Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Star: Bail Out Of Sweetheart Legal Deal

A Star editorial follows up on Monday's front-page story by Brendan O'Shaughnessy exposing the fact that Sheriff Frank Anderson's office has spent more than $3 million with his campaign manager's firm since 2003 instead of using the free services of the City's corporation counsel. "It's a sweet deal, to be sure -- but not for taxpayers," the editorial opens. The editorial points out that sheriffs in other major metropolitan areas utilize the services of government attorneys rather than more costly private law firms. The editorial explains what it doesn't like about Anderson's arrangement with Kevin Murray and his firm, Locke Reynolds:

Who's the attorney handling most of this work for the sheriff? It just happens to be Kevin Murray, who just happened to run Anderson's election campaigns in 2002 and 2006.

Anderson argues that he needs all of this extra legal assistance, despite the 27 public lawyers already employed to represent city and county agencies, because his department is so large and complex.

But sheriffs in other metro areas of similar size -- from Cincinnati to Charlotte -- make do with attorneys already employed by the public. In St. Louis, the sheriff pays all of $20,000 a year for legal advice . . .

Of course, the issue isn't just the money, although that's a substantial justification for public outrage given how tight city and county resources are stretched. Even more disturbing is the fact that Murray, closely associated with Anderson for years, is the chief beneficiary of the payouts.

Despite the sheriff's insistence that the public is well served by the firm's legal work -- he contends that Locke Reynolds has saved taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars -- Anderson should have realized that appearances are critical, especially in law enforcement . . .

As one of its recommendations last year, the bipartisan Commission on Local Government Reform argued that sheriffs should be appointed rather than elected in Indiana. One reason for that move would be to extract politics as much as possible from what should be a professional position. The outrageous Case of Sheriff Anderson and the Cozy Law Firm now serves as prime evidence in support of that argument.

8 comments:

Indy4U2C said...

Anderson obviously thinks that the election winners get to raid the public treasury.

Look at the cronysim and nepotism in his office. It stinks!

Why do so many "executives" on Frank's staff have take-home cars when the only driving they need to do is to & from work??? They do not have emergency call-outs and their job functions do not require use of a car at all...his executive staff merely reports to their office each day like the rest of us. The free & luxurious take-home cars for his staff should be eliminated from his budget. There is no need for taxpayers to furnish such fringe benefits, after all, his executive staff all makes a good salary!

Frank Anderson beat Obama to the REDISTRIBUTION OF WEALTH, taking 3 million dollars of OUR TAX MONEY and giving it to his campaign manager as "legal fees".

This TAX & SPEND philsophy of passing out the Marion County treasury to cronys must stop!

It's just wrong.

I agree with the recommendation of eliminating the job of Sheriff from the state constitution. Let the mayor of the Consolidated City appoint a proper ***accountable*** executive to run the jail, serve the court process, and provide security for the government buildings.

Paul K. Ogden said...

Many of these lawsuits against the Sheriff involve the private jail, CCA, or private medical care provided by CMS. The CCA contract, and probably the CMS contract as well, says the Sheriff can recoup legal fees and judgments against the Sheriff from those private companies. The City County Council should be asking if the Sheriff is doing this. I'm almost certain the answer will be "No."

Downtown Indy said...

Wonder if a better-run department might just see fewer lawsuits and require less high-powered lawyer-in' to be done?

Ed Coleman said...

Gary, For the record, I did a Freedom of Information from the sherrif's department in Febuary. I got a letter from Kevin Murray that he was putting the info together. I finally got the info in July and it was sanitized first. Why could the department not just send the info that I had a legal right to ask for?

iPOPA said...

There are Republican Sheriffs in every doughnut county around Indianapolis, and ALL of them use attorneys other than the county attorney. I find it curious that we only attack Anderson for this practice.

Paul K. Ogden said...

Ed,

At least you received an answer. I know others who gave the Sheriff for an Open Records Request and never received any reply. And that was nearly a year ago.

When I was head of the Title Insurnace Division, I told my staff that when government officials start doing things in secret that they don't want the public to know about, that's a sign they're doing something they shouldn't be doing.

We developed policies and applied them out in the open where everyone could see them. My staff knew that what we did was open to scrutiny and we would always need to be prepared to defend what we were doing. The system worked great. What you have going on with the law firms in town is because of a lack of openness, a lack of scrutiny. Those things only happen behind closed doors. We need our government to be more open. With openness comes accountability.

Advance Indiana said...

Unfair comparison, IPOPA. Those surrounding counties don't have an in-house staff of 27 lawyers on the payroll at their disposal. Most of them don't have full time legal counsel outside the prosecutor's office. They've traditionally relied on private law firms to do the county's legal work.

Constituent_Response_Team said...

Vote them out ! ! !

We need to focus on "un-electing" those Senators and Representatives who voted "yes" for the Bailout. They were willing to ignore the 90% of us who were against the Bailout, clearly demonstrating that they do NOT represent us.

A new group called the Constituent Response Team has been working to do just that. 

CRT has put together a Bailout Vote Map that makes it easy (as a mouse click) to find out how your Senators and Representatives voted. Tell all your family and friends about it, so they can find out how their Representative and Senators voted before they cast their ballot on Tuesday. 

The Constituent Response Team has also just published pre-customized web banners and ads targeted at those who voted "yes" for the Bailout. You can easily paste these ads onto your website or blog using simple embedding code (provided off course). If your Senator or Congress member voted for the Bailout, a customized web-banner probably already exists to assist you in getting the word out to vote against them.

If you are interested in either, check out Constituent Response at http://www.constituentresponse.com . The Bailout Vote Map is on the main page; the "Vote 'no" on incumbents who voted 'yes'" ads are under the Host CRT Ads link.