Thursday, September 15, 2011

Why Lincoln Plowman Honestly Believes He Is Innocent

A somber Lincoln Plowman could be heard murmuring to himself that he was innocent as the jury's verdict was read in U.S. District Court Judge Larry McKinney's courtroom finding him guilty of bribery and attempted extortion charges. I find no joy in knowing that Plowman is likely to spend the next few years sitting in the federal penitentiary in Terre Haute. If it's any consolation, he may have the company of two former governors of Illinois to pass away the long days ahead of him.

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?

13 comments:

Bob Cardwell said...

Very thoughtful article. Thank you for all your work. I am in awe.

Citizen Kane said...

I agree. I started feeling sorry for Lincoln (and his family) after the guilty verdict, because, as you noted, there are many high-profile examples of theft in broad daylight, without any repercussions. His actions were laughably tame by comparison. I, for one, expect that nothing more will occur other than nabbing a few additional small fish, so they can pretend they are doing something.

Pretense is always the operative word to use to describe government - well other than thieving bas...ds.

Marycatherine Barton said...

Hogsett definitely has bigger fish to fry, but I do not share your conviction that Plowman 'honestly' believes he is innocent, AI.

Indy4u2c said...

The statute of limitations on Monroe "Sweet Pea" Gray is not yet expire...will Hogsett go after this criminal activity that was so very obvious that the local newspaper put the evidence on 'front street?'

Dirty politics...is dirty. All involved should be prosecuted! -I wonder if Mr. Johnson reads this?

Paul K. Ogden said...

Indy4U2C,

Over the past few years the political insider dealing and conflicts of interest far exceed anything Gray was ever accused of. Hogsett should go after the big fish, not chase Gray for what are by now petty offenses.

Gary R. Welsh said...

Marycatherine, I really do think that people can become so accustomed to their ways of conducting business that they become blinded to the notion that anything they are doing is improper, particularly when so many others around them are doing the same things. Chicago has a case of this today in its Fire Department. The firefighter were allowed mileage reimbursement up to a maximum amount. An investigation determined that many of the firefighters automatically submitted the maximum allowed and worked backwards to pad their mileage to qualify for the maximum reimbursement. The Inspector General wanted all of the firefighters who were caught padding their expenses fired, but the Fire Commissioner over ruled him and decided to fire only the worst 4 of the 54 offenders. The Sun-Times explained the rationale for the commissioner's decision: "The commissioner said he based his disciplinary action on the 'otherwise clean disciplinary records' of the 43 suspended firefighters and on Ferguson’s finding that the mileage padding was 'condoned by the supervisors since well before 2009.'"

Cortellini said...

Well what I would like to know is; what are we as citizens, who are ultimately responsible for the working of our government, going to do about it?

I know said...

Cortellini,
The operative word should be what are you and the lawyers who know what is going on going to do about the mess.

Some of us were summoned by the elected officials under threat of a subpoena to testify and give our information and then got sued by their fat cat friends who they turned the information over to.

On top of it your ATTORNEY GENERAL tells people that no good deed goes unpunished and chases the victims out of the court system.

So those of us that stuck our neck out are still waiting for the rest of you to march down to the right folks and demand some action.

Don't try the Star or WRTV as the editor of the Star will tell you he has better things to do. I have his emails telling me so. WRTV chased one of the crooks around the state capitol while the gentlemen ran away and a few days later after a news item made it on the 6;00 o'clock with the reporter and afterwards they were told to make it disappear. The reporter told folks he needed to keep his job!

You as a taxpayer have been defaulted to the tune of $10,000.00 once and $180,000,000.00 twice. The friends have more money than the State of Indiana so no one will touch them. That is a quote for law enforcement in Indiana!

Does Mr. Hogsett really believe what he is telling you and that no one is above the law? There is a big sand pile full of cat dung right in front of him and some of us have the stinky material to prove but we got tarred and feathered. It is your turn to persuade the lawyers in Indianapolis to do the RIGHT thing!

Don't bet on it happening anytime soon.

But they got a $5,000.00 minnow didn't they!

Conrad said...

I know,

I can tell you that I have been upset and frustrated at the way our City government works for quite some time now. I applaud the efforts of Gary Welsh, Advance Indiana and Paul Ogden, Ogden on Politics, "lawyers who know what is going on" and are speaking out on their blogs. This democratic forum seems to be the last offering of true meaningful journalism.

The Big Money interests that have taken over our government are powerful and entrenched. It will not be easy to root them out and restore a government that works for the citizen.

I sympathize with your experience but I must say that I was not able to follow your story completely - I would be interested in obtaining a better understanding.

As to what I am doing, I am currently running for Mayor as an independent write-in candidate. I encourage you to get involved. After all, we the citizens are ultimately responsible for our own governance. One can say that we have the government we deserve. We are the only ones that can and must change it.

Cortellini

Marycatherine Barton said...

Conrad Cortellini? Is that the write-in name for Mayor?

Conrad said...

Marycatherine,

Conrad Cortellini is indeed the name to write in. I have a website @ www.cortellini.net in case you are interested.

I know said...

Conrad,

I would love to get "involved" however we had to move from Indiana to find jobs in our fields to regain our profession after the mess in Indiana.

Good luck in the journey. If the FBI wants to talk to us they know where we are and we have all the evidence safely locked away.

Several politicians and state appointees will enjoy their time in the spotlight if anything ever gets done.

Had Enough Indy? said...

"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."

The last time the Ethics Committee met was March 18, 2010. Nobody complains, I guess. Actually, I think the rules require a Councillor to complain. The rest of us have no standing to do so.