Sunday, August 23, 2009

Gifts To Mayor Ballard Just Par For The Course

The Star's Behind Closed Doors" column leads off today with an item that is remarkably similar to my post from earlier this week commenting on Mayor Greg Ballard's disclosure that he had accepted free memberships to country clubs despite his pledge to end country club politics:

Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard is just the same average Joe he was when he pulled off his upset win in November 2007 -- if, that is, you don't count the two country club memberships, the Columbia Club membership and all the free tickets he gets to sporting events.

Back on Nov. 7, 2007, the morning after he stunned the Indianapolis political world by beating then-Mayor Bart Peterson, Ballard promised he'd be a different kind of politician.

"The old guys, they just don't get it," Ballard told The Indianapolis Star that day. "This is the end of Republican country-club politics."

He said he played his golf games on public courses and didn't plan on changing who he is just because he was now mayor.

"If they think that, they've got another thing coming," he said . . .

And then there are the club memberships. In his addendum, Ballard said he has "yet to play golf as a member at Highland or Woodstock, (but) I may play in the future."

Playing there comes at a price. A membership at Woodstock ranges from $2,500 to $9,000. A spokesman for Highland said a membership there ranges "from zero to $16,000."

We suggest calling Highland and asking for the Ballard "zero fee" special.

The Columbia Club said a membership -- which provides access to three Indianapolis-area golf courses and 180 more worldwide -- usually costs $1,500, plus monthly fees, though a special $120 fee honoring the club's 120th anniversary is available this year.

Ballard, by the way, isn't the only politician who gets such perks, though none of the clubs will say who else does.
Based on accounts I've received in the past, there may be some pretty upset dues-paying members at Highland and Woodstock, who I understand paid considerably more to join the clubs than the bargain prices mentioned in today's column. The mayor's people make the point to the Star that Ballard went above and beyond the disclosure required of him by disclosing the free golf club memberships. That is a testament to just how weak our ethics disclosure statements are here in Indianapolis to think that city and county officials can accept gifts valued in the tens of thousands of dollars and not be legally required to disclose them. So much for the ballyhooed claims about a tougher ethics ordinance.


Jon said...

Did our mayor make his disclosure pre or post your blog?

Gary R. Welsh said...

He made the disclosure on his May 1, 2009 statement of economic interest. I reported on it last week after the statement appeared online.

POPA said...

Were I dictator of the universe, every elected official would report everything of cash value received, whether directly or as an in-kind gift, and this would even include Christmas presents from non-family members. The idea would be to make the reporting requirements so cumbersome, elected officials would start telling people not to give them gifts.

There are a lot of really good people who serve me, and I do not mean to disparage them, but over time, freebies (free Pacers, Colts, Indy 500, IU/Purdue, theater tickets, etc.) can seduce, and if these elected officials can't give them up, they might need to move on. Sorry, but I don't need elected officials gripping tickets and calling them "my precious."