Friday, May 01, 2015

Star Begrudgingly Discusses Shady $32 Million Electric Car Lease Deal

The Gannett-owned Star was an immediate fan of Mayor Greg Ballard's executive order intended to single-handedly rid our country of foreign oil dependence by replacing the City's vehicle fleet with electric vehicles that it never showed any interest in learning just how or why the Ballard administration entered into a 7-year, $32 million lease with the unknown and untested Vision Fleet, let alone who was behind it. After this week's explosive meeting of the Public Safety and Criminal Justice Committee where DPW's director, Jeremiah Shirk, and the city's corporation counsel, Andrew Seiwert, looked like a couple of circus clowns trying to defend why the City would only release a heavily-redacted version of the contract. When news of the sleazy contract became the talk of the town, the newspaper had little choice than to write something about it; however, the heavy lifting reporting would remain focused on distraction stories the newspaper really wants its readers to pay closer attention like the Colts NFL draft choices and how a mother-daughter team will become HGTV stars.

[UPDATE: Click here to view the unredacted contract between DPW and Vision Fleet. There was absolutely nothing contained in this contract that would constitute a trade secret. The public needs to demand that Gov. Mike Pence fire Luke Britt as the state's Public Access Counselor. It is unconscionable that someone acting under color of law is rendering decisions completely contrary to Indiana law to provide cover to corrupt government officials who want to keep the public in the dark about how government officials are conducting the public's business and spending their tax dollars.]

After the bipartisan vote of the committee was taken to subpoena an unredacted version of the contract, the newspaper was unable to take its normal tact of attributing an issue involving public corruption by the Ballard administration to partisan politics on the part of the Democratic-controlled council in an election year. The only noteworthy news to be found in Brian Eason's story a full 24 hours after the explosive meeting was that the administration had decided to release the full version of the contract after arguing with a straight face the redacted portions of the contract all involved trade secrets the administration was permitted to withhold from public viewing under state law, a claim they asserted was backed by an opinion from the state's Public Access Counselor. Apparently the who part behind the contract was a bridge too far. After all, Mark Miles, David Johnson and Paul Mitchell are all esteemed civic leaders who never become involved in public matters except for our collective public benefit. And God forbid The Star reporter consider the possibility the Ballard administration once again ignored state procurement laws in entering into the costly, long-term lease to reward political cronies:
A few months into a seven-year deal to rent 425 electric cars for city employees, the City-County Council might try to block one of the city's largest departments from driving them.
On Wednesday, the council's Public Safety Committee grilled city officials about the program, citing complaints that the compact, plug-in sedans are unfit for use by the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department.
But what began as concern for IMPD officers has turned into a full-fledged investigation into the heavily redacted contract, which the council's chief financial officer says could cost the city millions more than the Ballard administration has let on . . . 
The city will pay California-based Vision Fleet about $32 million to rent and maintain the cars, as well as manage the city's vehicle usage for peak fuel efficiency. That rounds out to about $75,000 per car — an eye-opening figure for vehicles with a $35,000 sticker price . . .
When council members began fielding complaints from IMPD officers about the cars, which are small and lack the pursuit capabilities of gas-powered vehicles, they tried to find out more about the program.
What they found was unreadable. Twenty of the 46 pages of the contract were blacked out entirely, and other sections were heavily redacted — including a page laying out the payments owed by city taxpayers.
"I think I'm reading the CIA redaction of killing Osama bin Laden," said Councilman Aaron Freeman, a Republican. "I've never seen so many black marks in my life."
After the Public Safety Committee took steps to subpoena the remainder of the document, the Ballard administration on Thursday promised to release it in full. Jeremiah Shirk, chief of staff of the Department of Public Works, said Vision Fleet agreed to do so in light of the council's concerns. Previously, the city's attorneys had defended the redactions, saying the document contained trade secrets that can be withheld under state public records laws.
The bulk of the redactions were financial charts that the company deemed proprietary to its business model. But another "trade secret," to Freeman's bewilderment, was the contact information for company representatives.
"What possibly could be a trade secret that we blacked out who we're going to serve when we sue one another?" Freeman said . . . 
Councilman Frank Mascari, a Democrat, sent an email to Ballard saying the city had entered a bad deal and hadn't followed purchasing rules. The contract wasn't procured by the city Purchasing Department, and the council never signed off on it.
"This contract should have went through the purchasing department but instead went through the Department of Public Works, which just signed off on it," Mascari said in an interview. "Something this large should always go through purchasing."
Instead, the contract was procured using a request for proposals — commonly used in professional service agreements. A city attorney said at the meeting that purchasing officials agreed the contract should not be handled through their department.
In some ways, the debate is the criminal justice center all over again.
The administration says it will save money.
The council's chief financial officer, Bart Brown, says it won't — and the administration disputes his math . . . 
If this had happened in Chicago, the Sun-Times and The Tribune would be in a mad competition to turn over every stone behind this corrupt deal. Their investigative team of clout street reporters would be running successive front-page stories and within weeks the U.S. Attorney's Office in Chicago would have convened a grand jury and started issuing subpoenas and hauling people before the grand jury to testify. This is Indianapolis where a select group of political insiders have a license to steal and the Indianapolis Star and the rest of the media will go to great lengths to protect them from any real public scrutiny.

The Star's bosses in Langley, Virginia are all about green energy, which is nothing but a fraud on the American public for a group of political insiders to steal. Notice how little attention The Star and the rest of the media played in reporting on the massive, $145 million biofuel fraud scheme by the Ducey brothers of Fishers. It's not surprising there would be a photo of the brothers with President George W. Bush of the powerful CIA family which controls the agency's multi-billion dollar money laundering operations in this country that makes so many fat cats and political wannabes super rich while keeping the family steadfastly in control of the Republican Party machinery. The Ducey brothers, like Tim Durham, must have crossed the wrong folks somewhere along the way to spoil their gravy train. The Star's reporting pretty much began and ended with the Ducey brothers' arrest and guilty pleas as described in government press releases.
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Craig and Chad Ducey with former President George W. Bush


Anonymous said...

No wonder Gannett a-holes want $20 per hour surcharges on public info requests. They hate the competition from this site and others.

Anonymous said...

This is the capital of the state, and the information flow here is nailed shut. That would never happen other places.

This is just a bad state.

The only solution is to leave and to let this corrupt place fall.

When someone asks "Why Indianapolis?" I really don't have an answer. Car-destroying, narrow, underbuilt roads, corrupt government, high taxes, the North leg of 465 is the only economically viable area in the place, it gets a northern Winter without the cool things found in northern cities, you can't get to Downtown from Carmel, and it goes on.

It's much easier to give an answer to "why not Indianapolis?"

It's better elsewhere. Let Indy fall, and have a good life somewhere else. For the cost of a moving truck and gas, you can be in a better place in a couple of days.

Flogger said...

The Star could care less about Green Energy. It is a cover for the Crony-Capitalists. I can understand Conservation of Energy and be supportive of it. However, the forces of greed and snake oil have arrived on the scene seeking to line their own pockets. Green Wash is the term - front companies that pretend to have the protection and preservation of the environment as a goal.

The real goal is to line the pockets of the few - Crony Capitalism and the cover story in this case Green Energy.

Paul K. Ogden said...

I got the impression that possibly Andrew Seiwert was saying that the PAC had ruled that trade secrets can be redacted and they acted pursuant to that. If he was saying that Britt had personally reviewed the Vision Fleet agreement and approved redactions then he would be acting completely outside his scope of authority. I can't imagine he would have done that, however.

Gary R. Welsh said...

Paul, Britt just did the same thing up in LaPorte County where he allowed much of a pharmacy agreement between the county and CVS Caremark to be redacted under the guise of covering trade secrets. That extended to identifying any third-party agents that benefited from the agreement.

Paul K. Ogden said...

I can't believe Britt would involve his office in reviewing agreements and deciding in advance which parts could be redacted. That's way outside his scope of authority. I figured Seiwert was just talking generally that trade secrets could be redacted...not that Britt screened this particular agreement and indicated which parts could be redacted. He should be fired if he's doing that.