years

When I ventured to Fort Lauderdale for Spring Break in 1984 as a student at Eastern Illinois University, the Elbo Room was the center of activity. Made famous by the 1960 film "Where The Boys Are", this place remains etched in the minds of many people like myself who trekked to Fort Lauderdale during college to let loose a little before entering the world as a responsible adult. The memories of the crowded A-1A highway along the beach with students from all over the country is one I will never forget. I have returned to this spot on several occasions since. I always find people like myself who return to a place where they yearn to return to the idyllic time and place they knew when they were still in college.

The Elbo Room has changed little with time as its surroundings have changed dramatically. As I ventured into the place today, I was taken aback by how little it has changed. The bathroom was just as disgusting as I recalled it 23 years ago. Performing on the stage late this afternoon was an entertainer by the name "John O". The bartender, who was about my age and grew up in Fort Lauderdale, knew little about him. "He performs every Monday and that's all I know about him", she said. License plates from across the county adore this cozy bar. I found an Indiana license plate at the back of the bar near the men's restroom, along side a South Dakota license plate. I found my native state of Illinois' license plate above the stage. Does it say anything about what folks at the Elbo Room think of folks from Indiana?

A friend of mine from Canada, who also attended the Phi Delta Phi convention this past week in Fort Lauderdale with me, looked for initials he had carved in the bar 22 years ago. He could not find them. He couldn't forget, however, that image of being chased by a mounted police officer. In those days, policemen on horses were commonplace for crowd control during the Spring Break rush. He recalled being nipped on the shoulder by a horse as he stood outside the Elbo Room. Instinctively, he turned around and slapped the horse, causing it to rear up with a policeman in the saddle. At that point, he did what any Spring Breaker would have done. He fled on foot as fast as he could. Leaping a nearby fence, he escaped the wrath of being arrested by a Fort Lauderdale police officer.

I vividly recall the scene of a tank-like vehicle strolling down A-1A highway dispersing the unruly crowds with a powerful stream of water back in 1984. As I sat with my friend drinking a planter's rum punch at the Elbo Room this afternoon listening to John O sing old rock-and-roll songs, two young men with backpacks dashed through the bar knocking over stools. The bartender ran to the street to try and figure out what they were running from. If it was anything serious, I told him they were caught on camera. Like many popular clubs, the Elbo Room operates a live webcam you can stand in front of and talk to your friends at home while you enjoy the free spirit that exudes at the Elbo Room. The two young men ran in front of the camera. How times have changed.

Surf's Up . . . Really

I encountered one of those near-death experiences today. After purchasing a $12 boogie board, I jumped into the Atlantic Ocean along the Fort Lauderdale beach today with boogie board in tow and was quickly sucked out by a rip tide--much further than this Indiana boy is accustomed to venturing into the ocean. Try as I might to return to the safety of the beach, I couldn't get closer to land. I eventually gave up the safety of my boogie board and began swimming inland. I was going nowhere. As I wore down, I suddenly remembered some TV show which explained how you were supposed to swim parallel to the beach when you are sucked out by a rip tide. Noticing that I had drifted southward, I began swimming south. This drew me closer to the beach to the point I was able to touch the sandy ocean-bottom beneath me. I began waiving my hands and screaming "Help". Nobody seemed to notice. Thankfully, I found the strength to crawl my way to land. A friendly guy came up to me with my boogie board, which apparently floated to shore without me in hand, and asked if it were mine. I said, "Yes, I nearly drowned." He said, "We thought you might have been distressed but we weren't sure." I said, "Yeah, thanks.

Later, I spoke to a lifeguard at the nearest lookout point. She told me I should have been aware there were rip tides because the "red flag" was flying. That's the one wrapped around the flag pole in the photo above because of the strong winds today. She explained to me how you should know there rip tides are present. She noted I entered the water where there was a lot of stirred up seaweed near the shoreline because conditions created a hole in the sand near the shoreline--a sign of a rip tide. Experience surfers use rip tides to their advantage to quickly get out to where they want to be. She said the rip tide would carry you out only so far and not any further. She assured me lifeguards had me in their sites all along, and that I was in no danger of being lost. I have to tell you from where I stood, I was as near death as I've ever been. At this point, I just feel lucky to be alive.
On another note, the friendly lifeguard advised me to avoid contact with sea weed because that's where sea lice thrive. If you start itching really bad when you leave the water, she advised that you should never use wash off with water only at one of the shower sites along the beach. You need to take a soapy shower to rid yourself of the sea lice. If you scratch, the lice will only burrow deeper into your skin. I recall a couple of friends who spent months trying to rid themselves of this form of lice after they returned from Florida. So there's you second helpful hint for the day when visiting the beach in Florida.

Sylvan Lake Holds A Tea Party To Protest Property Taxes

The Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette reports on a tea party held over the weekend in Lake Sylvan to protest against rising property taxes. Kelly Soderlund writes:

Like their 18th-century forefathers, taxpayers gathered together Sunday to defy government and make a symbolic move against the grip on their wallets.

They weren’t disguised as Indians, and they weren’t griping about a tax on tea, but a group of property owners had its own version of the Boston Tea Party on Sunday. Instead of throwing barrels of tea into Boston Harbor, Noble and LaGrange county residents stuffed their property tax bills into a white cloth bag, which was then dipped into Sylvan Lake.

While their ancestors were angry about Great Britain’s control over their taxes, these homeowners are incensed about increases of as much as 150 percent on their property tax bills. Assessed values in Noble County increased 12 percent this year on average, county officials have said.

Nick Heffner, an engineer from Rome City, partnered with Hoosiers for Fair Taxation, an Indianapolis-based activist group that advocates the abolishment of property taxes, to organize the event, which drew about 75 residents. The crowd was not deterred by the rain, which came down steadily as people watched the “tea bag” bob in the lake and stood around debating about the increases.

“My taxes went sky high, and I can’t even afford to pay anything,” said Pam Spohr, 53, who owns a house on Sylvan Lake and several rental properties in the area.

Spohr and her husband had to dip into their inheritance and retirement money to help pay the 150 percent increase on their bill. She fears they’ll have to sell the rentals.

Spohr and many other homeowners have written their state legislators about the increases to no avail.

“They vote party line,” Spohr said. “They vote whatever the governor wants.”

Noble County resident Glenn Minser, 42, thinks the solution is to get rid of property taxes altogether. Two years ago, Minser said his property tax bill was about $1,200, then dropped to around $900 last year. It jumped this year to nearly $2,300.

Misner thinks the government needs to quit spending so frivolously and figure out a better way to manage the budget.

“Once they can show a little fiscal responsibility, then we’ll look at taxes again,” Minser said.

Star Weighs In On Aaron Hall Case

The Indianapolis Star, after taking a beating by this blog and others for failng to cover what I believe was a hate crime, has finally run a story four months after the beating death of Aaron Hall in Crothersville took place. I suspect nobody is more disappointed in the story than its author, reporter Jon Murray. I say that because I know he was working on a story which touched on far more than the obviously heavily-edited version which wound up in the paper. The story talks about the debate that has ensued since Aaron Hall's beating death last April on the question of whether it was a hate crime and the role blogs have played in fueling a nationwide debate on the case, drawing similarities between this killing and the highly-publicized Matthew Shepard case.

His story, however, omits the more graphic details of the crime as detailed in video-taped confessions of the accused and key eyewitnesses. There is no mention one of the accused is the son of a former deputy coroner and special deputy in Jackson County, and that the home where the beating took place and the body was later stashed was owned by his father. Or that it was that same father who served as spokesman for the highly-publicized killing of Katie Coleman just a couple of years ago. While the story notes Hall's nickname was "Shorty", it omits the fact that the 5'3" man was beaten for hours by two men who were much bigger than him ala Matthew Shepard. There is no discussion about the fact Indiana has no hate crimes law and that the killing took place just weeks after the legislature ended a session during which hate crimes legislation was defeated and the religious right had fueled an anti-gay culture in Indiana with a campaign laced with homobigoted rhetoric to defeat the legislation. A side bar to the story provides some statistical information on hate crimes, but omitted data showing the problem to be worse in Indiana than the nation as a whole. The side bar also only provides a very brief mention of the Dexter Lewis beating case in Indianapolis during which a black man was severely beaten in front of dozens of witnesses in downtown by white supremacists near the same time as the Hall killing.

According to Hall's story, his defense attorney is claiming the beating death was not a hate crime. Even the police and prosecution is concurring with that assessment. Murray writes:

But police say the evidence has led them elsewhere.

"They basically said it was a drunken fight that got way out of hand," said Detective Robert Henley of the Jackson County Sheriff's Department, who took part in the interviews of both suspects, Coleman M. King, 18, and Garret L. Gray, 19. "I really don't think this was a hate crime."

It's impossible to know what the men were thinking that night. But from the start, relatives insisted that Hall, who had a daughter from a nine-year relationship with a woman, wasn't gay and knew the suspects.

King's attorney, Joseph Leon Payne, agrees with the detective's assessment of King's mind-set and says the men never meant to kill Hall. "Their intent was not to drop him off to leave him to die," Payne said. "It was to leave him out there to scare him, and then bring him back."

Once they found him dead, he said, they panicked . . .

The detective said those who cited the suspects' statements from a probable cause affidavit as evidence of a hate crime had ignored the context.

According to the document, Gray told police that "Shorty reached out and grabbed the testicles of King. Gray said Shorty then asked questions regarding whether King has homosexual tendencies. Gray said these comments caused King to physically assault Shorty."

Hall drank beer and whiskey for hours with Gray, King and at least one other man, Henley said. Hall's comment to King ignited the beating, he said, but the suspects indicated Hall meant it as a taunt, not as a sexual proposition.

The affidavit also mentions insults about Gray's mother, who had been dead several years. "There was going to be a fight that night," Henley said . . .

King's trial still is set for Dec. 18, and Payne hopes to work out a plea deal. Gray's trial is set for Oct. 16; his attorney, John Plummer III, Bedford, declined to comment.

Payne said King felt genuine remorse about Hall's death.

"It's somebody he's known all his life, somebody he was buddies with."

King's attorney hopes to work out a plea deal before his trial? One of my biggest complaints about this case from the beginning has been the fact that a case which clearly supports a murder charge was dual-charged with a lesser crime of manslaughter from day one by the prosecution. How can two much larger men beat a 5'3" man for hours, ask him if he wants to die tonight and when he replies in the negative, you continue to beat him, dump his naked body on a cold night in a ditch on a secluded farm lane and return hours later to make sure he's dead. If a plea deal were reached in this case, the accused could serve as little as 6 years for this gruesome crime.

Murray includes comments from the interview he did with me. He writes, "Gary Welsh, an Indianapolis lawyer who runs a blog called Advance Indiana, said in an interview that the case immediately seemed 'a classical hate crime' because of the severe beating and the suspects' statements." "If Hall wasn't gay, Welsh and others speculated that the two suspects intended to use a 'gay panic' defense, maintaining they were so shocked by what they perceived as an advance that they attacked Hall." "King's attorney has since said his client does not plan such a defense."

For your convenience, I've listed below a number of the posts Advance Indiana has published on the Aaron Hall killing in chronological order:

Crothersville Man Brutally Killed Because Attackers Thought He Was Gay
Hate Crime Outrage: Accomplice Charged With Class C Felony
Hall's Alleged Killer Is Deputy Coroner's Son
Aaron Hall: An Easy Victim
In Their Own Words: Aaron Hall's Killer Describe The Gruesome Details
Why Won't The Star Cover The Hate Crime Killing of Aaron Hall?
Holladay: Aaron Hall Killed Twice, Second Time By Media
Aaron Hall Killer Seeks Bail
Another Strange Twist In Aaron Hall Hate Crime Murder Case
Bloomington Alternative And Daily Kos Ponder Lack of Media Attention For Hall Killing
Aaron Hall Update: Coleman King Trial Continued

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Good Week For Indiana Phi Delta Phis

This past week I've been in attendance at the Phi Delta Phi International Legal Fraternity's convention in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. As the province president for the active inns in the State of Indiana it was real honor to see two coveted awards go to the Willkie Inn at IU School of Law--Indianapolis. Willkie Inn was recognized for the second year in a row as the International Inn of the Year thanks to the leadership of its outgoing magister, Terri Michener. Suzanna Hartzell-Baird of Willkie Inn was also the recipient of the International Graduate of the Year award. She is now making preparations to clerk for Indiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Randy Shepard. The convention delegates chose Tetsuji Tamashiro of Mexico as its new president. Shown in the photo above from left to right after me is: Terri Michener, former Phi Delta Phi International president and Willkie Inn graduate Karl Mulvaney, Suzanna Hartzell-Baird, John Lira (Willkie Inn), Kent Morehead (Foster Inn-IU Bloomington) and Michael Haines (Norris Inn-Valparaiso).