Friday, January 31, 2014

WTHR's Bob Segall Finds IEDC's Job Numbers Still Don't Add Up

WTHR-TV investigative reporter Bob Segall has been dogging officials of the Indiana Economic Development Corporation for several years now about their bogus job creation claims. Despite the passage of a new law last year requiring greater transparency in the economic development agency's job creation activities and promises made by Gov. Mike Pence, Segall finds that the agency's job numbers are as factually inaccurate as the day he first began his long-running reports on the agency. Here's what the latest installment of his investigative reporting found:
  • IEDC's new transparency website is missing basic disclosure information that other states release to taxpayers.
  • The state agency is not releasing any information about hundreds of projects it previously announced.
  • IEDC is reporting official job statistics that exclude all failed economic development projects from its calculations.
  • Both IEDC and the governor are citing the state's new job transparency law as justification to withhold information from public disclosure.
While the agency has created an online tool that allows the public to search a database of economic development projects supported by the state and contracts covering those projects, a non-partisan watchdog group based in Washington found many shortcomings with the data made available to the public.
"You're seeing jobs announced, but you're not getting actual jobs created. You're not getting actual wages paid. You're not even getting the address of the work site. None of that's here, so it's very, very bare-bones disclosure," he said while examining the website. "It's primitive in terms of giving you what you need to know to know if you're getting a bang for your taxpayer buck." . . .
"It's sham transparency. There's no other way to put it," he said . . .
The most damning discovery by Segall is that the agency's online web portal is missing hundreds of large economic development projects earlier announced by IEDC, including many projects where promised jobs never materialized. "WTHR discovered IEDC has erased 169 subsidy contracts from the website in just the past five months," Segall reported. IEDC's President Eric Doden explained the missing projects to Segall: "Those contracts are inactive," explained IEDC president Eric Doden. "An active contract is where tax credits get earned. If they're inactive, there's no ability for the company to earn tax credits." In other words, Segall explains that the projects are no longer reported because the project is no longer receiving state funding for promised job creation. By hiding the failed projects, the agency is rigging the numbers used to gauge the agency's success. Segall notes that the agency last year reported an improvement in its job realization rate from 76% to nearly 92%. If the agency had included all of the projects it excluded after characterizing them as "inactive," the actual job realization rate would have been about 64%.

Doden defended the bogus job realization numbers, citing the fact that it uses a professional outside firm to do the calculations. What firm would that be? Drum roll please. "We have an independent review that's done by a professional firm, Crowe Horwath, and they do this independent review and they determined that was the realization rate," Doden said. Yep, that's the same agency where political insider Ann Lathrop, our esteemed President of the Capital Improvement Board works, who has proven over the past several years her amazing skills at providing bogus numbers to the City-County Council and the public on the CIB's financial situation to game the budgeting process to ensure that additional funds are always available to provide additional public subsidies to the billionaire sports team owners and other causes advanced by the unaccountable municipal corporation. "Crowe Horwath declined an on-camera interview, but agreed to respond to WTHR's questions in writing," Segall said. "In its response to WTHR, Crowe Horwath further explained that IEDC chose to use only active projects to align the realization report with the annual Economic incentive and Compliance Report "in order to maintain consistency between these two published reports. 

Out of curiosity, I checked IEDC's transparency web portal to see if there was any information on the Café Valley project in Marion, Indiana. That's the project I recently discussed where the state and local officials agreed to provide economic development incentives to a business owned by Larry Polhill, who the SEC concluded had defrauded about 500 investors out of nearly $160 million through a private equity firm that he operated like a Ponzi scheme. The project and the contract with Polhill are found on the website. Doden signed a contract with Polhill's Cornerstone Marion, LLC and CV East, LLC under which the state agreed to provide up to $5.8 million in tax credits for a capital investment of at least $42 million that promised to immediately create 100 jobs and up to 400 jobs by 2017.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I thought Crowe Horwath was connected at the hip with Barnes & Thornburg?