Saturday, May 16, 2009

CIB's Barney Levengood Paid $221,000

The hits just keep on coming as the City of Indianapolis continues to seek a $48 million a year bailout from the state, financed through higher taxes and more state subsidies. The IBJ's Cory Schouten takes a closer look at the CIB's payroll. Previously, WTHR's Mary Milz pointed out that big pay raises had been doled out to the CIB's key personnel within the past year, except for its CIB executive director, Barney Levengood, and 3% raises had been approved acrossed the board elsewhere. It turns out Levengood didn't need a pay raise because he's one of the highest paid public officials in the State of Indiana, making over $221,000. Levengood also padded the CIB's budget with 30 new employees. Schouten writes:

He’s also become one of the state’s highest-paid public employees. Levengood, 54, earns a salary of $221,325—more than the governor and the mayor combined. He also gets a $500-per-month car allowance.

Some observers are wondering whether that’s too much, particularly considering that CIB is pleading for new taxes to keep it afloat. The quasi-governmental board is facing a $47 million annual deficit.

Before asking the mayor and state legislators for a bailout earlier this year, Levengood added 30 employees, boosting CIB’s head count to 172—a 20-percent increase. He also handed out 3-percent raises to most employees, and
some got much more; stadium director Mike Fox’s salary jumped 36 percent, to $128,242 . . .

Levengood said he hadn’t realized the full extent of the CIB’s budget troubles when he approved the raises.

“In hindsight, this may have not been the best decision but we honestly didn’t believe there would not be a solution,” he wrote in an e-mail. “We wanted to continue to operate and still do today as if we are a viable organization.”

Levengood didn't realize the full extent of the CIB's budget troubles when he approved the raises? Hmmm. CPA and veteran CIB member Pat Early has no problem with that:

Early said Levengood is not to blame for the CIB budget mess. The board has been operating with deficits every year since 1999, but Early said those shortfalls never made much of a dent in CIB’s reserves until now.

And he defended Levengood’s decision to give the CIB staff raises in January. Levengood didn’t get a raise this year, but last year he got an 8-percent boost. (The board sets the salary for the executive director, who determines salaries for the rest of the staff.)

“I’ve worked with Barney for 17 years,” Early said. “He picks up paper clips off the floor instead of buying a new box. He’s as fiscally responsible a manager as we possibly could have.”

A spokesman for Mayor Greg Ballard, who appoints six members on the nine-member board, said he would defer to the judgment of the Capital Improvement Board on whether salaries are appropriate.

The job is complex and challenging and requires a well-paid leader, Early said. “You can get someone to do brain surgery for less than a brain surgeon makes,” he said, “but you just might not be happy with the result.”

I've become convinced that it could be reported that the CIB has been secretly killing babies for the past ten years and it wouldn't make a dime's bit of difference in this bailout debate. Our elected officials received their marching orders from their true masters long ago that they would finance this bailout by hook or crook. What the taxpaying public thinks or what the facts show mean little to our out-of-touch elected officials.

Elsewhere in the IBJ, propagandist in chief for the downtown elites, Bill Benner, pens a column telling us just how bad things would turn for the worst if, God forbid, our beloved Pacers moved out of town. Benner picked up on blog reports about a rumor the team could be bought and moved to Vancouver, although Benner is sticking to the party line that these team owners never threaten to leave town if city leaders to fork over to them their ever increasing demands:

As I drove to work May 12, I listened as local talk-show radio host, WXNT-AM 1430’s Abdul Hakim-Shabazz seized on a blog report that the owner of the National Hockey League Vancouver Canucks was considering a bid to purchase the Indiana Pacers and move them to the Canadian city.

There was nothing to confirm that the report was credible and, we must emphasize, Pacers co-owner Herb Simon has been steadfast in his stated desire to keep the franchise in Indianapolis.

Nonetheless, Hakim-Shabazz used the report to pose a question to his listeners: If the Pacers left, would they even be missed? Most replied they would not.

Now I listened to perhaps only a half-dozen callers before I reached my destination, and it would be nonsense to suggest they were a representative sampling . . .

About an hour after Hakim-Shabazz’s radio show concluded, Streett got a call from his boss, Shepherd Executive Director Jay Height. Height told Streett the Pacers had called, and needed someone from Shepherd to be at Conseco Fieldhouse by 11:30 that morning. Height wasn’t given a reason, just told to have someone there, and he asked Streett to go.

Streett knew that the Pacers had called a news conference to announce that forward Danny Granger was to be named the NBA’s most improved player.

What he didn’t know was that the award is sponsored by auto manufacturer Kia, and that a vehicle—either a Borrego SUV or a Sedona minivan—would be awarded to the charity of Granger’s choice.

Granger had selected Shepherd Community Center. So, much to his surprise and delight, Streett was handed the keys to a new minivan at the news conference.

“This is a tremendous gift,” said Streett, still looking a bit shocked. “Transportation is one of our biggest issues. This is a real blessing to us.” .
. .

So, back to Hakim-Shabazz’s question: Would we miss the Pacers if they left?

Perhaps not. But don’t tell it to Tim Streett who, courtesy of Danny Granger, walked out of Conseco Fieldhouse with keys to a new vehicle that can provide a lift in ways beyond mere transportation.

What a real tear jerker, Bill. How do you look at yourself in the mirror spewing such bullshit on a daily basis as part of your job? This is how these guys operate. They plant a story in the media that a professional sports team, which just happens to be seeking an additional $15 million a year subsidy from the taxpayers, may be bought and moved to another city. Remember Jim Irsay's Colts and the LA rumors? The team naturally denies the rumor, but their paid mouthpieces make sure it gets circulated far and wide in the community to scare key leaders into taking the desired action. Your propaganda won't fly here, Bill. You should go back to doggie school and learn some new tricks, Rover, or excuse me, Bill.


Downtown Indy said...

If only Shepard could 'break the cycle of poverty' surrounding the CIB.

One thing is for sure, the fancy shmancy stadiums have done nothing to improve the lot of those poor eastside dwellers nor reduced their numbers.

I know said...

I wonder what his expense account is too. I bet it would build a Habitat for Humanity House for an east side dweller.

Citizen Kane said...

172 employees; I thought that there were only 80 or so.

Interesting what a little investigation uncovers. So, when is someone going to actually investigate this criminal (in name if not in fact) organization?

Paul K. Ogden said...

Is Mayor Ballard really that brainwashed that he give even this a pass. I agree with Gary - not even a relevation that the CIB had been killing babies would deter the powers to be, both Democrat and Republican elected officials, from pushing these tax increases for the CIB bailout.

Paul K. Ogden said...

Has anyone thought of what happens when (if?) the CIB starts paying the $15 million in operating expenses at Conseco? We will be paying the salaries and benefits of the Pacers employees who staff the facility. We will have no control over who gets hired, how much they get paid, bonuses they get, etc?

Ted said...

I read with great interest that the Director of the Capital Improvement Board enjoys a salary greater than our Mayor and Governor combined. I am sure at that income Barney Levingood does a great job making sure the parking lots are swept and the light bulbs changed.

The Director is just a facility manager and his concern is managing facilities; not achieving the bigger goal of the CIB in driving downtown visits and the downtown economy. The head of the ICVA tries to do that, but no one is in charge of the big picture and the greater goal of the CIB is often supplanted to just running the facility and the insider deals.

For instance when the overall price and frequency of downtown parking rates sky-rocketed when the Conseco Fieldhouse was built, causing the top ten restaurants to loose an average of 10% of their sales for each of the first three years after the Fieldhouse opened (after which reporting stopped), Barney was a complete obstructionist to getting the problem solved. He and another CIB employee were caught in a deliberate lie to other members of the parking task force (and so IDI who hosted the meetings refused to publish the minutes of this one session). Barney is also the guy who issued a two page contract synopsis for the CIB members to review so they could vote on the three inch thick set of agreements with the Pacers, but failed to include that the added fifth level of the Fieldhouse parking garage (at a cost of over $4 million) could not be used for game parking. He also lied to me several times to cover this fact up until after the vote. And lets not forget that when the rest of downtown was screwed by hyper-inflated event parking (an average of 735% at the time), that Barney failed to disclose to the public or the parking task force that the Simon’s were not paying the annual contract amount of $3.45 million for the Fieldhouse garage, even at a time when Peterson was building a new $11 million dollar garage so Simon employees could park for free. (Notice that the over $37 million the Pacers are in arrears would, if it had been paid, nearly erase the CIB’s deficit.)

Levengood said he hadn’t realized the full extent of the CIB’s budget troubles when he seriously increased spending this last year. If huge operating defieits were front page news last year, where did that information come from and why didn’t he know about it. Who is he kidding? For the amount he is paid, shouldn’t he be held accountable for spending and budgets and never be allowed such a cop out that he just doesn’t get it? He is paid to understand budgets and if he doesn’t get it – he needs to go.

Do not forget the extra perks Barney also enjoys such as the free parking pass good anytime at Denison Parking lots, and the rumored free trips on Denison’s Presidents plane and free vacation stays at his Colorado ski condo. Ands lets be fair, Denison has control of all the CIB parking facilities, some with dubious or non-existent bidding procedures. I am sure there are other perks out there.

At a salary of well over $221,000 annually plus a $6,000 annual car allowance, it’s time to get rid of Barney and hire someone who works for downtown Indy’s greater interest and not a person who is primarily interested in his own turf and the perks that go with it. The CIB mess will never be truly sorted out with Barneys carefree spending attitude and willingness to sacrifice everyone to his interests. He is not part of the solution, he is part of the problem. Surely an honest team player can be found who can still get the light bulbs changed and the parking lots swept. Time for a change.

Ted E.C. Bulthaup III, former owner, Hollywood Bar & Filmworks