Sunday, January 31, 2010

Brizzi Lashes Out At FOX 59 News

Marion Co. Prosecutor Carl Brizzi refused to grant an interview with FOX 59 News' Russ McQuaid when he began making inquiries about influence peddling in his office. Instead, Brizzi used his paid radio show gig on WIBC yesterday afternoon to lash out at the TV station and, in particular, Russ McQuaid. Brizzi attacked McQuaid for giving the appearance that his office was under investigation by the FBI. McQuaid insists he only claimed the FBI was making inquiries in response to questions raised about campaign contributions and a recent sentence modification that allowed a convicted murderer out of jail after serving just 18 years of her original 110-year sentence. Brizzi accused McQuaid of being a "reckless, irresponsible, ratings monger journalist" during his 2-hour show on WIBC Saturday afternoon, Crime Beat. In a separate appearance on WIBC's Steve Simpson show Friday afternoon, McQuaid promised new reports in the coming weeks on the goings-on in the prosecutor's office that would be difficult to believe. McQuaid also reports on discussions of possible primary opponents emerging in the Hamilton Co. Prosecutor's race as a result of these recent disclosures.

On Elected Coroners

Apparently, the coroner's office in New Orleans operates like the Marion Co. Coroner's Office. Marion Co. Prosecutor Carl Brizzi's Office was presented with evidence a few years ago about efforts to unlawfully procure and sell body parts from decedents' bodies autopsied by the office. A deputy coroner, who was not a doctor, was once illegally caught removing corneas from a decedent a few years ago in the Marion Co. Coroner's Office. Brizzi's office, of course, buried the investigation and an investigation into the theft of decedents' property while in the custody of the Coroner's Office just like every other public corruption case that has occurred on his watch. Enjoy viewing this campaign ad now running New Orleans.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Politicians Line Up For Super Bowl Tickets

For the average person, attending a Super Bowl game is not attainable. Even if you were offered a ticket to the game at fair market value, the cost of travel and other costs associated with attending the event puts it out of your price range. According to the Star's "Behind Closed Doors" column, the Indianapolis Colts made tickets available to all City-County Councilors, state lawmakers and other elected officials in Indiana. At least 26 of the 29 councilors paid $800 a ticket for Super Bowl tickets. Another 32 state legislators, or 21% of all state legislators, purchased the tickets and four of Indiana's nine-member congressional delegation bought tickets.

The IBJ reported on package deals of $4,000 per person being offered by Ambassadair for a 4-day trip to the Super Bowl. That included hotel accommodations on the Gulf Coast, a long bus ride from Miami. According to the IBJ, Ambassadair made reservations on the Gulf Coast to avoid the crush in the Miami area. I'm familiar with how many of our councilors earn a living, and I don't think it would be too presumptuous of me to question how some of them can afford to go to the Super Bowl on their annual income. Recall that candidate Greg Ballard challenged my former councilor, Patrice Abduallah, on how he could afford to go to the Super Bowl four years ago when he couldn't afford to pay the property taxes on his home. Candidate Ballard said the public deserved to know who paid for the councilor's tickets and the cost of his trip as part of a call for ethics reforms in city government. That was then. We now know that Ballard has accepted gifts totalling well in excess of $50,000 since taking office, including country club memberships, junkets to Asia, Europe and Brazil, and free tickets to sporting events and concerts.

The City's ethics ordinance, like the state's lobby registration law covering the lobbying of state legislators, requires councilors to disclose any gift they receive during the year that total $100 or more. If a lobbyist and a councilor agree to conceal a gift, the public is not likely to ever know about the gift unless a whistleblower makes the undisclosed gift known. For example, if a public official stays in a condominium owned by a lobbyist while attending the Super Bowl, will that public official report the fair market value of that gift? I can tell you from my experience as a lobbyist at the State House during the 1990s, many unethical legislators and lobbyists hide some of their gifts.

The Colts' organization emphasizes that the tickets were offered to the officials at their fair market value. For the average person, though, your only hope of attending a Super Bowl is to purchase tickets through a broker. A quick check of one ticket broker showed seats in the nose bleed section going for about $1,700, while club seating ticket prices reached $5,000. All things considered, it looks like a big discount on ticket prices to me. It also is further evidence of just how much clout these professional teams exert over our public officials as a result of their ability to offer special treatment to them to attend sporting events. It explains why these officials can continually come back and ask working men and women to pay more taxes and provide more subsidies to the billionaire sports team owners without blinking an eye. The only way we are going to end this undue influence is to ban our public officials altogether from receiving any gifts or special offers that are not accorded to the public generally on equal terms.

UPDATE: I've been able to confirm the identity of the three councilors who did not purchase Super Bowl tickets. They are Christine Scales, Ed Coleman and Angela Mansfield. As a condition to the purchase of the tickets, councilors were asked to sign an agreement that they would not sell the tickets to someone else for more than the face value.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Justice For Sale: FBI Probes Brizzi And Wyser

FOX 59 News' Russ McQuaid has an exclusive story on a new probe the FBI has launched into influence peddling in the Marion County Prosecutor's Office. Prosecutor Carl Brizzi, who is already under suspicion for his ties to alleged Ponzi scheme operator Timothy Durham, is the focus of the probe along with his chief deputy, David Wyser, who is running for Hamilton Co. Prosecutor. Allegations center around a case where a millionaire Indianapolis businessman contributed tens of thousands of dollars to the campaigns of Brizzi and Wyser before the two prosecutors agreed to a modified sentence for a convicted murderer who had served only 18 years of a 110-year sentence for being found guilty of hiring a hit man to kill her husband. The convicted murderer's father made the large contributions to Brizzi and Wyser. Those tainted contributions were returned to the murderer's father within the last few days as this probe heated up. Hats off to former Marion Co. Judge Gary Miller, a Republican, for having the courage and conviction to speak out against Brizzi's and Wyser's conduct in this matter. Russ McQuaid reports:

The FBI inquiries come in the wake of a high profile raid by federal agents in November at the offices of financier Tim Durham on Monument Circle. Durham is a close friend and campaign supporter of Brizzi, donating nearly $200,000 to the prosecutor's re-election campaign in 2006.

An attorney for Brizzi, Tom Collignon, told Fox 59 News that it would be, "a leap of faith," to construe an FBI inquiry as an investigation.

Word of the FBI inquiry comes as Fox 59 News has uncovered a pattern of campaign donations to both Brizzi and his Chief Trial Deputy David Wyser at the time when the prosecutor's office was signing off on a motion to reduce the prison time of a woman originally sentenced to 110 years for the murder of her husband.

Paula Epperly Willoughby was convicted in the killing of her husband Darrell in 1991. After just 18 years in prison, Epperly Willoughby's sentenced was modified to time served.

"I was outraged," said former judge Gary Miller who presided over the trial. "I thought it was absolutely ridiculous for anybody to think that was an appropriate way to modify a sentence in this case."

Wyser said he agreed to the modification due to rehabilitation and family concerns.

"It was the right thing to do. It was based upon the merits. I would do it again."

Paula Epperly Willoughby's father is Harrison Epperly, a millionaire real estate magnet with property in downtown Indianapolis. From 2006 through 2008, Epperly donated $29,000 to the Brizzi campaign. $20,000 was donated the weekend before Brizzi's budget busting re-election in 2006. Those were the years his daughter's attorney was negotiating with Brizzi's office for a sentence modification.

"In April of 2009 Miss Lukemeyer and I drafted an order for the court modifying her sentence," said Wyser.

On May 29, 2009, less than a month before Epperly Willoughby's motion for reducing her sentence would be filed with the court, Harrison Epperly donated $2500 to Wyser's campaign for Hamilton County prosecutor.

"I understand the timing may not look good to some people," said Wyser. "It depends on how you want to put a spin on it."

Epperly Willoughby was released from the Indiana Women's Prison in early July. On August 25th her attorney Jennifer Lukemeyer sponsored a fundraiser for Wyser at her downtown Indianapolis condominium. Wyser raised $2250 that night. In a statement to Fox 59 News Lukemeyer said the Wyser fundraiser, "is not a story as far as it relates to Paula."

Wyser and Brizzi told Fox 59 News that in the last week they have returned the donations to Epperly and his company EMPS LLC. The decision to return the money coincided when word of the Fox 59 investigation leaked through the city's legal community.

At this time there is no investigation by any legal authorities into the circumstances surrounding Paula Epperly Willoughby's early release from prison.

Buyer Ending Congressional Career

U.S. Rep. Steve Buyer (R-IN) will announce shortly that he will not seek re-election to Congress this year the Indianapolis Star confirms. Buyer's official announcement will be made at IU Hospital in Indianapolis at 11:00 a.m. "Family concerns" prompted his decision. It is not clear if there is a health-related reason for today's announcement given the location of the announcement. Buyer has represented the 4th District since 1992. He has recently come under attack and has faced an ethics complaint over a nonprofit scholarship fund he established, which failed to award any scholarships despite raising considerable funds. His decision will likely set off a mad scramble among Republicans in his district to replace him. Several state lawmakers may jump into the race.

UPDATE: Buyer's wife has been diagnosed with a serious, unidentified auto-immune disorder for which she has been receiving treatment. That's the reason he has offered for his retirement.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Daniels Says Massa Is Best Choice For Prosecutor

An endorsement from the Governor doesn't get much better than what Gov. Mitch Daniels told FOX 59 News today about the prospect of his chief legal counsel, Mark Massa, becoming the Republican candidate for Marion Co. Prosecutor.

Alito To Obama: Not True

It's not the "you lie" outburst that U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson made during President Obama's last address to Congress, but Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito can be clearly seen mouthing the words "not true" in response to President Obama's condemnation of last week's Supreme Court ruling striking down corporate spending limits in federal campaigns during his State of the Union address last night.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Rothstein Pleads Guilty

Disgraced Florida SuperLawyer and Ponzi scheme operator Scott Rothstein pleaded guilty this week to multiple federal felony charges against him and will now be sentenced in May. A competent U.S. Attorney in South Florida moved quickly against Rothstein just months ago and seized his assets as soon as federal agents discovered he was operating a massive Ponzi scheme.

The similarities between Rothstein and Indianapolis' Timothy Durham are striking. Both had the appearance of experiencing meteoric business success through classic Ponzi schemes. Both acquired luxury homes, cars, art work, yachts and airplanes. Both lavished huge contributions on politicians. And both had developed close relationships with law enforcement officials. None of that mattered in the end for Rothstein, but the results in Indianapolis have been far different. The Marion Co. Prosecutor is in his back pocket. Many local law enforcement officials worked as off-duty security personnel for Durham, including a firm tied to former Marion Co. Sheriff candidate Tim Montsinger, who received $200,000 from a holding company for Durham's Fair Finance Company and dropped out after making that disclosure public. Acting U.S. Attorney Tim Morrison inexplicably dropped efforts to seize assets of Durham and his associates, thereby allowing them to liquidate their prized possessions in full public view to the horror of thousands of investors who may never recover the more than $200 million they invested in Durham's Fair Finance.

It looks like Indiana's criminal justice system is far more forgiving to people who have money to buy justice than Florida's. A convicted Greenwood funeral home operator who stole nearly $24 million from cemetery trusts has just recently been sentenced to home detention. An investigation of prescription drug fraud involving Colts owner Jim Irsay got lost a few years ago. The U.S. Attorney's Office here passed on prosecuting cronies of former Lawrence Mayor Tom Schneider who walked off with the City's water utility and millions of dollars in cash and assets with the assistance of the Ice Miller law firm a few years back. Yep, Tim Durham will probably be allowed to divert millions of ill-gotten gains and maybe even avoid criminal prosecution altogether at the rate Tim Morrison's office is moving on this case. You get the best justice money can buy here in Indiana.

More On Our Disappointing Republican Council: Retherford Deserved Better Treatment

Kent Smith confirmed once again to me that he is a man without integrity. Smith, who chairs the Metropolitan Development Committee, sponsored a resolution reappointing Alan Retherford to the Board of Zoning Appeals, an unpaid position he has held for approximately 16 years. Smith contacted Retherford and asked him to accept the appointment. A council staff person called Retherford and asked him to appear before this week's committee meeting for a hearing on his reappointment. Inexplicably and without prior warning to Retherford, Smith joined Democrats Brian Mahern and Jose Evans in voting down his reappointment. Republicans Jeff Cardwell and Janice McHenry supported Retherford's reappointment.

To explain the background, MCANA has expressed concern that the Board of Zoning Appeals has been granting too many variance petitions, thereby undermining the comprehensive plans for neighborhooods. [See more on Had Enough Indy here.] A study by MCANA focused in particular on the Board of Zoning Appeals III panel on which Retherford serves. MCANA believes that Retherford often leads other board members into taking action based upon his alleged lenient views on granting variances. I don't necessarily agree with MCANA's view of Retherford actions; however, the organization at least had the integrity to confront their concerns with Retherford out in the open at a public meeting. I find it despicable, though, that Smith, who knew well in advance of the meeting the concerns MCANA had with Retherford, did not have the courtesy of discussing those concerns with him before asking him to serve again and agreeing to sponsor him for reappointment, let alone advising him that he was going to vote against him despite asking him to serve. Understandably, Retherford left the meeting embarrassed and humiliated. Smith took a voice vote and didn't even announce the vote outcome until questioned on it by Retherford.

Smith's actions are no surprise. Just a few weeks ago he reneged on a promise to pass an ordinance, which he co-sponsored, requiring council approval for tax abatements, a pledge he made to support during his campaign. Smith and other Republicans voted against the ordinance after the Ballard administration lobbied the committee Republicans to vote it down. Ballard, like Smith, had pledged to support such an ordinance during his 2007 campaign. Ballard and Smith are two peas in a pod. They have both broken every fundamental campaign pledge they made to the grassroots activists who put them in office. I can't say why Brian Mahern voted against Retherford, but Jose Evans, who is running for mayor, made it clear that he was paying back Retherford for refusing to vote his way on a case for one of his constituents.

Smith's Metropolitan Development Committee also considered the appointment of a young Ice Miller attorney to the Metropolitan Development Commission who has only lived in the City of Indianapolis for five years over the objections of MCANA. Republicans moved to oust Randy Snyder from the Commission after he dared to exercise an independent vote in voting against the $20 million give-away to political insider Tad Miller, a big contributor to Mayor Ballard and the Republicans. Ice Miller regularly represents clients before the Commission, and one of the firm's partner's spouse has been serving on the Commission for several years. Marion Co. GOP Chairman Tom John, also a partner at Ice Miller, is the person who arranged the young associate from his law firm's appointment to the Commission. You can bet the young associate would vote as ordered to vote by John if he wants a future at Ice Miller. Fortunately, the Committee heeded the concerns of MCANA as to the short time the young lawyer had lived in the City and the obvious conflicts he would face on a regular basis and voted his appointment down after taking a long recess to consider his appointment.

I'm not going into the other appointments approved during this week's meeting. As a Republican, I would note that our Republican council approved the reappointment of several Democrats who have contributed generously to Democrats, some of them who like to remind me they voted for Bart Peterson and contributed to his campaign but are still getting appointments from the Republicans. Here's my question to the Marion Co. Republicans: Why should I work as a Republican precinct committeeperson to elect you if you're only going to support the appointment of Democrats, lobbyists and political insiders who carry out the corrupt motives of people like Tom John to use their political clout to subvert public processes? Some of us are at the breaking point. The reformers and tax activist grassroots folks are the ones who made the Republican victory possible in 2007. None of us have been asked to serve in any capacity in this city administration. We've been told by Tom John and Greg Ballard to fuck off. I've lived, worked and paid taxes in this community for 20 years. I've never been asked to serve in any capacity, and I know that I never will because I am a man of integrity who does the right thing. I cannot be controlled. People like me who are capable of exercising independent judgment are disqualified from public service in Marion County. Until we throw Ballard and the bums running the Republican Party in this county out, we will continue to get corrupt, unresponsive government. What goes around comes around. I can just as easily work to defeat the Republicans who used me and my blog to help them get elected in 2007 and then turned around and knifed me and the rest of the grassroots reform movement supporters in the back.

Ballard Taking 30-Member Team On Junket To Super Bowl

For the past several years, the City of Indianapolis has used the excuse of hosting a Super Bowl for taking big teams on junkets to the Super Bowl game on the taxpayers' dime. Mayor Peterson took a team of people to the Super Bowl in Miami when the Colts played there in 2007 to gather ideas on how to put on a Super Bowl. Ballard has taken a team with him to Super Bowls for the last two years, even though the Colts weren't playing in the game. This year, Ballard will have a team of 30 persons accompany him to Miami, Florida. This will include staff from Indianapolis Downtown, Inc., the Indianapolis Airport Authority, representatives of area hotels and at least six public safety employees.

According to a WRTV report, the City will only pay for the public safety employees' travel at a cost of about $10,000. Public Safety Liaison Gary Koontz is one of those public safety workers taking the junket. You may recall he is the former Perry Township Trustee who traded his support for the fire district merger that is costing Marion Co. taxpayers dearly for a new job with the City. City officials claim the rest of the expenses are being picked up by the 2012 Super Bowl Committee, which operates as another slush fund the mayor can dip into to pay for his lavish travel demands. Ballard has racked up a travel schedule around the world unlike any mayor in the history of the City since taking office. He's taken junkets to Europe for a big private birthday party bash, a trip to Asia and a trip to Brazil in just two years, on top of the annual Super Bowl trips, NCAA Final Four in Detroit, Denver and so on.

Our Colts team will be staying at a Marriott Hotel in Ft. Lauderdale at least a 30-minutes drive from the Miami Dolphins practice field it will use to prepare for the big game. It's funny how Indianapolis is required to build a brand new indoor practice field for one of the teams competing in the 2012 Super Bowl at a cost of millions because the NFL supposedly said practice fields at IU or Purdue were too far away for one of the teams to travel. Long travel distances in heavy traffic areas for the teams don't seem to be a problem in Miami. I think someone just wanted an excuse to brag about having two indoor practice fields within a few miles of the downtown.

Where's Our Money?

That's the question more than a thousand Ohio investors had for U.S. Rep. John Boccieri (D-OH), who conducted a public meeting in Wooster, Ohio last night for investors of the now-closed Fair Finance Company. Boccieri has twice called on Acting U.S. Attorney Tim Morrison to take action to freeze the assets of Fair Finance's owners, Tim Durham and Jim Cochran, both of whom have been liquidating their assets in recent months. Morrison has so far declined to respond to Boccieri. FBI agents were originally scheduled to appear at Tuesday night's meeting but cancelled out at the last minute. Some of the investors at Tuesday night's meeting claimed they invested more than $200,000 in Fair Finance's certificates of investment. That poses a real problem for Fair Finance's owners. In order to obtain their exemption from registering the offerings with the SEC, the investment amount per investor could not have exceeded $200,000. Exceeding that limit effectively voided the exemption it was granted under Ohio law to offer the securities.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Marchal Bows Out Of Prosecutor's Race

In a major blow to Marion Co. GOP Chairman Tom John, former Brizzi Chief of Staff Helen Marchal has dropped her bid to become the Republican nominee for prosecutor less than two weeks after she announced her campaign. Marchal released the following statement through the party:

Earlier today, I sent an e-mail to Tom John, the Chairman of the Republican Party in Marion County, withdrawing my application for the Party's endorsement as a candidate for Marion County Prosecutor.

Given the early deadline for filing for slating, and with the timing of Prosecutor Brizzi's decision not to run for re-election so close to that deadline, I was faced with a major decision impacting myself and my family (including my three children, under the age of 7), with a deadline of less than 48 hours. On further reflection and consideration of the sobering realities of a condensed, nine-month campaign, for personal reasons, I thought it best to withdraw my candidacy. I have talked to the party Chairman, and am hopeful that the process can be reopened so that another candidate, the best candidate that can be found, will receive the support and the opportunity that he or she needs. I will do all I can to be helpful in that process.

With gratitude to all those who were willing to support me for this important trust, I am humbled and thankful.
Questons about her party loyalty have been raised since she announced her candidacy the same day that Brizzi bowed out of a bid for a third term. Voting records indicate that she voted in the 2002 Democratic primary, the same year Carl Brizzi first sought election as a Republican for prosecutor. Her husband, Jeff Marchal, is a Democrat commissioner for the Marion Superior Court. He has sought election in the past as a Democratic judge candidate. Many Republican activists feared that Marchal's close association with Brizzi would diminish her chances of success. Brizzi has been closely linked to alleged Ponzi scheme operator Tim Durham and has made questionable stock trades in company's affiliated with Durham. The deadline has already passed for Republican candidates to seek a slating endorsement at next month's slating convention, although candidates still have a few weeks to file to run in the May primary. No other Republicans have currently declared for the office, which is considered the second most powerful elected position in the State of Indiana.

UPDATE: Tom John has released a statement saying former Marion Co. Prosecutor Scott Newman would lead an effort to replace Marchal. You can bet anyone he comes up with will be a political insider who will promise to cover up and block any public corruption cases in the same manner as Brizzi has done for the past eight years and Newman did during his 8-year tenure prior to that.

Pence Bows Out Of Senate Race

U.S. Rep. Mike Pence has decided against running for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Sen. Evan Bayh. Pence posted the following statement on his Facebook site:

As many of you are aware, I have been approached about running for the United States Senate in 2010. Karen and I have been humbled by the outpouring of support and encouragement which we received from across Indiana, especially since there are several capable and qualified candidates already seeking the Republican nomination.

After much prayer and deliberation, I have decided to remain in the House and to seek reelection to the 6th Congressional District in 2010.

I am staying for two reasons. First because I have been given the responsibility to shape the Republican comeback as a member of the House Republican Leadership and, second, because I believe Republicans will win back the majority in the House of Representatives in 2010.

One year ago I was unanimously elected chairman of the House Republican Conference, the third ranking position in House Republican leadership. I accepted that responsibility because I believed that if Republicans returned to their conservative roots, they could win back the confidence of the American people. And I see it happening every day.

As a Republican leader, I have the opportunity to shape the policy and strategy that will return a Republican majority to the Congress in 2010. So my duty is here, in the House, serving my constituents and my colleagues as we fight to restore a conservative majority to the Congress of the United States. I am not going to leave my post when the fate of the House hangs in the balance. My place is here, in that fight, with the brave men and women who will be winning that victory for the American people.

I also am staying because I believe we will win back the majority in the House of Representatives in 2010, and I am excited to be a part of it. While the opportunity to serve in the United States Senate is significant, I believe the best chance this nation has to restore fiscal discipline, common sense and common values to Washington, D.C., is for conservatives to retake the House in 2010. When we win back the House, we will make history and we will have the power to stop the big government plans of this administration and to steer our nation to a more secure, free and prosperous future.

Last fall, Karen and I completed our first full marathon. We finished the 26.2 miles in just under seven hours despite the rigors on this 50 year-old body and despite many opportunities to step off the track and call it a day. Our inspiration for the day came from a verse in the Bible that reads, “let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”

I believe the race marked out for me in 2010 is in the House of Representatives. I believe that if we run that race with conviction and endurance, we can win back the Congress for the common sense and the common values of the American people, turn this tide of big government back and set the stage for a boundless American future.

Thanks to you all who prayed our little family through this difficult decision. I hope that God will someday permit me to perform some wider service to the people of Indiana and the country, but for now my focus must remain on finishing the job I was elected to do by my constituents and my Republican colleagues; representing conservative values in Congress and winning back the House of Representatives.
Hat tip to Hoosier Access.

Greg Oden Bares All?

It seems to be a popular trend among Hollywood and sports celebrities to take nude photos of themselves and upload them to the Internet. Cell phone pictures of former Indianapolis basketball great Greg Oden and current NBA player for the Portland Trailblazers, which he allegedly took of himself, found their way on to the Internet (NSFW) recently and have been published by the celebrity gossip site, OMG Blog. Commenting on the photos it claims are of Ogden, the blog writes:

Portland Trailblazer Greg Ogden (sic) may not be the handsomest player in the NBA, but he does have a giant (blank)! Of course he thought it would be a great idea to send naked cell-phone pics of himself to some totally reputable-seeming lady. Obviously they're here now. See them after the jump-- NSFW!
The Big Lead says, maybe not.

UPDATE: Greg Oden has now admitted the nude photos are of him. In a public apology, Oden says the photos were sent to a girlfriend about 1 1/2 years ago.

Want To Buy A Yacht?

Guess whose yacht shows up for sale half way around the world in Turkey? According to Moran Yacht & Ship, the Obsidian, a luxury yacht owned by accused Ponzi scheme operator Timothy Durham, is being offered for sale in Bodrum, Turkey for $3,400,000 in Euros. That converts to about $4.78 million in U.S. dollars. According to a CNBC insider story on Durham a few years ago, the yacht sells for between $6-$7 million. CNBC said Durham spent about $5,000 a month to dock his yacht in Miami and stayed on the boat about four times a year. As an IBJ online story notes, it's not clear whether Durham still owns the yacht or recently sold it to someone else who is offering it for sale.

Fair Finance Investors To Force Company Into Bankruptcy

Left completely unprotected by government regulators, investors in Tim Durham's Fair Finance Company have been compelled to resort to various civil remedies to recover hundreds of millions of dollars they invested in the company that were squandered in a classic Ponzi scheme. An Ohio attorney representing investors in Fair Finance, with the assistance of Ohio U.S. Rep. John Boccieri, will hold a meeting tonight in Wooster, Ohio to discuss plans to force the company into involuntary bankruptcy to prevent further dissipation of the company's assets. The company's offices closed in November of last year after FBI agents raided its offices and filed a civil forfeiture action against the company and its owners. Acting U.S. Attorney Tim Morrison abruptly dropped the civil forfeiture action without explanation, permitting the owners to sell luxury assets they accumulated over the past several years.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Rasmussen Poll Puts Pence Ahead Of Bayh

U.S. Rep. Mike Pence receives more encouragement to enter the U.S. Senate race in Indiana against Sen. Evan Bayh. Rasmussen Reports has just released a new poll showing Pence beating Bayh by a 47% to 44%, 3-point margin. In a match-up with former U.S. Rep. John Hostettler, Bayh has a small three point lead of 44% to 41%. State Sen. Marlin Stutzman trails Bayh by 12 points, 45% to 33%. The fact that Bayh is polling below 50% this early in the race suggests he is highly vulnerable in what could turn out to be a watershed election for Republicans.

Friday, January 22, 2010

More On Wyser's Little Hatch Act Problem

The Star's Jon Murray is posing the question on his blog as to why the Little Hatch Act kept former Brizzi Chief of Staff Helen Marchal from keeping her job and running as a candidate for prosecutor, while Brizzi's chief trial deputy, David Wyser, sees no obstacle in running for Hamilton County Prosecutor and retaining his job with the Marion County Prosecutor's Office. Here's Wyser's explanation of why the law doesn't apply to him:

As chief trial deputy, he isn't the supervisor of any federally-funded programs and oversees deputy prosecutors' trial work, but not the employees themselves. If any of their work is paid for in part by federal grants, Wyser said, his own connection to the money is merely casual. "Not only did I look into it, but I consulted with one of the leading experts on the Hatch Act in the country," he told me. "I don't need to do anything different than what I've been doing."

I called the expert Wyser cited, James Bopp Jr., a Terre Haute lawyer involved in a lot of high-profile cases involving partisan issues. Among his clients was Terre Haute Mayor Duke Bennett, whose opponent, former Mayor Kevin Burke, launched a Hatch Act challenge based on Bennett's work for a mental health nonprofit agency that received federal funding for its Head Start program. A local judge ruled Bennett eligible, the Indiana Court of Appeals disagreed, and then the Indiana Supreme Court reversed, allowing Bennett to retain the office.

Bopp told me that, in his estimation, Wyser interacts so infrequently with prosecutors participating in federally funded programs that the connection is "de minimis." "I do believe, as I advised him, that he is not 'Hatched' -- that he is not prevented from running for office. I think he's sufficiently removed from any federal funds that are used in the office that he can do this."

It remains to be seen whether Democrats or any eventual opponents will press Wyser further on the issue.
If a candidate wanted to play it safe, he or she could ask for an opinion from the U.S. Office of Special Counsel; otherwise, someone who objected to his candidacy could file a complaint with that same federal agency seeking a contrary ruling.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Is Marchal Really A Republican?

Fellow blogger and Democrat Jon Easter has an interesting item today about voting records that indicate that Helen Marchal, the proposed GOP candidate for prosecutor in Marion County, voted in the Democratic primary in 2002. Marchal, who has served in a number of positions under Carl Brizzi since his election that year, including most recently as his chief of staff, is married to a Democrat, Jeff Marchal, who is employed as a commissioner for the Marion County Superior Court, criminal division. Helen resigned her job recently because of concerns her candidacy would violate the federal Little Hatch Act. Most partisans I know will occasionally admit to supporting a person of the opposite party in a general election (including me), but most are very reluctant to identify with the opposite party by crossing over and voting in the other party's primary.

Helen's recent resignation is also raising questions about another senior employee of the Marion County Prosecutor's office, who has been running for the Republican nomination for Hamilton Co. Prosecutor for the past year. Bryan Walters (alias?) has sent an e-mail to a number of persons today questioning whether David Wyser can be a candidate for Hamilton Co. Prosecutor and be employed by the Marion Co. Prosecutor. Walters writes:

David Wyser, as Chief Trial Deputy of the Marion County Prosecutors Office, an executive position, is running for Hamilton County Prosecutor in 2010. He will be on the primary ballot in May and then on the November general election ballot. It appears from news articles that he has been campaigning for this office since late 2007 or early 2008. Campaigning, however, would depend on when he announced to the public or when he filed the appropriate paperwork to run with the election office. David Wyser has been in his current position since he became a candidate for partisan political office. In is present role, he supervises all of the deputy prosecutors in the office, including those whose salaries are federally funded. Federal funds pay for prosecutors to investigate, charge, and prosecute criminal cases. Again he has held this position while actively running for public office. This is a direct violation of the Hatch Act.

I am not sure if he has used his official authority to influence and/or interfere with the nomination or election process. It is public record how much money in federal grants the Marion County Prosecutors Office has received over the course of the last 2 or 3 years and how many prosecutors salaries are paid by those grants. This is a clear violation on the part of Mr. Wyser. He also may have participated in other federally funded programs over the course of his position. It has also been reported that he has been fundraising for political office while in his current position again for the last 2 or 3 years.

The proper remedy would be for David Wyser to lose his current position as Chief Trial Deputy and not be placed on the ballot to run for the partisan political office. Carl Brizzi, the current Marion County Prosecutor, needs to take action and ask for Mr. Wyser's resignation otherwise he is putting the county at risk a risk of millions in penalties. Also, he should not be considered as a candidate in the Hamilton County political office. Helen Marshaul (sic), whose is now running for Marion County Prosecutor, made the choice to step down before her position was in violation of the Hatch Act, which was the right thing to do. The Marion County Prosecutors Office should not be allowed to let blatant violations occur for 2 or 3 years with executive staff supervising federally funded employees and then be able to run for office. Not to mention it's a violation with extreme ramifications including the loss of federal funding and millions in penalties.

We are asking for your help in rectifying this situation in order to benefit our county and those surrounding it.

In the past, I've noted that several members of the Indianapolis City-County Council have been candidates for and been elected to their respective council seats despite working for government agencies and nonprofits that receive federal funds. Democrats made a big deal in the 2007 Terre Haute mayoral election when the Republican who won that race in an upset was challenged because of his employment by a nonprofit organization that was partially funded by federal funds. The Indiana Supreme Court ultimately sided with the Republican winner because the Democratic incumbent had failed to timely raise the issue during the campaign and the mayor had resigned his job before taking office.

UPDATE: The Star's Jon Murray has blogged about Marchal's response to the criticism over her party loyalty. Here's what he she told him:

Not that Marchal is a fierce partisan: She's married to a Democrat, Jeff Marchal, who serves as an appointed commissioner in Marion Superior Court and has sought his party's nomination for judge previously.

On to the two pieces of evidence to hit my desk this week. First, Marchal is listed alongside her husband on a mailing list showing members of the Southside Democratic Club.

Verdict: True -- sorta. Marchal told me that when her husband joined the organization a couple years back, he mailed a dues check drawn on their joint checking account, and she has chuckled each time she sees mail addressed to both of them.

Now the second piece of evidence: Marchal once voted in the Democratic primary in Marion County, in 2002. That was the year Brizzi was first elected, though both he and his Democratic opponent, James Osborn, were not challenged in their parties' primaries. Her husband wasn't on the ballot. In fact, there weren't many contested races of note for Democrats.

"Absolutely, I did vote Democrat in 2002," Marchal said. "I'm proud of the fact that I can look at candidates and issues independent of their affiliation." She said the reason she crossed the political line that year was personal, though she declined to say which Democratic race drew her interest.

"I have stuffed donkeys all over my home," Marchal joked. "I had no idea that would be controversial."

For the record, Marchal's voter registration record reveals that 2002 was her only recorded partisan transgression, going back nearly 20 years.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Mike Pence For U.S. Senate?

There's been a lot of buzz in the blogosphere about a potential candidacy by U.S. Rep. Mike Pence for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Sen. Evan Bayh. A Pence candidacy would deal a major blow to the numerous candidates already in that crowded primary race, including former U.S. Rep. John Hostettler, State Sen. Marlin Stutsman, and businessmen Don Bates and Richard Behney. If Pence makes the run, I would expect him to win the nomination and win the race this November. It's a difficult decision for him though. Republicans in the House of Representatives could easily pick up about 30 to 40 seats this fall based on the direction of things so far this year. With Pence's leadership position in the House, his influence would increase considerably there. He might actually have a higher profile as a leader in the House than being a freshman U.S. Senator. What should Pence do? Stay in the House or go for the Senate?

City Hall Is For Sale: Pay To Play Is The Ballard Way

I've previously reported on how Mayor Greg Ballard has used the awarding of city business to raise more than a million dollars for his campaign committee since he took office in 2008. Ballard's campaign committee filed his campaign finance report for 2009 and it shows more of the same. Ballard raised more than $831,000 last year from various law firms, lawyers, engineering firms, consultants and others with contracts to perform work for the City and its various municipal corporations. Although the next election is not until 2011, Ballard's committee spent more than $377,000 on campaign-related activities last year, leaving a balance on hand at the end of the year of $1,006,000. So much for Ballard's promises to clean up city government. He's cleaning up all right. It's just not the sort of cleaning we had in mind when we thought we were electing a reform-minded, outsider candidate with no strings attached.

Here's a look at who some of Ballard's big money contributors are:

  • Hunt Construction and related entities ($13,250)--Built Lucas Oil Stadium, airport terminal, etc.
  • White Lodging ($2,000) and its billionaire owner, Dean White ($5,000)--receiving about $50 million in public subsidies for its downtown J.W. Marriott convention hotel.
  • Jerry Hayslett ($1,400)--contributed shortly after the awarding of additional contracts to manage the City's golf courses.
  • T.M. Miller ($1,100)--Thanks for the $20 million gift from taxpayers for my downtown project.
  • Christopher Burke of Naperville, Illinois ($10,250)--thanks for the consulting/engineer work.
  • Willis Conner ($15,000)--keep sending us consulting engineer work.
  • James Wade ($10,000)--I'm with Willis and, no, we really didn't try to bribe Sam Turpin.
  • James Wade, Jr. ($21,000)--like father like son.
  • Mark Downey ($14,000)--public engineering work sure is lucrative.
  • Michael Hinton of Evansville ($6,500)--more consulting work please.
  • J.C. Huizenga of Grand Rapids, MI ($5,000)--thanks for the business.
  • Steven Jones ($9,200)--in appreciation for the engineering work.
  • Marlin Knowles ($16,500)--more contracts, please.
  • Richard Lautz ($10,000)
  • Keith Lochmueller ($13,000)--keep the tax dollars flowing.
  • Raj Rajadhyaksha and family of Columbus, Ohio ($5,000)--we love minority contracting.
  • Elham Shayota of Bloomfield Hills, MI ($20,000)--ditto on minority contracting.
  • Herb Simon ($2,500)--it's the least I can do for the $15 million a year Ballard wants to give me.
  • Lewis Smoot ($2,500)--thanks for the minority contract work.
  • Michael Sutton of Evanston, Illinois ($5,000)--thanks for the engineering work.
  • Ibrahim Swidan ($11,000)--I just love Greg Ballard's minority contracting policies.
  • Larry Teunissen of Shaboygan Falls, WI ($3,500)--thanks for the consulting work.
  • Bradley Watson ($3,500)--the least I could do for the engineering work.
  • Daniel Woo ($6,500)--thanks for the minority contract work.
  • Baker & Daniels ($36,350)--just covering our asses since everyone knows we're only interested in putting Melina Kennedy in the mayor's office to resume the gravy train we had when she worked for Bart Peterson.
  • Barnes & Thornburg ($20,500)--The least we could do in consideration for the more than $1 million Ballard has paid out to us for legal work.
  • Beam Longest & Neff ($7,800)--Ballard's been good for our engineering business.
  • Bose McKinney & Evans ($14,500)--making up for the fact that the firm employs Marion Co. Dem Chairman Ed Treacy and former Peterson chief of staff Mike O'Connor.
  • Crowe Horwath ($5,000)--thanks for putting Ann Lathrop in charge of the CIB.
  • DLZ ($11,000)--nobody does better than us when it comes to government minority contracting work.
  • Keystone Group ($7,750)--yes, being a minority contractor has its advantages and it doesn't hurt when the Mayor's chief of staff joins your payroll and our company's owner gets to take a birthday junket trip for the Mayor to Europe.
  • Milestone Construction ($7,500)---keep the contracts flowing.
  • L'Acquis Consulting ($3,750)--thanks for the business.
  • Shrewsberry, LLC ($5,500)--I may be a Democrat but I just love Ballard's minority contracting policies.
  • U.S. Investment Group, LLC--($4,250)
  • J.P. Morgan Chase ($5,000)
  • mCapital Management ($5,000)
  • Taft law firm ($5,000).

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

My Favorite Line From Gov. Mitch Daniels State Of The State Address

"While you're at it, please respond to the plea of mayors of both parties and all parts of our state, and end the egregious conflicts of interest that occur when public employees sit on city and county councils, voting on their own salaries and overriding the decisions of their own management. How we ever permitted this to occur in Indiana is one of those mysteries of history, but now is an ideal time to strike another blow for good government and end this abuse forever."

About one-third of the Indianapolis City-County Councilors earn their living from a government payroll. It's no wonder that we get such corrupt results from our council regardless of which party is in control. The Republicans complained about CCC President Monroe Gray, an $80,000 a year ghost employee of the Indianapolis Fire Department. The Republicans have given us a council president who earns a living as a lobbyist for one of the state's most powerful law firms. Let's bar lobbyists from sitting on councils, boards and commissions as well. Gov. Daniels' description of this being "one of those mysteries of history" is well taken. The Indiana Constitution actually prohibits persons of the executive branch from simultaneously holding positions in the legislative branch. The legislature, nonetheless, in its infinite wisdom passed a state law allowing these people to serve unconstitutionally.

Brown's Upset Win In Massachusetts

Wow! Who could have imagined just a year ago when Barack Obama and overwhelming Democratic congressional majorities were assuming power in Washington that one of the bluest of blue states would be sending a Republican to Washington to take the place of Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA)? Who could have imagined that the most important issue in the campaign would be a government-run health care plan advanced, in part, as a tribute to Kennedy? Scott Brown, who turned his campaign into a national referendum on Obamacare, has convincingly defeated Martha Coakley to earn the right to finish the term of Kennedy. No Republican has been elected to the U.S. Senate from Massachusetts since 1972. The shock waves sent by tonight's upset win cannot be underestimated. Sen. Bayh, look out. Bayh told ABC News tonight that Democrats have pushed their agenda too far to the left. Excuse me, but didn't Sen. Bayh vote for this lousy health care bill that was at the heart of the debate in the Massachusetts' election?

Cochran Caught On Tape During Estate Sale

A reporter for a Fort Myers newspaper owned by Gannett confronted Tim Durham's business partner in Fair Finance, James Cochran, during his estate sale last week in Naples, Florida. One source who attended the sale says buyers paid cash for everything. Most personal household items sold in the $2,500 to $3,500 range. A Bentley automobile brought $135,000. A speed boat sold for $24,000. Click through the link to view the video. I don't know what the hell is wrong with the code for this video.

What About Ethics Reform For Indianapolis?

The Indianapolis Star day after day talks about the need on its editorial pages to enact comprehensive ethics reform legislation. House Speaker Pat Bauer and State Rep. Mike Murphy have co-sponsored such legislation that has now passed the House and is awaiting action in the Senate. A key provision of that legislation would bar state contractors and persons bidding for state contracts from making campaign contributions to the governor and candidates for that office. [UPDATE: On further check, this provision is meaningless compared to laws passed in other states. It only bars contributions during the period the legislature is in session. That hardly puts a dent in pay to play activities.] Illinois adopted a similar ban after Gov. Rod Blagojevich's pay to play debacle last year in the Land of Lincoln.

Although Greg Ballard complained during the 2007 mayoral election that Peterson was using city contractors to fund his campaign, he turned right around and did the same thing after being elected to the office. Ballard has shaken down city contractors for millions of dollars in campaign contributions since he took office in January, 2008. Ballard is literally auctioning off city hall for his own political benefit. The Indiana General Assembly must act to include a similar campaign contribution ban on Indiana mayors and other local government executives. We must put an end to pay to play politics in Indiana.

I'll take a comprehensive look at Ballard's campaign contributors later this week when his campaign files its annual campaign finance report, which is due no later than tomorrow. You will be sickened by what it reveals.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Indiana Task Force One Told Services Not Needed In Haiti

Indiana Task Force One Commander Bill Brown tells WRTV's Jennifer Carmack that his search and rescue team, which deployed from Indianapolis four days ago to Miami awaiting deployment to earthquake-stricken Haiti, has been told his team's services are not needed. Indiana's search and rescue team, along with three others from around the country, were told their services were not needed, even after a team from Ohio had already loaded its cargo on a military plane bound for Haiti. Brown blames the decision not to deploy the search and rescue teams on federal red tape. A disappointed Brown told Carmack that it doesn't appear we've learned many lessons from Hurricane Katrina.

Still No U.S. Attorney For Indiana

After nearly a year in office, President Barack Obama has still not nominated candidates to fill the U.S. Attorney's Office vacancy in the Southern Districts of Indiana. The Southern District office has been vacant for more than two years. Today, Sen. Evan Bayh announced three federal judicial appointees, including U.S. Magistrate Jane Magnus-Stinson for a vacant federal district court judge position in the Southern District, Marion Co. Probate Judge Tanya Walton-Pratt has been appointed to fill a vacant federal judge position in the Southern District and former U.S. Attorney Jon DeGuilio has been appointed to a federal judgeship in the Northern District of Indiana. The appointees require confirmation by the U.S. Senate.

Timothy Morrison has held the U.S. Attorney's position in the Southern District on an interim basis. Historically, Republicans and Democrats alike nominate political hacks to fill this position to ensure that no sensitive public corruption cases are undertaken. Indianapolis and Indiana government have become extremely corrupt as a consequence. Politicians and cronies of all stripes have been able to rape the public with total immunity from prosecution. Rumors of possible Obama appointees have all pointed to another political hack being appointed to the position.

MSNBC's Ed Schultz Urges Vote Fraud In Massachusetts To Stop Brown

Democrats are in full panic mode now that several recent polls have shown Republican Scott Brown in the lead over Democrat Martha Coakley in the race to succeed the late Sen. Edward Kennedy. MSNBC's Ed Schultz actually encouraged Democrats to cheat in this Tuesday's election if that's what it takes to "keep these bastards out." Let's see, Democrats have accused Brown of being a birther, a teabagger and someone who would force hospitals to turn away rape victims. If all else fails, why not cheat?

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Pence Tops Daniels On List Of Most Influential Conservatives

There's nothing scientific about these rankings, but news organizations like putting lists of most influential people to inflate the egos of some while ruffling the feathers of others. The U.K.'s Telegraph recently released its list of the 100 most influential conservatives in the U.S. Surprisingly, former V.P. Dick Cheney topped the list, followed by radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh, Internet blogger Matt Drudge, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and Defense Secretary Robert Gates, a graduate of Indiana University. Glenn Beck, Roger Ailes, Gen. David Petraeus, U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty round out the top 10. The highest Hoosier on the list is U.S. Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN). He earned a 17th place ranking just behind Sen. John McCain (R-AZ). Former Hoosier and U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Roberts came in at 13th. Gov. Mitch Daniels, touted by some for the presidency, earned a 39th place ranking. Indiana's Sen. Richard Lugar was ranked 49th on the list.

Friday, January 15, 2010

GOP Slating Candidates

Some people have inquired about the entire list of GOP candidates seeking slating at next month's county slating convention. They are as follows:

Sheriff: (Steve Davis, Dennis Fishburn, Bart McAtee)
7th Congressional District: (Carlos May and Rafael Ramirez)
Indiana House District 99: (Dr. David Blank and Bob McDonald)
Franklin Township Trustee: (Todd Colip and Ross Hughes)
Lawrence Township Trustee: (Dino Batalis and Mike Reeves)
Perry Township Constable: (Kevin Bandy and David Taylor)
Apparently, no candidate filed a slating fee to run for prosecutor. Marion Co. GOP Chairman Tom John has basically told us useless idiots in the party that Brizzi Chief of Staff Helen Marchal will have the party's backing if he has his way, but she will not be required to pay the $10,000 slating fee like other candidates. I have no idea who, if anyone, is seeking the other countywide offices. Nobody has contacted this elected precinct committeeperson to indicate their intentions of running for countywide office. It's funny that the only candidate John touted for slating is Marchal. In 2007, John screwed over a couple of the at-large City-County Council candidates who were slated by the party, Ed Coleman and Michael Hegg, by urging people only to support Kent Smith for the four at-large races. Smith was exempted from paying the slating fee because his subprime mortgage business failed. Coleman and another unslated at-large Republican candidate, Barbara Malone, won their respective races without any support from the county party. Coleman later bolted the party to become a Libertarian. I guess the moral to the story is that if you can avoid paying the slating fee, please do so.

Great Day For An Estate Sale In Naples

It was apparently a great day for an estate sale (as advertised on Craigslist here) in Naples, Florida today. A source who attended the estate sale of Fair Finance co-owner and business partner of Timothy Durham, James Cochran, says hundreds of buyers showed up today looking for bargains. The owners were selling everything, including bedroom furniture and appliances. A Bentley quickly sold for a cool $135,000 I'm told. A sporty Porsche found a new owner as well. Will the investors in Fair Finance see any of this money?
The IBJ's Greg Andrews has more on Ohio Congressman John Boccieri's reaction to news of Cochran's estate sale. Boccieri, who represents many of the investors defrauded by Durham and Cochran, sent his third letter in as many months to Acting U.S. Attorney Tim Morrison in Indianapolis demanding that he take action to freeze Durham's and Cochran's assets. Morrison abruptly dropped a forfeiture action he filed in the matter days after he filed the action in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana.“Given the increased amount of concerns relayed to me by my constituents, including stories of life savings lost, retirement funds decimated, college savings and more ruined by the alleged wrongdoing of the Fair Finance Co., I continue to implore your office to take all necessary and immediate action to freeze the assets” of Fair, Durham and Cochran, Boccieri said.

I've said it before and I'll say it again. Unless this case is transferred to the Public Integrity Section of the Justice Department in Washington, Boccieri's constituents have no hope of getting any justice in this matter. Federal investigators have known for years based on whistleblower complaints what has been taking place and did absolutely nothing to protect innocent investors. Hell, local and federal prosecutors stood by and watched political cronies steal the Lawrence Water Utility and make off with millions of dollars in public assets. If you want to rip off the public, Indianapolis is the place to do it. Local law enforcement and prosecutors won't get in your way, particularly when they're on the payroll of the people doing the criminal acts.

Guess Who Used To Live Here?

This duplex at 39 N. Randolph Street on the City's Eastside once served as the boyhood home of Mayor Greg Ballard. The City of Indianapolis ordered it boarded up in April, 2008. Hat tip to the Eastsider who sent the photos along with the story after reading my blog post about Ballard's uttter failure to deal with the abandoned house problem in this city despite his campaign promises during the 2007 election. The Eastsider tells me that Ballard actually pointed it out the house to neighbors there during a neighborhood gathering.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

It's The Affirmative Action Policy, Stupid

My conservative Republican friends have been quite worked up about Mayor Greg Ballard's decision to appoint New Yorker Frank Straub as Indianapolis' new Public Safety Director because of his liberal, anti-gun owner views. My objections to his appointment have more to do with his liberal views in general rather than any specific concern that he may seek tougher gun control policies in our city. The answer Straub gave to a question posed by Councilor Bill Oliver about his diversity policies should have sent a shiver up the spine of every believer in the time-tested principle of equal treatment under the law. Shockingly, not a single Republican member of the Public Safety Committee expressed any concern with Straub's comments.

After Straub delivered a drawn out recitation of his resume (how many guys do you know that have had about 20 different jobs in the last 20 years?), Councilor Oliver noted submissions he made to council members boasting about his record on diversity hiring. Oliver, an African-American, asked Straub to share his views with him to make him feel good about supporting him. Oliver prefaced his comments by expressing his disapproval that things were moving too slowly in the Ballard administration in the hiring of minorities in the police and fire departments. Bear in mind that a decades' old consent decree got lifted during the end of the Peterson administration over Mayor Peterson's objection. That decree compelled the Indianapolis police department to undertake affirmative action to increase the number of African-Americans serving in the police department. A short time after the Justice Department lifted the consent decree, it filed suit against the City of Indianapolis claiming that its hiring practices discriminated against white job applicants in favor of minorities. The Ballard administration settled the suit and agreed to hire strictly based upon the ranked order of candidates and end the practice of picking candidates further down the list simply because they were minorities.

Councilor Oliver could not have been more pleased with the response he got from Straub. Straub noted that he had made hiring decisions in the City of New York and White Plains, New York on two different hiring methods. The Rule of Threes approach as he explained required him to select from groups of three qualified candidates based on their order of rank. Straub said he didn't like that approach because minority candidates often would not make the list of three. Straub said he preferred a banding method approach, which allowed him to pick from persons scoring among different scoring groups, such as 90 to 100, 80 to 90 and 70 to 80. In other words, the latter allowed him the flexibility to choose someone with a test score of 75 over someone with a test score of 95 if that's what it took to accomplish hiring a minority candidate. Yes, Frank Straub fully embraces the concept of overtly discriminating against white candidates simply to achieve a favorable hiring decision outcome for a minority candidate.

Some of the more astute readers of this blog will ask, "But what about that Supreme Court decision last year in the New Haven, Connecticut firefighters lawsuit?" The City of New Haven went to great lengths to develop an objective, race-neutral test to use in promoting firefighters with the consultation and support of minority groups. After a group of black ministers complained that the testing discriminated against minorities seeking promotion, in particular African-Americans, city leaders bowed to their pressure and threw out the test results. Several white and Hispanic firefighters, who lost out to promotions they were otherwise qualified to receive under the test results, brought a racial discrimination suit against the city. Justice Kennedy, writing for the majority in Ricci v. City of New Haven, held that an employer must have "a strong basis in evidence" in order to support a race-based determination to avoid disparate impact outcomes. Kennedy found the existence of no strong basis for discarding the test results that clearly were race-neutral simply because it didn't achieve the desired outcome of some to ensure the promotion of minority candidates.

While Straub acknowledged the decision in Ricci, he and the Ballard administration have found a way around the decision. Let's simply do away with objective testing and scoring of candidates for open slots. Yes, you read that correctly. A reliable source tells me that the Ballard administration is quietly putting together a new ordinance that will replace the objective ranking system for hiring police and firefighters with a system that is so subjective that it would be nearly impossible for a white candidate to sue the City based on race discrimination. This proposed ordinance is being fully embraced by City-County Council President Ryan Vaughn, who will likely sponsor the ordinance.

I thought the conservatives won the battle over affirmative action years ago both in the courts and in the court of public opinion. Sadly, Ballard is reintroducing extremely discriminatory hiring policies in the administration of our municipal government for the sake of diversity. The same is true of his contracting policies. Ballard has introduced policies that blatantly discriminate against more qualified white contractors in order that certain politically-connected women and minority-owned businesses can be awarded lucrative contracts. These policies are driving up the cost of public purchasing and construction projects. It does have its advantages for the insiders. The minority contract awarding process facilitates kickbacks and skimming, while proving an extremely effective tool in garnering campaign contributions from city contractors. It's a bit ironic seeing all the people who did everything they could to re-elect Bart Peterson making so much money off the cronyism and unethical practices that are rampant in the Ballard administration. Forget the gun policies, this policy is happening right under our noses and with the full support of key leaders of the Republican Party. Stand up and fight now or there won't be anything worth fighting for when Ballard completes his fluke one term in office.

Durham Sued Again; Brizzi Not Seeking Re-Election

First Merchants Bank is suing Tim Durham's Classic Manufacturing for nearly $1 million the bank loaned to the truck trailer maker in Allen County according to the IBJ's Greg Andrews. The suit claims the company defaulted on its loan and seeks to foreclose on the company's inventory and other collateral. "The legal tangle provides further evidence that Durham’s financial challenges extend beyond Fair Finance Co., the Akron, Ohio, firm that federal prosecutors have alleged operated as a Ponzi scheme," Andrews reports.

Soon after the feds raided Durham's Obsidian and Fair Finance businesses last November, I told you about how a number of his associates all had their homes listed for sale. Durham's partner in Fair Finance, James Cochran, is conducting an estate sale on his home in Naples, Florida according to a Craig's List ad picked up by an observant Advance Indiana reader. According to the ad, the sale is taking place January 15 through January 17 at 298 Mooring Line Drive in Naples. Acting U.S. Attorney Jim Morrison initially acted to freeze certain assets of Durham and Cochran; however, he abruptly dropped the forfeiture days after initiating the action in the federal district court for the Southern District of Indiana.

Marion Co. Prosecutor Carl Brizzi waited until the last day for candidates seeking slating for the GOP primary to announce that he is not seeking re-election to a third term. Brizzi collected more than $150,000 in campaign contributions from Durham, a close friend, and had agreed to serve on Fair Finance's Board of Directors until unflattering news media stories about the company surfaced. "This decision was not an easy one, but after serving as prosecutor for the last seven years, I have wrestled with the question of whether I could make a commitment to serve an additional five years," Brizzi said in a statement he released today. "I am still incredibly passionate about the job we do and our commitment to a victim centered philosophy that criminals have a choice and victims don't. I could not be any prouder of our accomplishments over the past seven years."

As a Republican precinct committeeperson, I've heard from no other potential candidates on the Republican side. Rumors have circulated that Brizzi's chief of staff, Helen Marchal, may seek the office. Jim Shella confirms that Brizzi will endorse Marchal for his job. One has to wonder how wise it would be for the GOP to put confidence in Brizzi's top aide given the indiscretions and unethical conduct that has taken place in the prosecutor's office over the last several years under Brizzi's leadership. All of Brizzi's baggage will rub off on her deservedly or not. Any Republican candidate will be disadvantaged as long as Brizzi remains in office, even if he is not seeking re-election. It is a big disappointment that not a single Republican leader in this county joined my call for Brizzi to resign his office. I predicted some time ago that Brizzi would not be seeking re-election, and that he was only delaying his announcement to deter other would-be candidates. It looks like my party is giving me one take it or leave it choice this year. Not good.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

State Of The City: A Street Of Broken Promises

In 2007, this abandoned home at 97 N. Dearborn Street in the Englewood neighborhood on the City's Eastside became a symbol of all that was wrong with the administration of Mayor Bart Peterson. A fed up homeowner in the neighborhood erected this sign announcing "The Inaugural Indianapolis Abandoned Home Tour." Candidate Greg Ballard loved it and embraced it as a symbol of the change his campaign represented. It fit right in with his broken window theory about crime. The media reported on the sign's message. Mayor Bart Peterson wasn't humored by its message. He sent out city inspectors to remove it. Two years later, the home a family abandoned more than three years ago still sits vacant. More than $14,000 in taxes and fines remain unpaid. Despite the fact that it has been nearly three years since a tax payment was last made, the property has yet to be offered at a tax sale. The Treasurer's office says it was originally scheduled for last year's tax sale but it got pushed back another year due to continued delays in the property tax billing cycle. Mayor Ballard's administration claims the house is on its top 25 abandoned home list, but the administration has taken no concrete steps to deal with the neighborhood eyesore.

The situation for this Englewood neighborhood has gone from bad to worse over the past two years despite all of Ballard's promises of action on crime and abandoned homes. A long-time business owner who provided a stable anchor at the corner of New York and Dearborn across the street from this abandoned home was found shot to death a couple of weeks before Christmas in 2008. Police found 73-year-old Johnnie Conner, the owner of Johnnie's Glass & Frames, shot multiple times in the middle of the day. Conner shared neighbors' concerns about crime in the area and reportedly tried to assist police in investigating criminal activity. Some neighbors fear his death may have occurred because he trusted the police. Police showed little interest in abating a nuisance crack house a few doors down on New York Street when neighbors complained. As one neighbor told me, an IMPD officer told him to move if he didn't like the neighborhood, he should move.
A check of criminal activity within a small radius around this abandoned house during the most recent 90-day period reveals dozens of criminal offenses against persons and property. Strong armed robberies, residential burglaries, auto break-ins, stolen vehicles and vandalism are common crimes. Instead of just one abandoned house on the block, there are many. Conner dutifully maintained five rental properties in the neighborhood. Since his murder, which remains unsolved, his homes have become vacant and are listed for sale. There are now as many as 11 abandoned homes within a short distance of one another. To put it bluntly, the neighborhood is on the brink of being completely lost.

Unlike the Peterson administration, Ballard has a large pot of money courtesy of the federal government. The City received a $29 million grant to address the abandoned home problem. Although it has doled out grant money to a variety of community groups, neighborhoods have seen little action taking place. Ballard foolishly put controversial former City-County Councilor Sherron Franklin in charge of his abandoned home initiative. After 14 months of accomplishing next to nothing, the Ballard administration quietly removed Franklin from her job and sent her back to IMPD. I spoke to Ballard's former Chief of Staff Paul Okeson about this problem abandoned house more than a year ago. He assured me that it was a top priority and that the administration would be taking concrete steps to abate the nuisance. Okeson told me that he would personally see to it that this abandoned home got dealt with. Okeson left the administration last month to take a job with a construction company that does business with the City without doing anything about the abandoned home Ballard had used effectively as a hammer against Peterson during the 2007 election.

Tonight, Mayor Ballard will deliver his State of The City address and boast about his successful efforts at reducing crime in our city. Don't expect the folks living in Englewood or many of the other older neighborhoods that form a ring around the City's downtown to buy into these claims. They live with a growing crime problem every day. The abandoned home problem has skyrocketed since Ballard took office due to the home mortgage meltdown and the downturn in the economy. Sadly, Ballard's attention has been focused on providing more money to the CIB, the ICVA, the Super Bowl Committee, et al. to spend on downtown sports and entertainment businesses. Ballard's answer to revitalizing the Eastside is to build a costly sports facility so a Super Bowl team can practice in it a couple of times before it is turned over to a school that neither needs it nor can afford to maintain it. A Street of Broken Promises. That pretty much sums up the state of the city under Mayor Greg Ballard.

UPDATE: In case you don't believe me that police would actually tell people in this neighborhood that they should move if they don't like it, check out this observation by Beth Murphy in today's Star about what Eastside residents told Mayor Ballard at a recent Mayor's Night Out meeting:

I don't know what I expected when I dropped in at one of Mayor Greg Ballard's Nights Out meetings at an Eastside church last night (Emerson Baptist, corner of Emerson and New York streets).

I did expect to hear residents express their deep pride in the Eastside. I didn't expect this comment from one neighbor: Police have told neighbors complaining about or reporting crime that "if they don't like it, maybe they should move."

Now maybe that's not a completely unreasonable comment. But it's not one an Indianapolis police officer should be saying, especially, as the commenter pointed out, when we shouldn't be driving out responsible residents and when some of them can't afford or don't want to move out of homes and neighborhoods where they've established roots.

The mayor wasn't happy. He told the crowd to report such comments to the district commander. (The officer's name conveniently appears on his or her badge.)

The police chief wasn't happy. Chief Michael Spears said: "It's disturbing to think that a comment like that would be made." And he also suggested reporting the incident.

Mayor Ballard, a native Eastsider, recognized the stereotypes that exist about the Eastside, even when, he noted, much of the crime often is on the Far Eastside or the Northeastside yet is reported as occurring on the "Eastside" by the media.

I'm wondering if a memo went out to all police officers the next day to stop telling residents they should pack their bags.