Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Tully On Carmel's Use Of Private Eyes

Star columnist Matt Tully takes a somewhat humorous look at Carmel's use of private investigators to investigate private citizens. There are two passages I find worthy of comment. The first is a defense offered by Mayor James Brainard for using private investigators:

"I'm not going to comment because it's not in the best interests of the taxpayers," the mayor said, politely apologizing along the way.
He did inform me that "the big law firms" regularly hire investigators in the course of litigation and that such investigators can assist a city when people file tort claims against it.
"Does that help?" he asked.
Not in the least, I said.
Brainard is correct in his assertion that private investigators are often employed, usually by insurance companies that are on the hook for a claim, to determine if a person claiming to have suffered long-term disability really suffered the injury complained of. Law firms defending tort claims for one of their clients sometimes directly employ private investigators to assist them as well. So if you claim you can no longer work or are physically disabled, the party against whom you are seeking payment may hire a private investigator to determine if you are engaged in physical activities inconsistent with your disability claim. If the news reports are true, Carmel was using private investigators to investigate the personal life of the CEO of the nonprofit foundation that operates Carmel's Palladium. That's an entirely different matter.

Tully's column also includes a column by the head of the trade organization for Indiana's licensed investigators.
And he said cities frequently hire private eyes, er, I mean, licensed investigators, to collect background information or to look into complaints made against workers or the government. When the charges aren't criminal, he said, it is not appropriate to use city police.
"So where else can they go?" he said. "Attorneys aren't investigators."
I think many people would take issue with the notion that attorneys aren't investigators, but that's a whole different debate. The point is the trade group's chairman claims cities frequently employ private investigators. Fox 59 News' Anne Yeager contacted the state's largest city, Indianapolis, and was told it does not employ private investigators--at least not officially.

I've written frequently about the treasure trove of information contained in Dick Cady's book, "Deadline: Indianapolis," about his many years of working as a reporter for the Indianapolis Star. Cady and his colleagues won a Pulitzer Prize for their reporting on corruption in the Indianapolis Police Department under former Mayor Richard Lugar. Cady's book discusses at length IPD's relationship with the same private investigator at the center of the debate today in Carmel. It's unfortunate that Tully didn't bother to check the archives of his own newspaper to help him with his column today. The Star's reporters are apparently under some general order not to ever mention on their news pages Cady's book, but you would think they could at least call up some of the great reporting he and his colleagues did that brought so much credit to the newspaper. Go figure.


Indiana said...

Carmel receives word from "un-named" individuals that inappropriate behavior or actions are accurring by a high paid / "in the public eye" individual on the city payroll. The information seems to be not criminal but could lead to several lawsuits against the employeer (i.e. Carmel). City attorney hires a P.I. firm to validate or dismiss the rumors so proper action could be taken PRIOR to any civil actions.

If all these rumors are true, it seems like good use of the investigators. It would not be a matter for the cops. Am I missing something?

Bill said...

The Star Reporters are also under strict orders not to criticize Brainard at all. Tully has a pass since he is not a real reporter.If you notice any stories about Barinard are quickly buried and any comments about Brainard and quickly taken down. Im frankly surprised at the far reaching power that he really does have in the community. People are very afraid of him

Gary R. Welsh said...

city employee. The City is not liable for anything he does; the nonprofit foundation is liable for his actions? Why didn't the foundation do the investigation? Why didn't Mr. Haney, who serves on the foundation's board, bring the matter to the attention of the other board members if he was so concerned? Why were the findings of the investigator not shared with the board? Was the goal to dig up dirt on the foundation's director to force him out so a pro-Brainard person could be installed? Hypothetically speaking, I take it you won't mind, Indiana, if I hire a private eye to tail you while you're meeting up with your mistress, confront you with damning photos and tell you to do what I want you to do or I will share those photos with your wife, you will have no problem with that, right? And if I'm using taxpayer dollars to investigate you, that will be just fine also?

Indiana said...

No problem with me IF I was in a contract that had morals clause which I assume was in play here. I guess I don't understand who writes the checks - I had assumed his payroll was coming from the city funds.

On another note, love the blog Gary.

Gary R. Welsh said...

Brainard may well have had valid concerns, but like I said, I think he should have asked Haney, who sits on the board, to confidentially bring it to the attention of the foundation's board of directors and allowed the board the opportunity to investigate the allegations rather than secretly going behind their back in this manner. Thanks for sharing, Indiana.

Paul K. Ogden said...

While I am a little more of the belief tha the City could be liable from Gary or at least sue, I would wholehearedly endorse this comment by Gary:

"I think he should have asked Haney, who sits on the board, to confidentially bring it to the attention of the foundation's board of directors and allowed the board the opportunity to investigate the allegations rather than secretly going behind their back in this manner."

I don't believe the Mayor or his attorney should be ordering private investigators without any oversight. Both the Foundation Board and the Council should have been notified. They could have done it in an executive session which is not open to the public.

Marycatherine Barton said...

Bill is right. Tully is not a real reporter.