Thursday, September 24, 2009

Job For Merger?

WTHR's Sandra Chapman raises questions tough reporters should be asking when deals made at taxpayer expense appear to reward key decision-makers. Perry Township Trustee Gary Coons was the driving force behind the recent merger of the township fire department into the Indianapolis Fire Department, a deal that works out well for Perry Township taxpayers but will prove costly to Marion County taxpayers over the long haul. No sooner had the deal been inked than Coons landed a $64,000 a year job as public liaison for the Public Safety Department, a step down from the job he had requested as Public Safety Director. Coons continues to hold his full-time elected Trustee's position. Chapman reports:

On September 5th, Mayor Greg Ballard welcomed Perry Township Fire into the realm of city control. Three days later on September 8th, Perry Township Trustee Gary Coons, the driving force behind the merger, started a new job at the Department of Public Safety.

Critics charge the job is a reward, but say the deal fell short of giving Coons the top director's job he wanted.

Mayor Ballard tells 13 Investigates he never made any such promise for the top safety post.

"We just don't do that sort of thing. It's my decision," Ballard said. But the mayor also had good words for Coons. "He's a good man. Understand, he did a very courageous thing down there when as a trustee he said, 'Yes, I think my fire department has to go into IFD.'"

Coons says he did in fact apply for the public safety director post, but says the offer as a liaison in the department was too good to pass up. His duties: to negotiate future mergers, plan for special events including the Super Bowl, and acquire federal grants. It's a job that comes with an annual salary of $64,000.

13 Investigates asked Coons, "Was there a back room deal for you to move into this if you did XYZ or were you promised anything from the city?"

Coons responded, "I was never promised and there was never a back room deal."

The public safety job is in addition to the $51,000 he already earns providing poor relief as the Perry Township Trustee.

"What I do is, I go there in the evening or early morning and then I go in on weekends. I don't think I should earn a full time salary by no means," Coons said, explaining how he juggles the workload.

Not surprisingly, Coons shamelessly uses the fact that he suffers from Parkinson's Disease as a deflection to his self-dealing. Mayor Ballard insisted that no deal was made with Coons, but his explanation simply rings hollow. Why else would Coons land a job just days after the merger deal was approved if there wasn't a quid pro quo?


Paul K. Ogden said...

Chapman's report was extremely impressive. I can't believe Ballard wants us to swallow that Coons getting a job with the city just days after the merger was just a coincidence.

I don't know if Ballard was directly involved in this decision, but there is a lack of institutional control within his administration that results in these things being done in his name by underlings.

I guess you saw Tom John's comments. He said the $51K trustee job was "not lucrative" and dismissed it as something Coons could just do in his spare time.

What happened to the Mayor's ethics agenda.

jabberdoodle said...

Paul - I'd say the 'Mayor's ethics agenda' is right on track. The real one, that is.

Gary R. Welsh said...

On the ethics front, Ballard is operating at best no better than Bart Peterson, and that's not saying much.

POPA said...

Everybody raise your hand if you think $51,000 is not a lot for a part-time job? Right now there are prosecutors, deputy AGs, city attorneys, and public defenders who don't make that working full-time.