Monday, November 15, 2010

Council Of Barnes & Thornburg Gives ACS Control Of Parking Meter Assets

Defying common sense and good politics, a Republican-controlled council beholden to Barnes & Thornburg approved the controversial lease of Indianapolis' parking meter assets for 50 years to ACS. CCC President Ryan Vaughn (R-Barnes & Thornburg) strong armed Republicans into supporting the measure. Only Christine Scales voted against it. Democrat Paul Bateman, who has been under investigation for the misappropriation of more than a million dollars from the Russell Foundation, was the only Democrat to vote for the measure, allowing it to pass by a 15-14 vote. Libertarian Ed Coleman voted against the proposal citing overwhelming opposition to the measure by constituents who contacted him.

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.


Paul K. Ogden said...

There should be an investigation of Vaughn's role in this and what payoffs there were, if any, to Paul Bateman for his vote.

I haven't watched all the debate yet. I did listend to Bob Lutz flat out lie that there was no prohibition in the contract on borrowing money to pay the ACS termination fee. I also heard Vaughn lie that the 200 jobs promise is in a "separate contract." Vaughn knows perfectly well that ACS's letter is not a "contract."

Lenore Hanick said...

ACS employee code of ethics and signed by CEO, Lynn Blodgett: "...Employees are expected to act with honesty and integrity and a high standard of ethical conduct and avoid any actual or apparent conflict of interest."

Vaughn, Barnes & Thornburg, Ballard, and the multitude of public officials involved are utterly disgusting. There are likely more revelations of corporate malfeasance and dishonesty to come.
I'm waiting for the Indy Star to have an insert of rose colored glasses in the next edition of the Sunday Star. "Ohh everything is so purdy."

iPOPA said...

Joe Loftus was at the meeting tonight, and after the vote, he was smiling and on his cell phone talking to somebody. So here's my question. Was he there for ACS or the Mayor? You make the call!

Downtown Indy said...

Call me crazy but I think the 'appearance' of a conflict of interest IS a conflict of interest.

Rick Wilkerson said...

Gary, do you think that Paul Batemen got "something special" for his vote? Without his vote the measure would have been defeated.

Advance Indiana said...

Don't know, Rick. Some people think he voted that way to help out Hal Daring, who was cut in on the deal as part of the MBE component.