Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Ballard Taps Simon Lobbyist To Run CIB

It's one of the most important appointments an Indianapolis mayor can make--Chairman of the Captial Improvement Board of Managers--the quasi-governmental entity which owns and manages our city's great public improvements, such as Lucas Oil Stadium, Conseco Fieldhouse, Victory Field and the Indiana Convention Center. Mayor Ballard chose Barnes & Thornburg Managing Partner Robert Grand, the man who headed up his transition team, to take over for former Baker & Daniels' Partner Fred Glass. Grand, who is a public finance and government affairs lawyer, is a registered lobbyist for Simon Property Group, the shopping mall giant founded by Herb and Mel Simon, who also own the Indiana Pacers.

As a candidate for mayor, Ballard promised to enact a tough ethics reform law. One of his proposals would have barred 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. Candidate Ballard said, "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. "It's time to restore ethics and public accountability to our local government," Ballard said then. Mayor Ballard took office without enacting an excutive order to carry into effect some of the reforms he promised as a candidate. Candidate Ballard complained about former City-County Councilor Patrice Abduallah accepting a trip to last year's Super Bowl and refusing to disclose who paid for the trip. Yet, Ballard's two children told a Star reporter how much they enjoyed the perks of their father being mayor, including the great tickets they wre receiving to the RCA Dome where the Colts play and Conseco Fieldhouse where the Pacers play. Who's paying for those tickets?

Grand's potential conflict of interest doesn't end with the Simons and their Pacer team. His law firm is also a registered lobbyist for many other clients, which raise additional concerns. The company which manages Jail II for the county, Corrections Corporation of America, is a client as is the Marion County Prosecutor and its Superior Courts. The Health and Hospital Corporation of Marion County is a client. The Indiana World Skating Academy, which is being forced to give up its space at the PanAm Plaza to make way for new development, is a client. And CIB neighboring corporate giant, Eli Lilly, is a client. Indiana Lobby Registration Commission discloses dozens of clients for which Grand's firm is registered to lobby. If Ballard had enacted the ethics reform he promised as a candidate, Grand would have been barred from taking the job as CIB Chairman.

Along with Grand's announcement, Ballard carried through on the appointment of Randall Tobias as head of the Indianapolis Airport Authority. Tobias is the former CEO of Eli Lilly and Assistant Secretary of State in the Bush administration. Tobias also holds the distinction of being the only government casualty of the D.C. Madam scandal after he admitted he had used the escort services of the woman government prosecutors claimed was running a high-end prostitution service in the nation's capital. “The citizens of Indianapolis are fortunate to have men of this caliber answering the call to public service,” Ballard said today in making these two important appointments. “I have no doubt that both Bob and Randall will do an outstanding job of serving our citizens in this capacity and I look forward to working with them throughout their tenure here.”

And did I mention that the Indiana Pacers are trying to re-negotiate their lease on Conseco Fieldhouse with Mayor Ballard beginning this year? The team's owners, Mel and Herb Simon, are lamenting the fact that their franchise is losing money and attendance at their games is dead last in the NBA. I'm sure Mr. Grand will put the taxpayers' interest first in those negotiations. Don't you?


Anonymous said...

On his best day Ballard is
unbelievably naive. On his
worst days, he lies regarding
trying to honor his campaign promises. Maybe when he recently
met Bush Bush's personality
rubbed off onto Ballard.

Anonymous said...

Business as usual. But honestly, there isn't a lawyer or businessman in town at any of the major firms that doesn't already have their hand in the city coffer's. The CIB by its very nature, is not taxpayer friendly.

Anonymous said...

Considering how property tax "reform" is going, I am so glad I did not buy a home in Marion County. Given the "reform" effort and the direction of the new city administration, Indy is going to become New Detroit.

Anonymous said...

Let's hope this Simon exec knows more about the CIB than the Simons know about running an NBA team or the city will be taken over by gun toting thugs who stay at strip clubs.

Anonymous said...

Gary, I believe B&T also lobbied for the Indianapolis Colts in the past.

Anonymous said...

If this were a war, Greg Ballard would be tried for treason. What a sellout.

Anonymous said...

Gary, you can't continue to say the Simons want to renegotiate their Pacers deal with the city, without some evidence. There is none I'm aware of at this point.

Their spokesperson declined comment in the latest IBJ "story," which was incomplete journalism, at best.

They bought the team when it was about to leave town over 20 years ago. It lost money for a long time, but they held onto it. Their investment has paid off--it's worth about 40 times what they paid for it, or more.

And when they let Donnie Walsh run the team, we had few, if any, off-court disasters, and we had winners.

Larry Bird's arrival signaled the end of civility off-court, and the end of consistent winning on-court.

Exactly the opposite I'd have expected, but we need no more evidence that he's a lousy NBA club president.

When the Simons publicly reveal a request for renegotiating, I'll eat my words. Until then, lighten up, huh?

That being said, I smelled the Grand CIB appointment a long time ago. Any downtown lawyer is gonna have conflicts, but this one is a doozy.

And, while I abhor Tobias's recent "activities" in DC, I do admire the Mayor's proclamation that everyone deserves a second chance.

Except, I know and did business with a lot of Lilly execs who were there under Tobias. Lavish overspending was his trademark, aptly inherited from Dick Wood, who never met a red brick building he didn't love. When limestone would've done the trick at less than half the expense.

Tobias's lone "attaboy" during his chairmanship: according to many employees, it was the relaxing of the strict white shirt-tie Lilly dress code.

A sterling record, huh? He did outmarry himself.

Gary R. Welsh said...

Where there's smoke, there's fire, anon. 6:53. WTHR's Jeremy Brilliant reported the following on the lease renegotiations with Ballard this evening:

Trying to score big on the court and win a place in the playoffs, the Indiana Pacers are also having a tough time trying to win over fans.

Figures released Tuesday by ESPN.com show the Pacers have the lowest average attendance of the 30 NBA teams. The numbers come at a time when the Pacers could start negotiating with the city. Pacers owners are scheduled to meet with Mayor Greg Ballard tomorrow. The Mayor says it's just a meet and greet session, but it comes at an awkward time for the team.

The average attendance at Pacers games this season is just over 12,000 fans, down more than 4,000 from last season. Local business owner Gordon Coke says he has 40-50% less of a crowd at his pub than in recent years.

"Attendance has been way down and when attendance is down, our business is down," Coke said.

Off-court distractions and team performance may be to blame for the lagging numbers. Some ticket brokers say they can't even give away tickets.

"Four to five years ago, maybe 80-90 percent demand for tickets, now maybe 2 percent," said Tickets Up Front owner Fred Bear. "There's just no demand."

Though it hasn't happened, the Pacers have the option to renegotiate their contract with the city this year. A contract clause based on "significant net cash flow loss" allows the team to renegotiate. According to Forbes magazine, the team has lost money the past two years.

"Well I can tell you that those aren't valid numbers," Pacers General Manager Donnie Walsh told Eyewitness News last April. "I will tell you this, in a small market you're on a very fine edge. A lot of it's got to do with what the collective bargaining agreement is doing as far as where the players salaries are going," Walsh said.

"Sure, the Pacers have been struggling a little bit lately but over the long haul I think they've been a pretty good citizen," Mayor Ballard said.

Ballard says even talking about contract negotiations is premature. His meeting with team owners Wednesday, he says, is just a chance to get to know each other.

"I haven't made any decision, clearly because I've got other things on my plate right now and I'm sure if Mr. Simon wants to bring something up tomorrow, I'll listen to him, no question about that," Ballard said.

While the Pacers were going to try to beat the Detroit Pistons at Conseco Fieldhouse Tuesday night. They've already lost the battle for fans between the two cities. While the Pacers attendance average is dead last, the Pistons are number one.

Anonymous said...

What about two Libertarians getting appointed to the Board of Zoning Appeals, Gary?

Gary R. Welsh said...

Thanks for asking, anon 7:12. It's true. Brad Klopfenstein, a past CCC candidate on the Libertarian line, and Timothy Maguire, at-large Libertarian council candidatae from the last election, are being nominated by the GOP for seats on the Board of Zoning Appeals. I'm sure Michael Hegg will be delighted to learn that his party is rewarding the person who probably cost him his seat as an at-large member of the council. Klopfenstein is a real nice guy, but he is also a registered lobbyist for the Indiana License Beverage Association. That means he will have conflicts galore as a member of the Board. Damnit, guys, why the hell are you appointing lobbyists to key government positions. Have you learned nothing from this last election?

Anonymous said...

Ballard can count his blessings that Indiana doesn't allow for recall elections. His ass would be recalled in a New York minute if there was.

Wilson46201 said...


Gary R. Welsh said...

That's also known as Accidental Mayor.

Anonymous said...

Has anyone else noticed that Mayor Greg Ballard looks a lot like a Big White Rat? Appearances are reality!

Anonymous said...

Ballard should be indicted!

Anonymous said...

"I'm sure Michael Hegg will be delighted to learn that his party is rewarding the person who probably cost him his seat as an at-large member of the council. "

I really dont care one way or the other, Gary. As a true citizen candidate I succeeded, albeit partially, in my campaign. Ask Rozelle, Ron and Lonnell how they feel.

I was aproached by my former candidate colleage and newly elected councilor, Ed Coleman, about serving on a board. I believe the offers from Ed were and are genuine. He's a good man, folks, and one who has a sense of honor and loyalty along with friendship, and I appreciated the offers.

However, in that none of the Boards (with the exception of the ABC, which I cannot serve on) offer any renumeration, I had to decline. In my race for an At-Large seat, I lost thousands of dollars in part time income, and spent a lot of my own money on my campaign. I have to be a little selfish now, and look out for the financial needs of my family. So..been working as much overtime and part time as I can. Matter of fact, I just came home from it and saw this thread.

However, I have the utmost faith in our newly elected Council, and although I didnt thank those who voted for me, I do so now. Thank you so much!!


Michael Hegg

Anonymous said...

Damned if this Democrat doesn't want to (still) give Ballard the benefit of the doubt. 28 days and counting, and he's still naive, but not dishoenst.

As far as the Pacers go, I don't even see smoke. The Simons have been excellent citizens over the years via the Pacers.

Jeremy Brilliant isn't exactly living up to his last name. I saw the report. A sloppy rehash of what's already known--no new news.

The Star's laziness is definitely rubbing off on the electronic media. (sigh)

Gary R. Welsh said...

Michael, as a police officer, I understand you really can't express how you feel about this matter. Don't worry. These people are going to continue to get beat on day after day as long as they continue conducting business in this fashion. I have zero confidence in Greg Ballard at this point. And I probably have about that much in the GOP council. Those people have all turned their backs on the people who elected them. They will get their payback. Believe me, they will.

Anonymous said...

Talk about hypocrites. The GOP council was falling all over itself patting itself on the back this week for passing a meaningless ordinance saying Aaron Haith can't work for the council and represent individual council members anymore. What the mayor has done by appointing the Simon's lobbyist to run the CIB is a complete betrayal of the public trust, not to mention a betrayal of the campaign pledge he made to the public during the campaign. I'm still sitting here in complete disbelief that this is happening so soon after the change in political power. I had so much hope things were going to be better. My hopes are completely dashed. And to think we've got four more years of this lousy corrupt administration ahead of us.

Anonymous said...

I have become convinced that most of the people who contribute to this blog and many like it simply like to bitch and it wouldn't matter who was in office or what they did. This use to be an entertaining and informative blog but now it seems to be nothing more than a place for people with no apparent life to whine about imaginary corruption and perceived personal slights. Get a life. I think I will find some place that has something to say for a change to occupy my time in the future.

Gary R. Welsh said...

Be my guest, anon 10:02. I suspect you are one of those people who loved it when it was the Democrats who were in control and on the receiving end of the criticism. Now that the Republicans are in charge you expect me to roll over. I'm not Abdul. If you're looking for someone to cheer on the same crap I complained loudly about during the Peterson administration, then go visit Abdul's blog. You'll find plenty of what you're looking for there.

Anonymous said...

The sad thing is that by the way Ballard has taken the responsibility given him by those of us who believed he would bring the change he spoke of, people will now just give up. No faith whatsoever in our political system. As they say.....lips moving, lying. Thanks Mr. Mayor for keeping the political dream alive for simple citizens. Loser.

Anonymous said...

Greg Ballard is dishonest and he is no Mayor! I agree, he does look like a big white rat! More so, he acts like a rat!

Anonymous said...

I can't wait to see who he names as Chief of Police!

Anonymous said...

I voted for Timothy Mcquire. Glad to see him involved in somthing.

Anonymous said...

The GOP is appointing the homobigoted Sue Swayze of the Indiana Family Institute to the Audit Committee. She supported Peterson's re-election.

Anonymous said...

41 days until the special election and Mayor Ballard has still failed to perform his legally required duty and establish the polling locations. Almost 400 precincts were eliminated and those voters have to be notified of their new polling places and contracts must be signed with 445 places to serve as polling places and he doesn't seem to have time to do it. I guess he is spending to much at luaus and trying to find a way to bail out the financially troubled Pacers.

Anonymous said...

Greg Ballard intends to name another Bart Peterson and Frank Anderson supporter as Chief of Police. This person is not qualified and is not honest. A lot like Greg Ballard!

Anonymous said...

9:50, if you thinkk the Haith resolution was meaningless, then you really aren't paying attention.

For confirmation it was meaningful, look at who voted against it.

That pretty much tells you all you need to know.

It's sad the Council had to enact this prohibition, and that the prior Council saw no harm in employing lawyers who do double-duty representing Councillors in trouble.

Anonymous said...

I am SO glad I left the moral morass that is Indianapolis. I really thought Ballard would have good, ethical people in office. Ballard may talk a good ethics game, but when the rubber hit the road he has shown he has no clue.

This oughta be one short four year term, loaded with some indictments on the back end. And we thought Peterson was bad....just different wolves in other sheep's clothing.

Gary R. Welsh said...

anon 5:16, I agree that the Haith ordinance was not meaningless; however, I think a point anon 9:50 may have been trying to make is the very point Barbara Malone made in opposing the ordinance. The rules of professional conduct govern what Haith did. A complaint has been filed with the attorney disciplinary commission and it is being investigated.

Anonymous said...

"I am SO glad I left the moral morass that is Indianapolis."

As if the suburban old-boy ring counties are any different or better? Give me a break.

Anonymous said...

AI, the Rules of Professional Conduct did not prevent his representation of Gibson. But it looked really bad.

As for Malone, based on her comments, it was clear she did not read the amended proposal before blathering on. She missed the point that this ordinance goes beyond what the Rules require and for good reason.