Sunday, September 12, 2010

Ballard And Republicans Scrambling For Votes On Lousy Parking Meter Lease Deal For ACS

Mayor Greg Ballard and CCC President Ryan Vaughn decided to delay a City-County Council vote on the one-sided 50-year lease Ballard inked with ACS, the politically-connected business represented by Vaughn's law firm, Barnes & Thornburg. The Star's "Behind Closed Doors Column" says of the delay:

Mayor Greg Ballard and fellow Republicans on the City-County Council have backed off an aggressive course that would have put a proposal to lease the city's parking meters to a vote one month after the winning bid was announced.

Questions from council members on both sides of the aisle -- as well as bloggers, businesses and residents -- are coming faster than the mayor's team has been able to tackle them.

Council President Ryan Vaughn said he was unsure whether a vote by the full council as soon as Sept. 20, as originally planned, would go Ballard's way. Republicans hold 15 of the council's 29 seats.

"It would be close," Vaughn said Friday. "My sense is a lot of people are undecided because there are lots of questions out there."

Overarching concerns on the parking proposal focus on whether the lead contractor is getting too good a deal -- the company won't have to disclose its profits -- and whether the city is giving up too much flexibility for too long.

Last month, Ballard announced that the team, led by Dallas-based ACS, a Xerox company, had agreed to pay the city $35 million for a 50-year lease of the city's 3,669 metered spots.

ACS would share annual revenue on a tiered scale, with ACS estimating the city's take at about $400 million over the life of the contract, to be used for streets, sidewalks and parks in Downtown and Broad Ripple.

Indianapolis drivers would see rates double to $1.50 per hour in some places and for extended hours. But to improve convenience, ACS would upgrade coin meters to ones that accept credit cards and cash.

Council Minority Leader Joanne Sanders , a Democrat, sees the ACS proposal as a raw deal and is glad for the delay.

"I'm grateful that they have had an awakening," Sanders said. Even if she and other opponents fail to stop the proposal, she added, "I would say that there is the opportunity to try to get a better deal."

On Friday, the council canceled a Rules and Public Policy Committee meeting that had been set for Monday, delaying the committee's hearing on the proposal until Sept. 28. That pushes a vote by the full council to October at the earliest.
Naturally, the Star is raising no questions about why Vaughn is participating in the debate and vote on the parking meter lease deal that so clearly benefits a client of his law firm. If he or his fellow Republicans on the council had a moral compass, he would have no part of these discussions, along with Councilor Angel Rivera, whose employer TCC relies on subcontracts from ACS's government contracts for its very survival. I would urge Democrats on the council to demand a copy of the fee agreement between Vaughn's law firm and Barnes & Thornburg. I think the public has a right to know how a law firm that simultaneously gets paid to advise Mayor Greg Ballard is being compensated for its representation of ACS. Is the firm getting compensated on a percentage basis that will ensure it receives fees throughout the life of this 50-year lease? Everyone with any knowledge of this deal knew the fix was in before the RFQ even hit the streets to award the deal to ACS and Denison Parking. Council Democrats should be demanding copies of every e-mail, memorandum, correspondence and phone log records discussing the privatization of the City's parking meters to find out who knew what and when did they know it. No claims of attorney-client privilege should be claimed with respect to communications between the administration and Barnes & Thornburg. Those requests should date back to the inception of the Ballard administration. Based on what I've heard about this transaction, the Public Integrity Section of the Justice Department should be asked to assign a team of investigators to look into this deal.


Paul K. Ogden said...

Gary, I so agree that not only should this deal be voted down, there needs to be a public corruption investigation involving how this deal was put forward in the first place. Investigators need to talk to Loftus, Vaughn, and Rivera to start with.

By the way, as I've pointed out before, the claim of "attorney-client" privilege would not apply anyway.

Marycatherine Barton said...

Council Democrats certainly should be making those demands Gary Welsh here writes. But, will they, and if not, why not?