In a telephone interview this afternoon, Vaughn confirmed he met with special agent Bradley Bookwalter in the Indianapolis FBI office and turned over the list of council members. Although Vaughn declined to identify the names of the ten council members, he said it included both Democratic and Republican members. Vaughn said the source who provided him information about the alleged bribes is someone who formerly provided services to the city. Special agent Bookwalter did not return a phone call seeking comment on Vaughn's claim that he had met with him and turned over the list of names to him.
Agent Bookwalter testified during the 2011 trial of former City-County Councilor Lincoln Plowman, who was convicted of accepting a $5,000 cash bribe from an undercover FBI agent posing as a developer interested in opening a strip club in downtown Indianapolis. Bookwalter was the FBI agent who questioned Plowman during his brief detention in a hotel room at the Conrad Hilton where he accepted the $5,000 cash payment from the undercover agent. Bookwalter testified that during his questioning of Plowman, he admitted he received $1,000 a month consulting payments from PT's strip club on the City's east side and had previously received similar consulting payments from Dancer's Showclub on the City's west side. Bookwalter testified that Plowman had been given the opportunity to cooperate in an ongoing investigation of public corruption in Indianapolis, an offer Plowman declined.
The timing of the bribery allegation brought to Vaughn by the government whistle blower and the choice of Vaughn to take that allegation public is suspect. It is my belief this may be a deliberate distraction, a diversion from from the real crime which has and is continuing to occur with this proposed criminal justice center project. The Ballard administration violated the requirement of the state's P3 law that it make the RFP for the project publicly available when it opened the project up to three bidding groups handpicked by the administration to compete for the project. Instead, it waited until the winning bidder was chosen before making the RFP document public. Since it made the RFP available last December, the administration has still refused to publicly release the responses provided by all three bidding groups, claiming it doesn't have to turn over those documents until it inks the final agreement with Heartland Justice Partners. Yet the administration is asking the City-County Council to approve the 35-year build, operate and transfer agreement it is entering into with the winning bidder no later than March of this year, just two months away.
Advance Indiana's independent investigation has led to the conclusion that the Ballard administration engaged in a rigged bidding process under which the participating bidders knew in advance who would be awarded the project, which turned out to be Heartland Justice Partners led by Meridiam Infrastucture, the same company which won the right to build, operate and maintain a courthouse building for Long Beach, California. The losing bidders entered into an agreement under which the City agreed to pay $750,000 to each of them as long as they accepted the bid outcome and didn't contest it. That provision of the RFP seems to clash with the state's anti-collusion law, which is intended to protect the integrity of public bidding processes for government contracts. Under the terms outlined in the winning bid, the P3 operator will receive payments of nearly $1.75 billion over the life of the project; however, those figures are likely to grow significantly if planned expansions of the project are undertaken. The administration scaled back the size and scope of the project considerably to keep beginning annual payments to the P3 operator under $50 million.
Many of the participants in the Indianapolis bidding process were identical to those which participated in the Long Beach project. The City of Indianapolis is also relying on some of the same lawyers and financial advisers who worked on the Long Beach project to provide legal and financial advice on the City's criminal justice center project. Some participants switched sides between the two projects, participating on the winning side in one project and the losing side of the other. A California official following developments here in Indianapolis contacted Advance Indiana to express his concerns that the bidding process for the Long Beach project had similarly been rigged. That official is working behind-the-scenes in an effort to get an investigation of the Long Beach bidding process launched.