Thursday, January 15, 2015

Who Is John Dionisio And Why Does It Matter?

John M. Dionisio is an Investment Director for Meridiam Infrastructure North America, a unit of the French-based global investment and asset manager specializing in public-private agreements ("P3"), and which has been chosen as leader of the winning bid to build a criminal justice center in Indianapolis for the unified city-county government. Dionisio has taken up residency in Indianapolis full-time as the winning team of WMB Heartland Justice Partners, LLC seeks to convince Indianapolis City-County Council members they should approve a 35-year, $1.75 billion agreement approved by Mayor Greg Ballard.

According to Meridiam's website, Dionisio served as an investment professional and project manager in the development of the Long Beach Courthouse project in California. As I've previously reported, many of the same cast of characters involved in the Long Beach Courthouse project have made the scene in Indianapolis to capitalize here the same way they did on that widely-criticized project. The Administrative Office of Courts in California selected Long Beach Judicial Partners, LLC to build, operate and maintain that Long Beach courthouse under a similar, 35-year P3 agreement as is proposed for Marion County's criminal justice center complex. Long Beach Judicial Partners was a team comprised of:  Meridiam Infrastructure as equity investor; Clark Construction Group, which was aided by its affiliate Edgemoore Real Estate Services; AECOM, which acted as the lead architect; and Johnson Controls. KPMG acted as financial adviser on the project. Indianapolis is paying $3 million to KPMG to act as its financial adviser on the city's criminal justice center project.

While AECOM partnered with Meridiam on the Long Beach Courthouse project, it supposedly competed with Meridiam's WMB Heartland Justice Partners in Indianapolis as a member of Indy Justice Partners, LLC, one of two teams of bidders competing against Meridiam's winning bid. Similarly, Clark Construction Group and its affiliate partnered with the other competing bidder, Plenary Edgemoore Justice Partners, in competition with its Long Beach partner. This is a very important fact for Indianapolis City-Council members to know in evaluating the Ballard administration's claims that it conducted a fair, honest and open competitive bidding process in arriving at the choice it now wants the council to ratify. As only Advance Indiana has reported, the City of Indianapolis is required to pay $750,000 each to the two losing bid groups as long as they agree to accept the outcome of the decision and not contest it. The payment of money to the losing bidders is unprecedented in Indiana, particular when non-collusion affidavits are required under state law in the awarding of government contracts to guard against bid-rigging. The Ballard administration has so far refused to release the proposals submitted by the competing bidders. Similarly, the administration ignored Indiana law and refused to even disclose the RFP to which the bidders responded until after it had announced the winning bidder.

There's yet another more important reason that a close look at the Long Beach actors and the current actors in Indianapolis is essential. That's my recent discovery that Meridiam's John Dionisio appears to be the son of AECOM's Executive Chairman, also named John M. Dionisio. The elder Dionisio came to AECOM when it acquired Frederick R. Harris, Inc., where he served as the company's CEO. Is it not fair to ask whether the senior Dionisio and the junior Dionisio have occasion to speak to one another about work-related projects if that father-son relationship exists? Is it more than a coincidence that this cast of characters in the P3 world is beginning to look a lot more like an incestuous cesspool as opposed to businesses actively competing against one another for public works projects? These are all fair questions since I've previously discussed how one of the winning partners, Cofely Services, is part of one of the largest public corruption investigation in Spain's history where bribes to local officials allegedly occurred. Another partner, Balfour-Beatty, was required to pay a large fine to the British government based on allegations it engaged in bid-rigging on public works projects. Walsh Construction paid millions to settle a whistle blower lawsuit where it was accused by a former employee of inflating subcontractor payments on a federally-funded construction project. Where there's smoke, there's often fire.

Not to leave any stone unturned, I'm particularly intrigued by this New York Times story I uncovered from October 1, 1994 with the headline, "Suicide Leads to Inquiry Into Rigging of a Port Authority Bid." Thomas Lueck's story tells us the Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau opened an investigation to determine whether Port Authority documents were stolen in a bid-rigging scheme involving rail links between New York City's airports and Manhattan. The inquiry centered around whether a former consultant to the Port Authority, Richard Ablamsky, had passed confidential documents to his current employer, Frederick R. Harris, to help it win a $10 million contract on the project. A spokesman for the Port Authority told the Times it was "not unusual" to have consulting arrangements involving companies that compete for work on large Port Authority projects. Was there any evidence Ablamskly passed confidential information to his employer? The answer is more than a little strange.

It seems the 39-year old Ablamsky went to the home of his boss, John M. Dionisio, where he supposedly shot himself in the head after breaking into the home and using lighter fluid to set the first floor of the home on fire. Dionisio, his wife and 11-year old son were forced to flee the home. Investigators say Ablamsky left behind a suicide note in which he claimed he had passed confidential Port Authority documents to Dionisio. Instead of being rewarded, Ablamsky said Dionisio fired him on September 2, 1994, two weeks before he took his life. The Times described Ablamsky as "a familiar presence in the Port Authority's headquarters in the World Trade Center, because he was an in-house consultant on airport projects that did not include the proposed rail link."  Ablamsky was also suspected of killing a mistress he had taken as well before his suicide, although her body was never discovered. It appears the investigation was later closed without any charges being filed sort of like the way most every major public corruption investigation in Indianapolis ends. So are these two Dionisios related and does it matter? It's one of many questions that should be asked about this major public works project by a truly probing, independent-thinking City-County Council.

UPDATE: The Ballard administration has already awarded a $25 million contract to AECOM for construction management services on the Deep Rock Tunnel Connection.  Dionosio is quoted in the the September 29, 2011 press release:
AECOM announced that it was awarded a US $25-million contract from the City of Indianapolis to provide construction management services for the US $280-million Deep Rock Tunnel Connection (DRTC) and dewatering pump station in Indianapolis. 
This contract is the initial phase of the city's Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) Long-Term Control Plan, which is one of the largest sewer system investments made by Citizens Energy Group, an Indianapolis-based utility company. In late August, Indianapolis sold the wastewater utility assets to Citizens Energy Group. 
"AECOM is always eager to be involved with initiatives that create, enhance and sustain our built, natural and social environments," said John M. Dionisio, AECOM president and chief executive officer. "This project will help solve some key environmental challenges for Indianapolis."


Anonymous said...

Wow. Just Wow. Superb reporting!!

Anonymous said...

Watch your back. And local, regional, national and international media...who is printing this and airing this fiasco? Time for Transparency International to publish a probe.

Anonymous said...

The SEC investigative unit might find this interesting.

Guest said...

Everyone a copy of this should go to every council member and as I said Gary you should utilize you know who for some wibc reporting.
from tea party attendee.

Anonymous said...

Jesus, John Jr has one hell of a schnoz!