Monday, May 17, 2010

Conflicted Vaughn Continues Doing Bidding For Law Firm's Client, Veolia

City-County Council President Ryan Vaughn continues in his efforts to ram through a plan to transfer the utilities currently owned by the City of Indianapolis to Citizens Energy, a public benefit corporation owned by the residents of Marion County, in a deal that forces the utility to pay $263 million to the City to finance pork barrel projects supported by Mayor Ballard and the Republican-led council, and that forces on Citizens a one-sided operating agreement that allows the client of Vaughn's law firm to continue operating the water utility. Because most Democrats will vote against the transfer at tonight's council meeting, the debate has been characterized by the Star's municipal beat reporter as politics as usual. The deal is being presented as a take it or leave it package deal that forces people who support the idea of a transfer to Citizens to also support a separate proposal to borrow and spend hundreds of millions of dollars on Ballard-supported transportation-related projects that would be financed by a $263 million cash payment by Citizens to the City. The Democrats have asked that more time be spent studying the deal, which has been before the council for all of about 60 days. "How can you vote not to continue to talk about the deal?" Vaughn, the conflicted Republican leader is quoted as telling the Star's Francesa Jarosz. The real question is why Vaughn is even speaking out about the deal since his law firm's client stands to continue making more than $40 million a year managing the water utility.

Make no mistake about it, if the council votes to approve the transfer and the $170 bond issue to fund the pork barrel projects tonight, the deal has moved beyond the control of the council and is exclusively within the hands of Mayor Ballard, who has demonstrated his desire to do whatever bidding he can do to further the interests of Barnes & Thornburg's clients rather than the public interest. Mayor Ballard's administration has already said it will borrow $140 million to fund its pork barrel projects prior to next year's election regardless of whether the utility transfer deal is approved using PILOT revenues from the sewer utility. Jarosz continues to ignore the blatant conflict of interest with which Vaughn is confronted despite the fact that council Democrats raised it at a hearing of the Rules & Public Policy Committee last week. Vaughn claims he has legal opinions that says he can participate in the deal at the same time his firm is representing the interests of Veolia. The Ballard administration claims it is pushing the deal to eke out as much savings for ratepayers as possible, but Citizens can operate the water utility more efficiently without Veolia and without having to pay $263 million to the City to finance Ballard's pork barrel projects. These costs will simply be passed on to ratepayers, who have already seen their bills skyrocket nearly 100% and will continue to see large increases in future years.

7 comments:

Advance Indiana said...

Has it occurred to Republicans that they are handling this proposal exactly the way President Obama and the Democrats in Congress handled the health care debate, a one-sided process denounced universally by Republicans in Congress?

Sean Shepard said...

Is there some kind of penalty that the city must pay if the Veolia contract is terminated early? If so, is there no out if the ownership is transferred?

Indy Student said...

That irony has not been lost on me.

Advance Indiana said...

Sean, The City completely ignored the IURC's admonishment to renegotiate the one-sided agreement after the last rate increase hearing. It renegotiated in 2007 to assume more than $40 million in retiree-related health care costs that we had no obligation under the original contract to negotiate. The problem is that we have people who are supposedly representing the City who are actually representing Veola's interests. The contract is lousy. It's the same as the Pacers lease on Conseco. Anything in the agreement that helps the City is ignored, while everything that benefits Veolia is stretched to the limits and beyond.

Marycatherine Barton said...

Oh sure, they they are voting tonight just to be able to continue talking about the 'deal'. I hope Ms. Jarosz did not fall for that assurance from Ryan, and most importantly, that the other councillors aren't so stupid.

Citizen Kane said...

I contacted Christine Scales and she indicated that she was going to vote for both proposals and continue to evaluate the issue as more information and details become available during the negotiation process.

Advance Indiana said...

Christine forgets that she barely won election in 2007. The Democrats are targeting her seat once again. She will be swept out of office for caving into Vaughn and taking his and Ballard's corruption leadership orders on this matter. Any Republican who votes for this will be personally targeted for defeat by this blog. I will divulge everything I can to the voting public to help ensure their defeat. I'm sick of contributing to the Republican Party and helping elect their candidates and then the people who get elected from our efforts turn around and stab us in the back. Bart Peterson's office scoffed at what I was doing in 2007. These Republicans have a big surprise and it's going to prove quite costly. There will be several prominent Republicans headed to the federal penetentiary before it's all over, and I will be standing there bidding them a fine farewell.