Saturday, February 02, 2008

Ballard Mired In Ethics Dilemma Of His Own Making

Mayor Greg Ballard is facing the first ethics test in his 30-day-old administration and is failing it badly. As Advance Indiana was the first to report, Ballard's choice to lead the Capital Improvement Board is a lobbyist for Simon family interests, and his law firm lobbies for the Indiana Pacers. The Star's Brendan O'Shaughnessy, borrowing heavily on my original reporting (without attribution, of course), lands a front-page story questioning the ethical propriety of one of the biggest appointments Ballard will make as mayor. O'Shaughnessy opens his story:

Mayor Greg Ballard's choice to lead the Capital Improvement Board heads a law firm that has lobbied for the Indiana Pacers, one of the agency's biggest tenants.

The CIB owns Conseco Fieldhouse, home of the Pacers.
To avoid a conflict of interest in his new role, Barnes & Thornburg managing partner Robert T. Grand has set up an "ethical screen" that includes removing himself from any discussions about the Pacers.

He also has promised to bar the firm -- one of the city's biggest, representing various clients with interests in city business -- from working for anyone involved in matters harmful to the CIB and said he would forgo any potential compensation from his firm's involvement with the Pacers.

A political watchdog questioned whether those steps would be enough to outweigh the perception of a conflict, while an ethics expert questioned whether it would limit Grand's effectiveness on the board.

As I pointed out in my report, the appointment of Grand to the CIB directly clashes with a key element of Ballard's campaign pledge to enact ethics reform if he was elected mayor. That campaign pledge promised to prohibit registered lobbyists or people with a financial interest from serving on any board or commission that directly affects or deals with their lobbying or financial interests. With an "ethics schmethics" style reply, Ballard said of the Grand ethics problem, "Bob said he wouldn't do it if it embarrassed us," Ballard said. "But we want top talent." O'Shaughnessy added, "Ballard also said Grand 'has a reputation for being a clean and ethical guy.'" I would add an editorial comment here that Ballard didn't even know who the hell Grand was until a few months ago when he showed offering to raise a few bucks for his strugging campaign. Grand's response was equally as repulsive as Ballard's. "Why would I turn away this opportunity to serve this mayor and my city because I happen to be registered as a lobbyist?" he asked.

To cover up the error in this horrific decision, Ballard and Grand have created what they call an "ethical screen" to give the appearance they are trying to deal with the problem. Because the Indiana Pacers are one of the biggest agenda items coming before the CIB, essentially Grand, as its leaders, will supposedly step back from participating in any decisions involving the Pacers. Under this plan, which I assure will have attorneys all over town laughing as they stand around the water coolers Monday morning discussing it, Grand will do the following to avoid conflicts of interest:

  • Notify the CIB any time a client of the firm is involved in "matters with or become adverse to the CIB."
  • Abstain from taking part in deliberations or votes on such matters.
  • Establish an "ethical screen" that precludes Grand's involvement in matters in which the firm represents the Pacers.
  • Bar Grand's access to the firm's files on the Pacers.
  • Bar access by firm attorneys to any materials Grand receives in his role as a member of the CIB.
  • Deduct from Grand's compensation any share of firm income derived from representing the Pacers.

"I have not ever been involved with anything with respect to the Pacers," Grand said to O'Shaughnessy. "To the degree that there is any involvement of the firm with the Pacers, I won't be involved," he added. In the business world, this would be the equivalent of telling the CEO of General Motors he couldn't participate in any decisions involving the company's entire Chevrolet division. "The CIB and the firm have to weigh if the breadth of (ethical) screens is so great that the person would be limited in what they can do," former state ethics commissioner David Hadley said. Nobody with a straight face can say this ethics screen will work. For God's sakes, Bob Grand is the managing partner of Barnes & Thornburg. The ethics problem has already surfaced. Everyone knows, Mayor Ballard, that Grand made sure you were fully briefed on the financial problems facing the Pacers franchise because of lousy attendance, and that Grand or his law firm arranged for your meeting with the Simons at Conseco Fieldhouse on Thursday. It's no secret the Simons think they got a raw deal compared to Irsay and think their lease deal with the City should be renegotiated. As O'Shaughnessy reported:

The thorniest issue Grand might face is the possibility that the Pacers could seek to renegotiate the team's 20-year lease at the 10-year mark, in 2009.

Ballard met with the Simons at Conseco on Thursday. Both sides said the point of the meeting was to get acquainted. Ballard said there was no discussion of a new lease.

Speculation that the Pacers will ask for a new lease has been fueled by reports about the team's financial problems.

What is incredulous about this move by Ballard is the degree to which he has been willing to abandon the higher moral ground that he had coming into office with "no strings attached" as he told the media in order to advance the self-promoting Grand's status as a leading state and city "power broker." Grand's claim that "lobbying" is a small part of what he does is simply not believable to anyone who knows this man. As to ethics, let's examine this part of O'Shaughnessy's story. "[Grand] said his experience in public finance as an adviser to then-Mayor Stephen Goldsmith in building Conseco Fieldhouse and Victory Field qualified him to serve in the position." So he advised Goldsmith on behalf of city taxpayers on the public financing of Conseco Fieldhouse and then he and his firm turned around and became a lobbyist for Simon interests, including the Indiana Pacers. The only thing you can say about the Conseco Fieldhouse lease with the Simons is that it screwed taxpayers a little less than the Lucas Oil Stadium lease with Irsay.

Because Ballard has set out with such reckless abandon to pursue this "business as usual" governance of our city, we must now turn to the City-County Council for help. This appointment of Bob Grand must be rejected by the council. "Council Democrats said they were nonetheless concerned," O'Shaughnessy writes. "After taking considerable heat last year for a series of ethics-related questions about then-council President Monroe Gray's business deals, some said Ballard should be more careful with his appointments." "I go back to perception," said Joanne Sanders, the Democratic minority leader. "I do have some concerns about the appearance of a conflict."

As for Ballard, he tells O'Shaughnessy he plans to submit his own ethics reform package later this month, but if it allows for these kinds of appointments, then it isn't worth the paper on which it's written. This is what really insults the good people of this city. Ballard's Corporation Counsel, taking a page out of his predecessor's lack of respect for ethical considerations, said to O'Shaughnessy that "anyone qualified for a position such as one on the CIB is bound to have extensive business connections that create potentials for conflict." You see, in the world in which these people operate the only people "qualified for a position" come from within a small, elitist group who look down upon all of the rest of us. Strangely, until a few months ago, Ballard was one of those people they looked down upon. Now, Greg Ballard has become one of those people looking down at us in the same way.

UPDATE: There is a key piece of information missing from O'Shaughnessy's report in today's Star which raises even more concern about this so-called "ethical screen." O'Shaughnessy writes, "Ballard said Grand was the one who raised the question of potential conflicts and offered to draft the letter to avoid them." "He said the city's top attorney, Chris Cotterill, reviewed the letter and approved the appointment," he added. Cotterill is a former employee of Grand's law firm! That's right. Cotterill worked as an associate at the same law firm where Grand serves as managing partner. He practiced at the firm for a short period after graduating from law school before Grand helped him land a job in the administration of Gov. Daniels.

36 comments:

paula said...

"borrowing heavily on my original reporting (without attribution, of course)"
Gary,
Get over yourself. I stopped reading this blog for about a year because of this type attitude from you.

This move by Ballard is slam dunk stupid. There aren't many dots to connect here. I don't think Brendan was browsing this blog and said "OH! I must write essentially the same story".

I can't believe I am defending the Star, but they do have a bit more structured publishing schedule than a blog. Maybe they were fact checking, maybe they wanted it to run on a certain date, who knows. My point is, Brendan's could have been done before you even started typing yours. You have no way of knowing. So to say he gave no attribution to you is a bit over the top, no?

I did come back to catch your take on what Eric Miller is up to during this session. THAT stuff is something I wish the Star *would* steal from you. Somehow, I think even if they did and it brought the Mighty Miller down and landed him in a federal prison, you would still be complaining that they stole it from you.

I'm certainly not saying it is right for the Star (or anyone else) to do so, just a difference that I'm more concerned about the outcome and you seem more concerned about the credit. I guess we are just different ducks that way.

Wilson46201 said...

So when will the Fat Yellow Chicken reappear at City Hall carrying a simple sign : GREG LIES ?

Advance Indiana said...

"My point is, Brendan's could have been done before you even started typing yours."

I would find that more believable if he hadn't dismissed my complaint about Ballard's chief of staff coming from an engineering firm which does a lot of business with the city and gave Ballard $10,000 after the election. Week later, that very item appeared in "Behind Closed Doors." O'Shaughnessy is a very good reporter. But like many in the MSM, they won't acknowledge a story which originated with a blog. And further, "Paula", your claim that you stopped reading this blog for a year is not true and you know it.

Anonymous said...

Gary,

It's odd that Brendan went out of his way NOT to name you (which resulted in poor writing on his part):

A political watchdog questioned whether those steps would be enough to outweigh the perception of a conflict, while an ethics expert questioned whether it would limit Grand's effectiveness on the board.

A political watchdog? As a reader of yours, I obviously knew who he was referring to. Joe and Jane Indy are left to wonder, "Who is this political watchdog?"

Anonymous said...

It's the mayor's job to get us a winning basketball team. If Ballard can't get the Pacers to win, then let's get rid of him and get somebody who will.

paula said...

You are right, Gary. It may not have been a year. I'm not certain of when it was exactly. It could have only been 6 months (I was not interested in all the stuff about Ballard, so I'm guessing it was close to a year, but know I certainly had NOT been here over the summer, unless a you were elsewhere linked in a story i was reading - which is what brought me back for now).

Having said that, I'm not at all certain how you would even know since I rarely commented, and when I did, I used my blogger id, not the nickname I'm using now.

b said...

Well Paula, I must respectfully disagree. I DO think Ballard was browsing this blog and said "OH, I must write this story"

Setting aside one's personal perception of the bloggers' reactions to this lack of sourcing (appropriate calling-out, or pouting, depending on your perspective), you can't deny that a couple local blogs, most particularly AI, and TDW and now AM, have been the source of many day-or-two-later Star stories over the past couple of years. It's the reality of the almost complete annihilation of the Star's newsroom. When they had real reporters with real time to investigate and report, they could dig this stuff up themselves and had reporters paying attention all the time to what might come up. Now AI and TDW/AM pay a lot more attention to these things and have the skills to investigate quickly.

In any event...

It's just all about the Benjamins, isn't it? Always has been, always will be. I, for one, never bought for a minute the notion that the local players couldn't buy their way in pretty quickly. I was surprised only by exactly how quickly it happened. And now...

What local attorney has the balls (figuratively speaking and not gender-specific of course) to file a complaint against Grand over this with the Indiana Supreme Court?

b said...

and one more thing...

Grand is the MANAGING PARTNER at BT. How on earth can you actually be the managing partner and really be walled off from anything going on in the firm?

This is all about power lust.

Anonymous said...

The Bob Grand appointment will put the GOP council in quite a pickle after they made such a to-do over the Aaron Haith ordinance banning the council's counsel from representing members of the council. They'll look pretty hypocritical if they give Grand a pass on this one.

Anonymous said...

That "ethical screen" sure worked
great for Kevin Ring and Neil
Volz (connected to Jack Abramoff)
didn't it? They were terrific
B & T lobbyists weren't they?

Check AI's 4/16/07 archives.

Anonymous said...

Ballard is also hosting or at least attending a fundraiser for Brent Waltz this week. Fundraising during session like that is not against the law, but it is frowned upon. And I have a hard time trusting anyone that so easily endorses Waltz. It's Feb. 20 at the Columbia Club and you can have the privilege of their company for only $500 or $1000. Check indsenaterepublicans.org for more details. I also have the email sent to supporters if you are interested.

Anonymous said...

Greg Ballard lies, even more that Bart! What a sellout. He betrayed all of the common people who supported him and ran to the same corrupt money bosses that Bart Peterson used! Bob Grand is also a crook! He has no ethics, he is a lawyer!

Anonymous said...

I can not beleive that I am saying this but "I actually agree with Wilson". When will the Big Yellow Chicken appear with a Ballard Lies Sign" ?

Anonymous said...

Greg Ballard is such a joke! This man is very unqualified and he is dishonest. It only took him a few days to turn on the people of Indianapolis>

Anonymous said...

Not this week, a few weeks from now. Sorry, just rolled out of bed for a morning blog check.

Advance Indiana said...

anon 10:11, Thanks for bringing that up. Barnes & Thornburg did in fact hire two former associates of disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff in an effort to beef up the firm's lobbying presence in D.C. They both went to jail for illegal influence peddling. Here's what Politic.com wrote:

"Amid reports the Justice Department is investigating ties between Rep. John Doolittle (R-Calif.) and jailed lobbyist Jack Abramoff, a key link between the two, Kevin A. Ring, has abruptly resigned from his law firm. Ring tendered his resignation from Indianapolis-based law firm Barnes & Thornburg, effective Friday, confirmed the managing partner of the firm’s Washington office, Richard H. Streeter. Ring had no immediate plans to join another firm, a source close to the issue said. Ring, 36, as an aide to Doolittle for five years and later worked for Abramoff at Florida-based law firm Greenberg Traurig .... Ring is the second former Abramoff associate to leave Barnes & Thornburg. Neil Volz resigned in January, 2006, shortly after he was named as “Staffer B” in Abramoff’s plea agreement with federal prosecutors. Volz later pleaded guilty and cooperated with prosecutors in securing a guilty plea from his former boss, then-Rep. Bob Ney (R-Ohio), who is now serving time in a federal prison ....He landed at Barnes & Thornburg in January 2005 along with two other former Abramoff associates. Many of his clients followed him to the new firm, demonstrating a remarkable loyalty even as he surfaced in several congressional investigations of Abramoff...In 2005, he was subpoenaed to appear before the Senate Indian Affairs Committee as part of its Abramoff probe. Asked to discuss his work with Abramoff on behalf of several Indian gaming tribes, Ring asserted his Fifth Amendment right against self incrimination."

Anonymous said...

You aree absolutley right Gary. Greg Ballard didn't know Bob Grand any more that he knew Sponge Bob.
Grand was NOT a Ballard choice because Ballard did not have a clue who to appoint to head CIB. So who WAS behind the appointment of Bob Grand? Was it Bob Grand himself or were there others with similar financial interests at stake with the CIB.
For the record, most taxpayers do not have a clue of what the CIB is. This nefarious "club" operates completely without accountability to the taxpayers. There are estimates of nearly $7 Billion Dollars of taxpayer money that the CIB has diverted in some manner or another into just the Mile Square area of downtown Indianapolis. Deals cut behind closed doors. Mega purchases of downtown real estate that the city then sells to a developer for a dollar plus millions in bonds and abatements to boot!

Not one soul outside of these "insiders" knew that there was nearly $78 Million Dollars still owed on the original Hoosier Dome debt. The tax monies that were to have been used to pay off the Dome were diverted to build Conseco Field House, Victory Field and buy the land that Lucas Stadium is being built on. Yet the taxpayers were never aware of all this until AFTER the deal with the Colts for their new stadium was cut.
There is NO justification for a $78Million Dollar current debt on the Dome that will be demolishd for yet another CIB approved sweetheart deal, the Marriot hotels complex of which taxpayers will have to cover the bond debt.

Ballard quite frankly, is now bought and paid for. This is how Indianapolis operates. This Bob Grand appointment is just icing on the cake for a Ballard administration that will just be simply as corrupt as all the others who came before him.

Anonymous said...

I wonder how much of the Star's reporter's story was scaled back from what was actually submitted. You'll never guess what large law firm has represented Gannett Corp. in the past.

Anonymous said...

Anon10:48, the facts you presented are pretty much on target. It's true most people haven't a clue what the CIB is. Not many people have any real interest in educating themselves. They are content to stay ignorant. If that wasn't so we wouldn't be stuck in Iraq and of course I could mention hundreds of other examples. I would alter your statement about taxpayers and say rather the citizens of Indiana. The CIB doesn't exist for the taxpayers. It is a creation of the State of Indiana and therefore it exists for the benefit of the citizens of Indiana. We created the CIB and the tax laws that fund it as a way to vacuum the money out of the pockets of out of state tourists. As Hale Boggs once said, "Don't tax you, don't tax me, tax that fellow behind that tree." Just because these tourists are taxpayers it doesn't mean they have any right whatsoever to dictate how this money is spent. That right belongs to the citizens of Indiana, taxpaying or not.

As for paying debt on a dome that is to be demolished, I can understand the concept that refinancing a loan can make economic sense. I'm not an accountant but I'm willing to assume that this is a bookkeeping thing that makes sense in the long run, in that case yes a $78 mil. debt is justified.

Anonymous said...

I rolled outta bed at 5 and read this story in the rag, and my first thought was: "I bet Gary is all over this today." And true to form, you were.

As a former journalist, I think I can tell when a story has been crafted apart from the reporter's train of thought. BO hasn't had an original story thought in a long tome--just read his stuff regularly. And he often gets one major act or piece of timing wrong. I can't tell you how many City-County Council stories he's effed up. Brendan isn't as lazy as Tully, but: when laziness is rewarded at The Star (ex.: Tully; their once-weekly "business" columnist). it becomes protocol for advancement.

The lasty poster summed it up best:

"...Ballard quite frankly, is now bought and paid for. This is how Indianapolis operates."

Heavy emphasis on that last sentence. B&T now owns the Mayor's office.

Managing partners cannot wall themselves off from substantial work the firm does--substantial in fees or stature. City work is substantial in both.

A: 1403.

Q: How many days until Ballard is out of office?

It's kinda sad, too. He had such promise. He owed nobody--except US. Not true any more.

It only took 30 days or so for a longtime lobbyist with multiple clients, to suuggest to Ballard that he alter his views, re-write a policy, and construct this paper barrier that is a freaking joke.

Paul--you need to get over yourself. By "slam dunk stupid" I assume you mean the mayor should have told Grand to go away.

Anonymous said...

This is the latest and probably the saddest example of the tragedy that is Greg Ballard, and I understand why his former supporters who he has ignored are so upset. This guy was elected against all odds, and had a chance to transform the political landscape as to how to campaign and win versus the old BS money/favoritism =corruption.

He stated on Nov 6th, that "money cannot buy an election", yet..instead of taking that golden chance of further changing history by not owing anyone and Continuing down that road ..well..now he owes a lot of people, and probably will in the future. What a shame, and a wasted opportunity to continue to be his own person/leader.

Chris Spangle, does that make sense to you? As to a reason for a lot of upset former Ballard supporters?

I implore the CCC to reject this appointment, and if necessary, over-ride any Mayoral veto. Are you listening, councilors? particularly newly appointed ones, who used Aaron Haith as an example (deservedly so) of corrupt influence. If our new Mayor wants to LIE and deviate from the sonorous and righteous tones of ethics in government, thats his business, and eventual fate. But you, particularly Kent Smith, who I heard several times on your campaign trail, DONT LET THIS HAPPEN. Take the path you said you would, prior to November 6th.

To those who would take me to task with a question of "well, who would YOU appoint?" I reply "thats not MY job- I voted for who I thought would do the right thing"...he needs to take a brief sabbatical to get his head outta his posterior, or the next 47 months will be the most miserable of his, and our lives.

ProCynic said...

10:48,

I know quite a few local GOPers who are not happy with the Grand appointment to CIB, but they do dispute that Ballard did not know Bob Grand before the November election. Several of them have pointed out that while the local GOP elites mostly ignored Ballard, both Grand and Joe Loftus hosted at least one fundraiser for him.

Call it patronage, if you wish, as well as conflict of interest, but it does appear that they were supporters of Ballard before the election.

Anonymous said...

The word is that since the Indy Chicken retired to take a job as a lobbyist at B&T there will be a new person in costume at the CCC meetings.
There will be someone dressed up in a pig costume with dollars bills pinned on it. They have a sign too. It says BALLARD'S PIG TROUGH.

Anonymous said...

"THIS IS THE END OF REPUBLICAN COUNTRY CLUB POLITICS."

.....words spoken by Greg Ballard on election night after his stunning win.

Wilson46201 said...

"You must actively communicate the expected ethical behavior.”

Ballard, Greg, Lt. Col. "The Ballard Rules: Small Unit Leadership." Bloomington, IN: Author House, 2005. (p. 66).

Advance Indiana said...

anon 11:19, you raise a good point about the Gannett conflict. The Star is represented by Barnes & Thornburg in pending litigation brought by attorney John Price on behalf of former editorial writers Coffey and Patterson charging religious discrimination.

Anonymous said...

Price no longer represents those two plaintiffs in the litigation against the Star. the crazy Newmans represent thme now.

Anonymous said...

It's amazing the extent he is willing to go to for this new position. Wow...out of the goodness of his heart?

Doubt it.

harry callahan said...

HAAA! Wilson (9:20am) cracked me up again! What's this world coming to?

But on a more serious note, what's up with the wicked witch of the city council all of a sudden having "perception", and "concerns about the appearance of a conflict."


"I go back to perception," said Joanne Sanders, the Democratic minority leader. "I do have some concerns about the appearance of a conflict."

Where was she for the last year when her buddy Monroe Gray was the poster child for conflict? Oh yeah, she was too busy whispering in his ear at council meetings telling him what to do while he just sat there with that famous vacuous stare!

A little too late for Joanne to ring the ethics bell. Sounds a little hollow to me.

Anonymous said...

Who in their right mind would trust this Bob Grand or Greg Ballard?

Anonymous said...

The mindless partisanship of some commenters is truly sad. JoAnn Sanders is bright, caring and a true leader. The comments of Harry Callahan at 10:32 display nothing but one sided political sniping and ignorance of the type that has gotten us into this mess. STOP Harry now and start making comments with some substance and that are productive.

Anonymous said...

I'm curious. The Indy Star reported that Ballard provided 150 free tickets for camapaign supporters to attend his Ball.
Anyone care to wager who some of these important "grassroots" supporters were?
Not only can our new Mayor be bought but apparently, so can some of his "ethical" supporters.
Tea anyone?
Yellow chicken outfit anyone?
Someone need a driver?
Someone need a clown to MC?

Anonymous said...

This guy looks like a member of the mafia! It is just a shame that a dishonest, idiot mayor was elected just to get rid of a dishonest, idiot mayor! Why doesn't the Justice Department pay attention to what is going on in Indianapolis?

harry callahan said...

9:48,

Exactly what is partisan,one sided, or ignorant about pointing out the obvious?

Joanne Sanders is the prototype of partisanship.

How's that for substance sweetheart?

Love Harry

Flipper said...

Anon,
If you were at the inaugural ball you would have noticed that the volunteers who were given tickets were working to register guests, help with table seating, helping handicapped guests and other activities. GIVE IT A BREAK!

Anonymous said...

Anon,
If you were at the inaugural ball you would have noticed that the volunteers who were given tickets were working to register guests, help with table seating, helping handicapped guests and other activities. GIVE IT A BREAK!


Reponse: This is simply not true flipper. I did not see you there by the way. I was sitting with numerous other volunteers, campaign supporters and some non-supporter and we were served and treated with dignity along with the rest, but at the adjourning hotel via television monitors.

Those who were working were the volunteers the republicans decided to keep onboard post election, the ones that fit the republican image, middle-age white women. The republicans have excluded the grassroots people -- no activists, no blacks, no well-wishers. We are simply to GO AWAY NOW and abandon OUR missions. Our job is done, we won "Ballard" the office and now he owes no one anything. He has new friends now. He doesn't need us for now.

What is really amazing is that we are not even welcome to serve as volunteers. Go figure!