Saturday, May 09, 2015

More Questions Raised About Controversial Vision Fleet Electric Car Lease

More questions were raised this past week about Mayor Greg Ballard's controversial decision to award a 7-year, $32 million no-bid contract to Vision Fleet, a new and untested company, to acquire hundreds of electric and hybrid vehicles for use by city employees, including public safety employees. At a meeting of the Board of Public Safety, it became apparent Ballard administration officials did not consult with public safety officials prior to making a decision to take away vehicle acquisition decision-making from the agency and handing it to the Department of Public Works, a city agency with a storied history for graft and corruption.

When DPW's chief of staff, Jeremiah Shirk, testified before the City-County Council's Public Safety and Criminal Justice Committee last week, he told committee members public safety department officials, including police, had been consulted prior to the city's decision to enter into the long-term lease agreement, which DPW claims is not a lease at all but rather a services contract for fleet management services, or at least that's the excuse it is offering for not putting the contract out for public bid as the state's procurement laws would require. Shirk's claim that public safety officials had been consulted in advance was contradicted by DPS Director Troy Riggs and IMPD's CFO Valerie Washington.

Both Riggs and Washington said at the Board of Public Safety meeting this past week that they were told about the decision after DPW had already signed the contract last year. More than 70 of the vehicles have already been acquired for public safety employees with plans to acquire more than 70 more by the end of this month. Although the administration claims the vehicles are only being assigned to administrative employees, it's apparent that claim is also untrue. Washington, for example, said she couldn't be assigned one of the vehicles because she lives in an apartment. Only employees who live in a home where they have the ability to plug in the vehicles for the 12-hour period it requires to recharge the vehicles are assigned the vehicles. In addition, the contract requires the vehicles be driven at least 12,000 miles a year, a requirement that excludes many administrative employees.

At this past week's meeting of the council's Public Works Committee, Councilor Jack Sandlin, a retired police officer, indicated that homicide detectives were being assigned the vehicles. As Sandlin explained, the vehicles were impractical for a homicide detective who works around the clock following leads in a fresh case. Sandlin wondered whether the detective was expected to put his investigation on hold for 12 hours while he waited for his vehicle to be recharged. If the detective encounters a situation that might require fast pursuit of a suspect during an investigation, he's unable to do so because of the limitations of the vehicle. Earlier, council members had raised questions about police being forced to store weapons and other tactical gear in the back seat of their cars because the cars lack usable trunk space. Sandlin also questioned whether there had been other versions of the contract beyond the one released to council members that had previously been rescinded, a question the city's controller was unable to answer.

What is clear is that the Ballard administration can't rely on its worn-out message of blaming partisan politics in defending this controversial vehicle lease agreement, which Ballard claimed was needed as part of the nation's effort to free itself of dependence on foreign oil. Republican council members have been equally critical of the lease agreement. I guess it would be expecting too much of our elected prosecutor, Terry Curry, to actually conduct a public corruption investigation and get to the bottom of how this illegal, no-bid contract got entered into in the first place. Someone needs to follow the money. It most certainly wasn't entered into because it was beneficial to the public. God knows we aren't going to get any good investigative journalism from the Indianapolis Star or the IBJ on this deal because of their desire to protect the political cronies at the heart of the deal.


Anonymous said...

These vehicles are being assigned to SEVERAL detective units, not just admin. An email was sent telling detectives that they will get a Volt, and if they don't hurry they would miss their chance to pick the color.

Officers with patrol rifles have basically been told not to carry them since they are no longer "on patrol".

I wonder where the police union is in this.

Anonymous said...

Curry is an Ahole just like Ballard. Curry is a JOKE! I voted for the guy and he is maybe just maybe a half step better than Brizzi. Which isn't saying much.

These politicians treat Indy like a 3rd world banana republic.

Anonymous said...

Ugh... Terry Curry. Only reason I voted for him was because Brizzi was such an out and out crook but all I got out of that vote was a partisan Democrat moron.

Greg Ballard, Terry Curry, Chuckie Brewer, Joe Hogsett, hell, they are all the same people, all the same party, really. The party of self-serving cronyism. No real distinction among and between any of them.

Anonymous said...

Somebody tell Council Member Frank Mascari what Ballard thinks of his order to cease & desist!

On May 11, The Star ran a classified ad for "INVITATION TO BID - CHEVROLET VOLTS This Bid is for a term contract to purchase 2016 Chevrolet Volts by Vision Fleet (VF). Due Thursday May 28, 2015 by 10:00 am ET to 111 Monument Circle, Suite...
INVITATION TO BID - CHEVROLET VOLTS This Bid is for a term contract to purchase 2016 Chevrolet Volts by Vision Fleet (VF). Due Thursday May 28, 2015 by 10:00 am ET to 111 Monument Circle, Suite 1800 Indianapolis, IN."

Frank, I don't think The Mayor hears either the People of Indianapolis nor it's City-County Council.

Gary R. Welsh said...

Councilor Jack Sandlin also raised that issue during the council meeting. He wondered why city purchasing was used when Vision Fleet purchases cars it supposedly owns. I didn't hear an answer to that question during the meeting.