Fox 59 News has uncovered a major scandal in Carmel city government that raises serious civil rights concerns. Private investigators have been hired by the city to conduct surveillance of private citizens for undisclosed reasons. The City paid International Investigators, Inc. at least $13,000 to conduct surveillance activities during the past two years. Fox 59 News' Anne Yeager learned from a source that Steven Libman, the Executive Director of Regional Performing Arts Center who abruptly resigned last week after being signed to a new 5-year contract, was the target of the most recent surveillance authorized by the City's attorney. Several city council members are now wanting answers:
Several members of the Carmel City Council are concerned after Fox59 told them the city attorney signed off on at least $13,000 to pay for private investigators.
According to invoices obtained by Fox59, City Attorney Douglas Haney signed off on thousands of dollars to pay for surveillance.
Members of the council wonder who the private investigators are following.
In 2010, Haney approved more than $5,000 for private investigative work. In the past few weeks, Haney approved $8,000 worth of surveillance.
The subject of the investigation was blacked out by Haney himself, according to the city treasurer's office.
A source close to City Hall says the private investigators were following Steven Libman, the former Executive Director of the Regional Performing Arts Center.
Insiders won't say why Libman was the target of an investigation, but he suddenly resigned last Friday for "personal reasons."
City leaders want to know more details about why private investigators are being hired and why portions of the invoices are redacted.
"Not knowing the full details on whose name was blocked out, it still raises questions on whether it was a proper use of money, " said Carmel City Councilman Eric Seidensticker. "I would find it very disturbing that a city will follow or use surveillance without proper cause."
Councilman John Accetturo wants Haney to resign.
"I'm appalled at the fact that they are using taxpayer money to hire private investigators to follow people around." said Accetturo. "If there is a criminal act, we have a police department."
But the city attorney says he is completely within the law and not inappropriately using taxpayer money.
"I have a duty to investigate as necessary to ensure that no laws are broken by any city employee or city entity and that public monies contributed by the city to nonprofit entities are properly accounted for an spent. I periodically authorize private investigators to assist me in the performance of my duties as the city's legal officer." said Haney.
Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard released a statement through his communications department.
"The City of Carmel is obligated to protect taxpayers by investigating incidents that have resulted or may result in legal claims against the city and its taxpayers. Unfortunately, cities across America are sued for money damages on a regular basis and the city must investigate the validity of those claims to reduce taxpayer exposure. The mayor appoints the city attorney, but does not run the city attorney's office."The use of a private investigative firm by a municipal government that already has its own police department raises some very serious civil rights concerns. For those of you who read Dick Cady's book, "Deadline: Indianapolis," you will be very familiar with International Investigators, Inc., also known as "Three Eyes." The private investigation firm based in Indianapolis was once owned by former City-County Council President Beurt SerVaas. The firm has boasted in the past that it employs former FBI and CIA agents as investigators. Cady discussed in his book the reporting he and his colleagues had done while working for the Star exposing corruption in the Indianapolis Police Department. Cady discussed the relationship International Investigators had with former Indianapolis Police Department Chief Winston Churchill, who served under Mayor Richard Lugar back in the late 1960s and early 1970s. According to Cady's sources, Churchill used a federal grant to purchase surveillance equipment that was given to the private firm to spy on political opponents. Here's a sampling of what Cady wrote about in his book:
In February 1971, IPD had purchased some sophisticated electronics equipment, including bugging devices, from Bell & Howell. There were turned over to C. Timothy Wilcox, the president of the Three Eyes. Wilcox apparently violated federal law by taking possession, Rossman said. That wasn't all. Wilcox instructed Rossman to begin visual surveillance of Wise's apartment . . . He said Wilcox was a Republican precinct committeeman and friend of Keith Bulen. Several years earlier, Wilcox had attempted to "bug" the Marion County headquarters of the Democratic Party . . .
Now Mrs. Kelly offered specific information. At campaign headquarters on election night in 1970, private detective Tim Wilcox told her he had broken into the offices of U.S. Sen. Vance Hartke, a Democrat, and had enough to put Hartke in jail," but the Republicans wouldn't let him use the material. During the 1971 election campaign, Wilcox and another man had planted an electronic bug in a room in a downtown building where a meeting of Democrats was held. She had been asked to transcribe the tapes. Buena Chaney, the state Republican chairman at the time, knew about the illegal eavesdropping. Mrs. Kelly also said Wilcox had asked her to help set up Congressman Andy Jacobs, Jr. He wanted to get Jacobs in a situation where he could be blackmailed . . .Wilcox, who is still the CEO of International Investigators, denied doing anything illegal and only admitted to testing the surveillance equipment at IPD's request. City Councilman John Acceturo thinks the city attorney should resign over this flap, but it seems to me the responsibility rests at Mayor Brainard's desk. I can't imagine that Wilcox would have been hired to investigate Libman or other private citizens without Brainard's consent. Acceturo is right to question why the police didn't investigate any potential wrongdoing the City suspected may have been taking place, or referred it to a law enforcement agency, such as the State Police or the FBI, better equipped to conduct the investigation if it felt its own police department was constrained from conducting a proper investigation. The use of a private investigator, particularly given the history of this firm's involvement during a sad chapter of Indianapolis' police department, raises a lot of troubling concerns.