Friday, September 19, 2008

Ballard Sides With Sports Corporation In Pan Am Dispute

In the closing days of his administration, Mayor Bart Peterson let the Indiana Sports Corporation out of its commitment to repay Indianapolis taxpayers if it ceased using the Pan Am Plaza for the public's benefit. In turn, the ISC sold the Pan Am Plaza for $3.8 million to a development group which included the politically-connected Kite Realty Group, money which should have been returned to the City of Indianapolis. ISC President Susan Williams said that then-Mayor-elect Greg Ballard was consulted before the deal was rammed through the Metropolitan Development Commission in December, 2007. Attorney Paul Ogden brought a class action suit against the ISC and the City to undo the sale, citing a number of laws which were broken by the Peterson administration in order to make the deal happen. Mayor Ballard could have agreed that Peterson broke the law in brokering the deal and asked the ISC to at least return the $3.8 million from the sale to the City, but he has not. The City of Indianapolis has joined the ISC in filing a motion to dismiss Ogden's class action suit. The City claims in its motion:

  • The City was not modifying a redevelopment agreement so the laws cited in Ogden's suit do not apply.
  • Ogden failed to give the City a Tort Claims Notice.
  • More recently enacted statutes cited in Ogden's lawsuit don't apply to the resolution approved by the Metropolitan Development Commission.

It is very unfortunate that Mayor Ballard has chosen to take the side of self-dealing insiders, while taxpayers are left holding the bag for millions of dollars of debt remaining from ISC's operation of the Pan Am Plaza. By the City's latest actions, Ballard has effectively taken ownership of this smelly deal. No more just blaming this on Mayor Peterson. As I said from the beginning, this is a way of diverting public dollars to the ISC to use for the Super Bowl and then trying to make the public think that no public dollars are being used to put on this $25 million party for the rich and famous.

UPDATE: Attorney Paul Ogden has posted his comments on the City's decision in this matter. He offers his take on why the City chose to fight the lawsuit:

"I would suggest the obvious: the City wants to avoid going through discovery process because it will lead to an inevitable embarrassing disclosure of all the facts behind the deal, including the people who profited, possibly including people who now work for him." Instead of doing the right thing now and lean on the Sports Corporation to cough up the money, Mayor Ballard has chosen to take a political bullet for the former Mayor by using taxpayer paid attorneys to take against the taxpayers and in favor of corporate welfare. I can only guess that such extremely foolish political advice comes from some of Mayor Ballard’s close advisors who also were eating from the City’s corporate welfare trough before Mayor Ballard was elected. It’s a shame because those advisors he leans on have little interest in the Mayor's political future, certainly less than Republicans like myself who inevitably are put in a position of criticizing a Mayor we want to support."

6 comments:

HOOSIERS FOR FAIR TAX said...

Gary, Ballard looked me straight in the eye last summer and told me that he would never side against the people, the tax payers.

Now, with Peterson you expected him to put his cronies first...but this is very hard news to hear.



--Melyssa for HFFT

roger61611 said...

I voted for Ballard and was downright thrilled when he won, but look back over the last several months at what he's done, where he's spent his energy ?

He's spent 10x as much energy on the bloody Super Bowl as he has on the homicide rate. He doesn't seem involved in anything. He's not articulated the recent dustup over the number of cops on the beat (100 ? 200 ?) instead sent we see the forever-twitching Scott Newman on TV explaining the budget mess.

His boldest idea has been to sell some of the surplus park land, not a bad idea, but a political non-starter.

A few weeks ago three thugs beat up a poor guy to get his bicycle, and yesterday three different thugs beat up an old woman to take her car. Nice town.

Paul Ogden said...

Thanks for your comments, Gary.

I was extremely surprised to see that Mayor Ballard’s administration filed to dismiss the lawsuit we filed on behalf of Indianapolis taxpayers’ lawsuit to obtain a return of millions of dollars that Sports Corporation should have paid to the City pursuant to the terms of the original 1985 agreement. It would have been one thing for the Sports Corporation to have filed such a motion. But for City Legal, with attorneys paid for with taxpayer dollars, to spend countless hours at taxpayer expense to prepare and file such a motion against taxpayers, is rubbing the salt in the wounds of the good people of Marion County/Indianapolis. I would point out that this action comes at the very same time when the city is desperate for money because another public-private partnership, the Lucas Oil Stadium that is “bleeding cash.”

Gary, this was an easy political issue for the Mayor. The decision to do this deal was made at the 11th hour by Mayor Peterson’s people. The City-County Council was kept completely in the dark. While I’m sure Mayor Ballard is telling the truth that he was told of the deal, I highly doubt they told Mayor Ballard the deal to reduce the plaza had a $6 million fiscal impact. After all, the Peterson people did not even bother to include that little fact in the resolution introduced at the Metropolitan Development Commission

One thing that is missed in all this is why the City would at this stage attempt to dismiss the case at this stage, a very unusual move. I would suggest the obvious: the City wants to avoid going through discovery process because it will lead to an inevitable embarrassing disclosure of all the facts behind the deal, including the people who profited, possibly including people who now work for him.

Instead of doing the right thing now and lean on the Sports Corporation to cough up the money, Mayor Ballard has chosen to take a political bullet for the former Mayor by using taxpayer paid attorneys to take against the taxpayers and in favor of corporate welfare. I can only guess that such extremely foolish political advice comes from some of Mayor Ballard’s close advisors who also were eating from the City’s corporate welfare trough before Mayor Ballard was elected. It’s a shame because those advisors he leans on have little interest in the Mayor's political future, certainly less than Republicans like myself who inevitably are put in a position of criticizing a Mayor we want to support.

Vox Populi said...

I'm sitting here still scratching my head that you guys are surprised about the antics of the Accidental Mayor.

The "outsider" appointed a shit ton of insiders to run his administration. He's done nothing noteworthy except get the Superbowl (something that Peterson's administration had already built--Ballard's people just painted and furnished it). And he's been nowhere to be seen during the crime wave (many observers might think Scott Newman is our mayor).

That he's now supporting a bailout really, really shouldn't surprise you. He's sure to be better-funded in his next race and he's got to get those contributions somewhere.

willhdogowner said...

can't disagree with anything that's being said here; poor neophyte Ballard is doing what he's supposed to; bob grand must be so happy; thanks paul for fighting this battle; there are A LOT of people watching this case from the sidelines; i'm not a lawyer and i don't know if this case is in fed court or not but i sure hope so;

spooknp said...

The coming collapse of this country is close at hand. First sky high property taxes, then sky high crime that now seems "normal." Then we had millionaires and billionaires bailed out by the federal government, with a quasi nationalization of lending/housing market. I no longer care about this country. I only care about me and mine and making sure I get my cut of all there is I can get. It is sad that a select elite few get to become millionaires on the backs of others labor. I have deiced to vote Obama, so that he can tax anyone who makes over $100K/year an additional 10%, and then give me some of that money to me!!!