A public opinion poll taken recently in Marion County shows the public overwhelming opposes the deal by a margin of 70% to 20%. That includes black and white voters alike, as well as younger and older voters. Opposition runs high even among the most Republican townships of Perry, Decatur and Franklin Townships where 70% to 71% of the voters oppose the privatization of the City's parking meter assets. Democrats and independents overwhelmingly opposed the deal according to the poll and even Republicans disfavored the plan by a wide margin. Republicans ignored their own political interests in order to enrich Vaughn's big client. The company stands to make hundreds of millions of dollars from the contract, and the City will give up a similar amount of revenues over the life of the contract.
Those of us fighting for the taxpayers will demand a federal investigation into the awarding of this contract. There are appearances that the Marion County taxpayers have been deprived of the honest services of their elected politicians in order to personally enrich ACS and the law firm of Barnes & Thornburg. There will be consequences for this vote tonight. The opponents of this deal will not fade away.
UPDATE: WRTV's Norm Cox gets top honors for best coverage of tonight's vote by taking a close look at Vaughn's conflict of interest. Click here to read his story. Here is some of what Cox reported tonight, which included on point comments from fellow blogger Paul Ogden:
Critics had questioned the ethics of City-County Council President Ryan Vaughn, a Republican, who works at the law firm of Barnes & Thornburg, which ACS is paying to lobby for the deal, 6News' Norman Cox reported.
Vaughn defended his impartiality, saying because he isn't a partner in the firm and will make no money directly from the deal, there is no conflict of interest.
"I'm not going to benefit from it," he said. "No one close to my family's going to benefit from it and I'm not an owner of any business, and so there is no conflict of interest."
But blogger and lawyer Paul Ogden, a major critic of the parking deal, said there is no way Vaughn's position is not a conflict of interest.
"The question is, is his job on the line if he doesn't support ACS? And I would argue it is," he said. "The fact is, ACS gives millions of dollars to Barnes & Thornburg … and should he not support them, he could very well lose his position."
But Vaughn said the connection is being blown out of proportion.
"The council ethics rules clearly articulate between what constitutes an appearance of conflict and what constitutes an actual conflict," he said. "I've been very open for folks who have that concern about where I work and who they represent. I've never hidden that fact. "
Vaughn also faces accusations that he's using strong-arm tactics to push the deal through council.
Republican Councilor Christine Scales said Vaughn removed her from the important Public Safety Committee because she opposes the deal.
"The news that I was removed from the Public Safety Committee came about two hours after I notified council leadership that I was going to be voting no on the parking meter proposal," Scales said. "I felt it was retribution, and it came swiftly."
Vaughn denied that and said he removed Scales so he could replace her with a new councilor, Aaron Freeman, who has a background in public safety.
As for ACS itself, some are asking questions about its ability to run the meter system, given its partnership with IBM in the failed state welfare modernization plan.
ACS is back working with the state again and officials with the Family and Social Services Administration said they blame the welfare fiasco on IBM, not ACS.