Thursday, March 24, 2016

Hogsett Taking A Crack At Toughening Indy's Ethics Ordinance

A proposed ordinance backed by Mayor Joe Hogsett would take some steps to put some teeth in the toothless ethics ordinance written by former City-County Council President Ryan Vaughn and his former law firm on behalf of former Mayor Greg Ballard, who never delivered on the ethics laws he promised when he first ran for mayor. The Star's Brian Eason discusses some of the changes included in Proposal No. 146, which include:
  • Annual reports filed by lobbyists would require disclosure of gifts worth $25 or more made to an official, appointee or employee to include "other things of value" in addition to food, drink, honoraria, travel expenses and registration expenses.
  • The annual reports filed by lobbyists would have to identify the actual official, appointee or employee who received the gift.
  • Lobbyist and lobbying firms found to have committed repeated violations of the registration and reporting requirements could be banned from lobbying and contracting with the city, in addition to the small penalties the law provides for violations.
  • Current officials, deputy mayors or other individuals with appointment authority to an agency will not be allowed to accept second employment with a firm that has a contract, agreement, purchase or other arrangement to provide supplies, real property or services to a city-county agency unless it's another governmental entity. 
  • Former employees will be subject to a one-year cooling off period for lobbying activities related to an agency or an official as a substantial responsibility of their employment or contractual relationship.
Eason's story talks about the proposal creating a "Disclose Indy" portal where information can be obtained online, including contracts, campaign finance reports, crime stats, budget and spending information and audits. Actually, that's already a requirement under the existing law. It's just that the information is scattered currently on the city's existing website and extremely difficult to navigate.

I notice the proposal does not in any way strengthen the ethics reporting requirements of officials, including city-county council members, appointees and employees. The current reporting requirements are useless and provide no serious penalties for non-compliance. That's one of the reasons few lobbyists bother complying with the current registration and reporting law. Eason's story notes there are only 28 persons currently registered to lobby city-county government and nobody has ever been penalized for violating the law. 

I notice the dual employment ban included in the ordinance doesn't apply to city employees like Vernon Brown and Steve Talley. Brown earns over a $100,000 a year as a battalion chief for IFD and is also paid over $50,000 a year to serve as Warren Township Trustee. Talley makes about $53,000 a year in a make-work civilian job at IMPD and also earns about $42,000 to serve as Lawrence Township Trustee. It also permits the arrangement that we recently discussed following the shooting of an off-duty firefighter, Kevin Gill, who is also employed by the Marion Co. Coroner's Office as a deputy coroner. 


Anonymous said...

Forgive my jaundiced eye toward all of this charade of "ethics ordinances". I don't give a hoot which political party is in office and proposes "ethics" reforms. These politicians, most often attorneys, will always write in loop holes for themselves, their lobbyists, and their "campaign contributors" .

Already the Howdy Doody Administration echoes Greg Ballard and our US Congress: laws for thee but not for me!

Anonymous said...

Seems like holding two lucrative positions would not be affected by a mere city ordinance since it is forbidden by the Indiana Constitution. I'd help fund another lawsuit on that matter.

Gary R. Welsh said...

That constitutional provision has been interpreted not to apply to their situations, anon. 8:20.

Anonymous said...

I did not grow in Indianapolis, and I am so thankful for that because I know there is a better city government than this ridiculous thing they call Township government and Trustees.

I am just amazed how they keep pushing this and people keep buying!

Anonymous said...

Much ado about nothing. If these people are really serious, they will BAN BIG money from politics!