Monday, February 16, 2009

Another CIB Meeting, Another Conflict For Its President

There was a lot of media discussion this past week about the CIB's meeting at which the Board announced fake budget cuts the organization said it was making to help shrink its $50 million annual operating deficit. What you didn't hear mentioned was that Board President Bob Grand had to recuse himself yet again from participating in one of the items brought up near the end of the 34-minute meeting. The agenda item involved a parking/connector agreement related to Dora Brothers new hotel across the street from Lucas Oil Stadium. Grand did not state the nature of the conflict. At the Board's December meeting, Grand had to move for reconsideration of a vote taken at the Board's November meeting so he could abstain from a vote taken on a parking agreement with Wellpoint, the giant health insurer. Again, Grand did not state the nature of the conflict, but his law firm lobbies at the State House for Wellpoint.

Many observers were astounded when Mayor Greg Ballard named Grand to the Board because of his and his law firm's past representation of the Pacers and the Simon family. Grand promised to wall himself off from discussing any CIB matters pertaining to the Simons, which would effectively render him a useless Board president because of the upcoming 10-year renegotiation of the Pacers lease on Conseco Fieldhouse. Notwithstanding that promise, Grand has been involved in the discussions to resolve the $50 million operating deficit, $15 million of which has been incurred because the CIB announced before it had even sat down to negotiate with the Pacers that it would pick up $15 million in expenses currently paid by the Pacers at Conseco Fieldhouse. Also, the IBJ revealed this weekend that the CIB is quietly trying to get several members of the local corporate community to forgive $34 million it loaned the CIB for Conseco Fieldhouse out of dividends the businesses earned from an investment in the Circle Centre Mall, built by taxpayers for $320 million but operated by Simon Property Group, which pays no rent.

The taxpaying public has finally been able to get some light shined on the CIB because WCTY now records and televises the meetings of the CIB. If you watch them on a regular basis, you quickly ascertain that there are a lot of discussions taking place behind closed doors, raising concerns of possible violations of Indiana's Open Door Law. Most board meetings last between 30-60 minutes. There is little discussion of the agenda items. The CIB's Barney Levengood gives a brief summary and, with little if any discussion, the Board votes to unanimously approve the item. In addition to Grand, there are other Board members who will occasionally abstain from voting on an item as well. Again, the members never really state the reason for their conflict of interest.

9 comments:

HOOSIERS FOR FAIR TAX said...

In order to watch the meetings, one must subscribe to cable and pay that extra tax. Someone explained in the comments here, that the extra tax goes to the Pacers.

Advance Indiana said...

Melyssa, There are so many funding schemes that have been concocted over the years to finance the CIB it's hard to keep track of all of them. I had forgotten about that one. I thought the person who suggested the entire funding of the CIB is just one big Ponzi scheme was being a bit extreme, but I think the more you pull back all of the layers of dead skin, the more one appreciates the parasitic nature of this beast called the CIB.

Sir Hailstone said...

You can watch online at indy.gov

Paul K. Ogden said...

Melyssa, you can watch the meetings in streaming video over the internet for free.

Gary, excellent point about violation of the Open Meetings Law. Exactly at what meeting was the decision made to give the Pacers $15 million more?

Advance Indiana said...

Good point, Paul. The $15 million, to date, has only been mentioned in press reports sourcing CIB or city officials. There has not been a formal vote or discussion on the matter.

Advance Indiana said...

Of course, lease negotiations should be confidential; however, it seems to me the CIB undercut its leverage in negotiations by announcing in advance it would make that $15 million concession to the Pacers. But the real question is who make the decision to concede the $15 million?

Advance Indiana said...

I think the answer to my question on the $15 million is Bob Grand. He said during the meeting that they wanted to get everything out there during talks with legislators to make sure whatever financial solution they put together attacked all of the CIB's funding problems so they wouldn't have to go back again and ask for assistance.

Citizen Kane said...

Downtown is a Ponzi scheme; most Ponzi schemes are not recognizable until they collapse, despite warnings, which, of course, are always ignored. We may heading towards that very collapse (it is just much harder for it to collapse when one can continually steal money from taxpayers). Then we will hear all the hand-wringing from the enablers who supposedly can't figure out how things went so wrong.

7th CD guy said...

Why should lease negotiations be confidential? This is a building owned by the taxpayers, isn't it? Shouldn't we know the details of what the people are having done with their buildings?
Thats just what the administrations want. Keep the people in the dark. "we know whats best for you"