Friday, September 15, 2006

Bar Constructed Without A Lease!

From today's Star editorial against the controversial bar/private club in the Julia Carson Government Center comes this shocking revelatation: Center Township Trustee Carl Drummer turned the space over to the political insiders to build their bar on nothing more than a handshake. Yes, you read that right. Drummer ignored state contracting laws which clearly require local governments to enter into written agreements for the lease of public property and to make them available for public inspection. The Star's editorial also recounts for the first time how the tenants, who were essentially trespassing on public property, constructed the bar in violation of state and local building code and zoning laws. The Star's editors write:

Why didn't Drummer make sure that investors had necessary permits before allowing them to proceed with construction? His spokesman, David Ayers, says the
trustee "thought they had the proper permits," but he evidently didn't check. A building inspector, following up on a complaint in June, issued a stop-work order after citing the lack of permits.

Landlords generally won't lease space before getting the proper zoning approval, or variance. Potential occupants usually won't consider a property if it isn't legally ready for use. But Drummer struck the deal, and the investors began work, without the zoning process being completed.

Landlords won't allow tenants to build in a space without having them sign a lease because the former could be held liable for injuries. But Drummer didn't get the group to sign on the proverbial dotted line before allowing investors to take over the space, renovate the interior and add an outdoor deck. Essentially, Drummer let them trespass on taxpayer-owned property and expose citizens to unnecessary financial risks.

All of this points to the reality that this deal was a handshake arrangement among friends. Don't believe it? Backers include such friends of Drummer as Mays, Johnson, Indiana Black Expo President Joyce Rogers and the wife of City-County Council President Monroe Gray. They could lose their $500,000 investment if the city's Metropolitan Development Commission doesn't belatedly approve the project, which
is scheduled for a vote Oct. 4.

The lack of responsible handling by Drummer should be no surprise. After all, he earlier had failed to disclose the deal to citizens and unsuccessfully attempted to convert part of Al E. Polin Park into a parking lot for 300 East. At the very least he should have had a public bidding process to find tenants for the ground-floor space located in the center. A deal handled by a government official must be conducted scrupulously.

AI is glad to see the editorial writers bring these important details to the attention of their readers. But why were these little details not covered in a news story? And Matt Tully gave the bar's investors a crack at defending their insider deal, but he's not buying their pitch. He writes: "Their idea is a bad one. A horrible one, actually. And they've used their political clout to push their horrible idea."

So we now know that another state law was broken. The question is how many laws must be broken before someone responsible for enforcing our laws holds these public officials and political insiders to account for their unlawful conduct?


Anonymous said...

This whole mess should go to a grand jury for review.

Sir Hailstone said...

Paging Carl Brizzi, paging Carl Brizzi slam dunk case for you on line 1.

Queen916 said...

Is Atty. Tim Oaks of the Ice Miller Law firm representing the investors related to Al Oaks one of the investors in this deal?

Gary R. Welsh said...

Oaks is attorney for Center Township Trustee Carl Drummer in the rezoning/variance petition.

Queen916 said...

Yes I know who he is, are these two men related?

Tim Oaks represented the investors last night at the neighborhood association meeting. He would not confirm for us who was paying the legal fees for this project,and the liquor license application has a different attorney.

Anonymous said...

A lawyer who won't tell you who his client is, but he's representing "them" at the meeting?

AI, isn't that a breech of legal ethics? If not, it should be.

Any landlord, public or private, who allows workmen into a building to begin exensive remodeling work, must have a signed lease. And a promise from the G.C. to deliver lien-free work. And a certificate of existence from the SOS bearing a current date, which indicates the Gen. Contractor entity is properly incorporated.

And--most importantly--general liability insurance, naming the landlord as an adiditonal insured party. Mr. Drummer, in case you haven't noticed, and God Knows our current Dept. of Labor isn't investigating much, but workers get hurt on construction sites. One mis-shot nail gun, an eye injured, and Center Township residents are possibly liable for huge medical bills. There's a reason permits and insurance are supposed to be in place properly. It's not s stretch to think someone would get hurt on a half million dollar project.

I don't now who the Republican candidate for trustee is. But if I were a Republican, and I had $30-50K to throw around, I'd dump it into three direct-mail pieces the last ten days of the campaign, and highlight these lapses in judgment by Mr. Drummer. It's a wayyyyyy long shot, but it might work.

If a landlord's representative had allowed this to happen in most private sector companies, (s)he would be fired. On the spot.

Don't let up, AI. The Star has probably done all the heavy lifting on this proejct they're going to do.

Call your council members! Demand that the city's DMD stand for something, lest they fall for anything!

Anonymous said...

I wonder how much of this outrage is because -- as some of my readers and others have said -- we expected better of the Democrats? People are disappointed in the Peterson administration for standing silent as the rules are broken and ignored. They are disappointed that he won't stand up to the Carson machine.
Still, maybe this is how business is done in Indy. Read what veteran reporter Art Harris has to say on my blog today -- Art covered the liquor board back in the days when the Star actually had a reporter on that beat regularly. Boy is that long gone.
Some of this mess, I still say, is due to media asleep at the switch. Art talks about some of the investigative reporting done on similar deals by the R's when he was in the newsroom.
Lots of heads to roll over this one, guys. But I am not so sure it is a case of four legs good, two legs bad. As Art says, at least we know who the investors are in this (crooked) deal...the R's used to hide the names of their big players.
Not that being a bad actor in the past excuses the present, but as I say, maybe this is not that unusual....historically speaking.

Queen916 said...

Linda Ivey is the African American Republican candidate for Center Township Trustee.

Anonymous said...

Well, Queen...if Linda is the candidate...and if she is credible, honest, upright, etc.--find her some money.

Because there is a slight chance lightning could strike here.

Like crapolla--the more you stir this, the more it stinks. And one name continually stays in the mix--Carl Drummer.

Gary R. Welsh said...

Ruth, thanks for sharing. Harris' historical perspective is quite informative. I'm having trouble posting comment over at your site right now. Did you change something?

Anonymous said...

Yes, Ruth, more of us would like to read your blog. How do we find it?

And, about the old time Star and its investigative work, we don't need the yellow journalism of the Cady era again. His Pulitzer with Anderson was well-deserved, but once it went to his head, and after he got back from Arizona where he worked on the Don Boles case, he went down hill.

We don't need that kind of stuff anymore. I hope we've moved beyond it. In fact, much of the unsubstantiated fodder being published on blogs these days reminds me of that era.

Gary R. Welsh said...

There's a link to Ruth's blog on this site.

Anonymous said...

Abdul and I have noted on our respective sites that the Marion County Prosecutor is now looking at whether charges can be brought into this matter.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, RiShawn.

How's this, for starters:

(All alleged, you understand)

1. Trustee using township-owned property to store personal vehicles
2. Trustee directing township's legal counsel to prepare a zoning case for private entity.
3. Failure to properly submit the premises for open bids (while perhaps not illegal, aren't there some statutes which deal with disposal/lease of publicly-owned assets?)

I belive there is a blank on the zoning application, which asks if the tenants have a lease. If this form was completed by the trustee, and he lied about it, there's another one to look into.

Brizzi may have huge cajonnes, but I doubt he has the balls to tackle Ice Miller, the trustee's counsel.

This is the firm, you'll recall, that advised the CIty of Lawrence to proceed with their ridiculously one-sided sale of the water utilitly to a just-formed entity with $200 in the bank. And, when quizzed about it, they denied they were representing the City. Only providing "Scrivener's Notes." Lawyers among us, take note. Ice Miller completed that heavy-lifting move in full view of an appeals court, and didn't bat an eye.

That's the kind of people you're dealing with here.

Anonymous said...

might want to look into the market value of the lease, too...i'm betting it was severely under market, in terms or money...

Anonymous said...

oh yeah, and again--thanks to AI, the other bloggers who brought this to the attention of many of us, to Clark Kahlo for remonstrating against it in the first place, and to Will Higgins at The Star, whose first article preceded the blogs by a day or so. It was brief, and failed to ask any tough questions, but it was there.