When Lincoln professes his innocence, I truly think he believes that. After all, he's not new to the rodeo called Marion County politics. As a young military veteran seeking a career in law enforcement, he landed the job he wanted as a deputy in the Marion Co. Sheriff's Department. Growing up in a small town in Illinois, it never occurred to me that anyone would aspire to work as a deputy in Sheriff's Department as a path to political power. Aspiring politicians in Indiana knew otherwise. At one time, the Marion County Sheriff was the highest paid elected official in the entire United States. Yes, he actually earned more than the President of the United States, and that was still true when Plowman joined the office as a new deputy back in the late 1980s.
Under the tutelage of powerful sheriffs like Joe McAtee and Jack Cottey, Plowman learned there were a lot of perks that came with working in the Sheriff's Department. All around him were law enforcement officials making big money off their part-time jobs and businesses, while driving their well-equipped Crown Vics available to them for their personal and private business use. There were also all the added perks of not having to pay admission to nightclubs, getting free drinks and food in many local restaurants and bars and free passes to watch the latest flicks at the local theater. So when Plowman worked his own side deal with a local strip club that provided him $1,000 a month in what he told jurors was "just gravy", he was doing what he had seen so many of his law enforcement buddies do over the years: get their cut.
When Plowman was selected over far-more qualified persons to enjoy the added bonus of serving as a City-County Councilor with a top leadership position and powerful committee chairmanship with control over the city's zoning boards that provided him an additional $18,000 a year, he saw nothing wrong with using that position to get more of "his cut." And why not? Others around him were getting their cut without any legal consequences.
Ryan Vaughn sold his seat on the council to the City's most powerful law firm in consideration for a high-paying job with the firm and shamelessly uses his powerful position every day to benefit his law firm and its clients--even voting on measures that specifically benefit them. Former City-County Council President Monroe Gray got a high-paid no work, no show job with the Indianapolis Fire Department and contracts for his concrete company courtesy of former Mayor Bart Peterson. Jackie Nytes gets multi-million dollar government grants for her "nonprofit" employer and city contracts for her husband's business. A large company puts 50 police officers on its payroll in part-time jobs and uses them as cover for receiving stolen property and to eliminate its competition using their law enforcement powers and walks after cutting a $200,000 deal with Marion Co. Prosecutor Terry Curry, who promised to removed the "for sale" sign from the prosecutor's office. Curry's predecessor, Carl Brizzi, got cut in on real estate deals and got to own a piece of a downtown restaurant/bar despite a specific state law barring him from owning an interest in an establishment with a liquor license. All around Lincoln, people were getting their cut without consequences. Why shouldn't he?
And can we fault Plowman, who is not an attorney, for not knowing that he had to disclose his part-time work as a consultant on his statement of economic interest form he signed under penalties of perjury where it asked if he had any self-employment income? After all, the City-County Council President Ryan Vaughn is an attorney who authored the city's ethics ordinance and yet he filed a statement of economic interest claiming that he does not receive compensation in excess of $5,000 from a business that does business with or solicits business from the city or county despite the fact that his employer bills city and county agencies for hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of legal work every year. Even new-comer to the council Angel Rivera, who is not an attorney, knew how to answer that question correctly on his statement of economic interest.
I know it sounds strange, but I do feel sorry for Lincoln. He's a small fish as they say in a sea of corruption. Prosecuting him does little to shake things up in what has become a very corrupt environment here in Indianapolis and Marion County. He did wrong and he deserves to pay a penalty for his crime. There are many others, however, who deserve the justice he is getting far more. His cut was peanuts compared to the large haul other more powerful figures are making at the public's expense. I truly hope Joe Hogsett meant what he said today when said "nobody is above the law" and that his office will hold accountable those who have a "for sale" sign hanging from their public offices. The public will anxiously await to see if he keeps his word.
UPDATE: In light of reality, I got a chuckle reading this quote from Ryan Vaughn in Carrie Ritchie's story in the Star today:
Council President Ryan Vaughn, who's also a Republican, said he thinks the council's ethics rules are strong enough to dissuade others from crossing ethical boundaries and to punish those who do.
The council tightened its rules two years ago -- a move Plowman supported. It now has an ethics committee that quickly and publicly reviews complaints against council members, Vaughn said.
"It's not that our process failed," he said, "it's that he failed our process."Whatever. Is that the same explanation for your ethical lapses in judgment, Ryan?