Friday, March 19, 2010

Star Confirms Plowman Bribery Allegations

This is a must read story today. The Star's John Touhy confirms my earlier report that former Councilor Lincoln Plowman, a high-ranking IMPD officer, became ensnared in a bribery scam connected to a zoning matter proposed by an undercover FBI agent. Touhy relies on three sources with knowledge of the investigation. He confirms that Plowman had contacted a city planner to discuss the proposed zoning variance for an upscale restaurant with a second-floor strip club he wanted to develop in the downtown area. A local real estate agent had been engaged by the undercover agent according to Touhy. And Plowman even contacted Board of Zoning Appeals member Brad Klopfenstein about the prospects of obtaining the variance. According to Touhy's sources, the several month sting came to a head when Plowman met with the undercover agent at a bar in the Conrad Hilton and accepted a $5,000 cash payment.

Some quick observations. This type of corruption is quite common in Chicago where aldermen have a stronger voice in the zoning process. Federal prosecutors have nabbed numerous alderman in bribery scams over the years there. Not surprisingly, the undercover agent posed as a developer from Chicago according to the Star. Indianapolis' zoning process has long been rumored to be highly political and corrupt. The lack of any tough federal or state prosecutors in Indianapolis has prevented investigations and prosecution of wrongdoing. Now that the Star has confirmed the nature of the investigation, which the Ballard administration refused to disclose to the media, you can now see why. Clearly, city officials were made aware of this proposed zoning matter. The question is whether any of them were willing participants in helping to grease the skids. Developers often hire local zoning experts to assist them in zoning matters? Did the undercover agent engage someone who may played a role in this?

Several criminal defense attorneys noted the silence from Plowman and his attorney on the investigation. Some of them suspect Plowman will cut a deal with the feds, which means there may be bigger fish to fry in this sordid mess. Please stay tuned. Kudos to Touhy and the Star for their excellent reporting on this.

UPDATE: Here's an interesting twist on Brad Klopfenstein's role in this sting. According to the campaign finance report Plowman filed for 2009, his campaign committee made a $500 payment to Klopfenstein for work as a publicist on October 19, 2009. A source tells me that Plowman was instrumental in getting Klopfenstein, a Libertarian, appointed to the BZA. Typically, the council only appoints Republicans or Democrats to the BZA. According to a source, Klopfenstein served as Plowman's campaign manager.


Citizen Kane said...

Developers generally hire attorneys, or nit-wits and sometimes they are one and the same.

Marycatherine Barton said...

Much appreciation goes to the feds for these publicized efforts to try to protect us from corrupt politicians. The amount of noticiable political influence over zoning decisions in Marion County, has had a very demoralizing effect on participants and onlookers alike.

We will stay tuned. Thanks for this detailed report, and stay well.