It has now become painfully clear that very short-sighted decisions were made in the rush to put on the City of Indianapolis' best face for hosting the 2012 Super Bowl. At the foremost of those decisions was a rushed decision to lease 76,000 square feet of space in the former Eastgate Consumer Mall on the city's eastside from a politically-connected landlord, Alex Carroll, for placement of the Regional Operations Center (ROC) for the homeland security division of the Department of Public Safety and the East District Command for IMPD. The decision to move into the facility cost city taxpayers about $18 million. This past week, Public Safety Director Troy Riggs announced that the space was being evacuated due to countless code violation issues that made the working space unsafe for occupation by the affected governmental agencies.
The building's owner, Alex Carroll, tells the Indianapolis Star that he plans to sue the City for nearly $700,000 in maintenance and construction expenses he paid out of his own pocket for which he says the lease required the city to reimburse him. “The lease spells out that the city is responsible for ensuring the property complies with all statutes and ordinances and for paying those costs,” Carroll said. “Now that it’s time for the city to step up to its financial responsibilities for maintenance, they are claiming the building is unsafe.” Carroll also claims that the City is conflating the building's safety problems merely as an excuse for not fulfilling its obligations under the lease. His business, Lifeline Data Centers, which shares space in the building, has contributed more than $10,000 to various candidate and campaign committees, including generous contributions to Mayor Greg Ballard and the two principal proponents of the lease on the City-County Council, Ben Hunter (R) and Mary Moriarty Adams (D).
Fellow blogger Paul Ogden has done a good job summarizing how one-sided the lease was in Carroll's favor here. It includes terms favorable to the landlord that one virtually never sees in a government lease for real property. Councilor Adams is now professing surprise at the lease's one-sided terms, while Hunter defended his role in pushing the adoption of the lease, which the council approved in May, 2011 on a 23-6 vote, arguing that Carroll's campaign contributions had nothing to do with is support of the lease. Former Councilor Jackie Nytes said she was skeptical of the lease at the time but was persuaded to support it anyway. She defended her support for it because it was all about the Super Bowl and that trumped all other concerns. Nytes was subsequently awarded the job as CEO of the Indianapolis Public Library and is accompanying Mayor Ballard on his latest junket to Germany this month.
“It seems to be an oddly put together contract; everything is on the city,” said Mary Moriarty-Adams, chairman of the council’s Public Safety Committee. “It’s different from most leases I’ve seen. Usually, the city doesn’t have all this responsibility.” . . .
“A lot of folks who own property on the Eastside contribute to me,” he said. “I had no influence.”
He said the specifics of the contract were a secondary concern of his at the time because the focus was on finding a site in time for the Super Bowl. Hunter said he had no input in crafting the lease terms . . .
Jackie Nytes, who was a member of the administration and finance committee in April 2011, was skeptical of the lease at the time but eventually voted for it.
“I didn’t think it was gilded,” said Nytes, now the chief executive officer of the Indianapolis Public Library. “It was for a long period of time — that stood out — but if you create one of these things, you aren’t planning on moving around every 10 years.” . . .
The Super Bowl, she said, was the biggest event the city would ever host.
“There are things you have to do if you want to play in that league,” Nytes said. “You don’t do the Super Bowl with the EOC (emergency operations center) in the basement of some old building. It was not typical of what large cities that host the Super Bowl were doing. We couldn’t do it in our typical little Hoosier way.”I've put video of the full discussion from the May, 2011 City-County Council meeting where approval of the 25-year lease agreement was approved above. You'll note that the primary point of contention was over the placement of IMPD's East District. Several Democratic council members thought it should be placed in a former IPS school in Councilor Brian Mahern's district instead of the ROC site, which is located in Councilor Hunter's district.