Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Hypocritical Mahern Says Look Over Here

Instead of addressing why he and members of the Library Board refused to seat a duly-appointed member of the Board to fill a vacancy created when Peter Pizarro moved to the State of Ohio months earlier and why it allowed this nonresident to cast a vote for the Library's CEO position, Board chairman Louis Mahern patted himself on the back in a column in today's Star for resisting the pressures of patronage. Mahern writes:

The American Heritage Dictionary defines patronage in the political sense as "The power to distribute or appoint people to governmental or political positions."

In the nearly 135-year history of the Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library, there is no recorded instance of partisan political office-holders attempting to influence the selection of the chief executive officer of the library.

That is, until about four months ago . . .

Before the application period had ended, board members began to receive phone calls from local elected officials and their staffs recommending a prominent partisan Democrat who is a qualified librarian (Jackie Nytes) and to whom I have made political contributions.

Three members of the Library Board of Trustees are appointed by the Ex Officio Marion County Commissioners who are in reality the county assessor, auditor and treasurer. Each of these trustees was contacted by each of the County Commissioners recommending this same political figure. I received a call from Mayor Bart Peterson's chief of staff recommending this same individual. Another trustee received a call from the mayor himself commending this same
individual again before the application period had even closed.

The Indiana statute is quite clear as to the selection criteria for CEO of the library: "The selection shall be made solely upon the basis of the candidate's training and proficiency in the science of library administration." I take that to mean not on the basis of the candidate's partisan political support.

Not only had the period of application not closed before these political recommendations began to roll in but after the application period closed, not one of these elected officials asked to sit in on the interviews of the applicants.

Not content with trying to unduly influence the selection of the nonpartisan CEO, the Ex Officio County Commissioners attempted on the day of the Library Board CEO selection vote to replace one of their trustees with a new appointee, presumably one who would be a bit more compliant.

The Ex Officio County Commissioners tried to appoint a replacement for a trustee whose term did not end for another five days. A motion to carry out this replacement by the Library Trustees failed for lack of a second. Apparently, their new appointee was prepared to vote without sitting in on candidate interviews.

The tustees then voted to make Laura Bramble the permanent CEO based largely on her successful stewardship during the interim.
I wish I had the quote handy, but I recall a column written by Star political columnist Matt Tully a few years back where he took Mahern to task for an e-mail he had written in which he actually touted the virtues of patronage in carrying out his role as the Board's chairman. [See update below] Now, it has become some evil device he has never practiced. Let's see, how many members of the Mahern family have obtained government jobs? And has any member of the Library's Board in any recent memory been appointed based upon their qualifications as opposed to their political connections? It seems to me a person's politics has been responsible for virtually every board appointment in recent memory.

On the point of Pizarro's residency issue, Mahern has the audacity to make him out to be the real hero. "Failing to get their way through political pressure and through an abortive attempt to replace a trustee, an attempt has been made to call into question the residency of one of the Library Trustees who had the temerity to defy the Ex Officio County Commissioners," Mahern
said. "Had this trustee been committed to their candidate, the commissioners would never have attempted to remove him nor would they now be questioning his residency."

If Mayor Ballard and the City-County Council don't demand Mahern's immediate resignation from the Board, they will have failed to demonstrate to at least this commentator that they are serious about the rule of law and a more open and honest government. Well, Mr. Mayor, we're waiting to hear from you on this important public matter. Should a Board chairman who so flagrantly flaunted the laws governing the administration of the Board be allowed to continue to serve?

UPDATE: A kind Advance Indiana reader forwarded me the archive of the old Matt Tully column chastising Louis Mahern for the political advice he had for then-CCC President Steve Talley. Here's some of what the column entitled, "Political favoristism has, well, a certain smell," said:

Even for political junkies like me, the stink of politics can sometimes be too much.

For such a story, let's start at the Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library's Web site, where visitors find the words "Using tax dollars wisely.

"Click on those words and you're taken to an opinion piece by Louis Mahern, the library Board's politically appointed president. It offers a defense of how the library spends property taxes, and comes as the board has sought a tax increase and as concerns about the messy Downtown library expansion continue.

Now, let's move away from the library for another view of how Mahern thinks tax dollars should be used. This view comes from a private memo Mahern wrote earlier this year to City-County Council President Steve Talley, a fellow Democrat.The memo talks of protecting two Democratic council members narrowly elected in 2003.

"There should be priority given to constituent requests from these districts," Mahern wrote. "Curb replacement, street repair, sewer cleaning, heavy trash pickup, code enforcement and all of those services that benefit neighborhoods should be given the highest priority in these two districts.

"Politicized sewer cleaning? Now that stinks.

I called Mahern this week to ask if he stands by his words.

"Am I advocating political favoritism? Well, I suppose I am," he said. "When Mitch Daniels was running for governor, he emphasized his close ties with the president,
implying he might be able to get things out of the White House.

"He went on."To suggest that political favoritism is not a reality and is not part of the American political process is naive."

Mahern should know. He served 16 years in the state Senate and ran for mayor in 1991. He is now a lobbyist. Reading Mahern's memo inspires two thoughts. First: With old-school views like that, it's a good thing he lost his race for mayor. Second: Is he the best guy to help oversee a beleaguered and big-spending library system?

Mahern joined the Library Board last year, long after the Downtown expansion project exploded into an overbudget, overdue mess. And there's no hint he's playing politics with his position. GOP board member Greg Jordan said Mahern has "done everything on the up and up."

Still, Mahern's view on how the city should direct its tax dollars certainly raises questions. He mocked me for saying that.

"This may resonate with the public, but every politician in town is going to be laughing at you," Mahern said. "This is not unusual." I do like the man's honesty.

Talley said basing such decisions on politics would be"totally inappropriate." Let's hope he means that.

By the way, the council seats Mahern suggests helping with "favoritism" are held by Democrats Sherron Franklin and -- note this name -- Dane Mahern.

That's his nephew.


Anonymous said...

Ballard doesn't have an appointment to the library's the reason Peterson could never get anything done...

Anonymous said...

this is a very intriguing story and i am glad that AI continues to follow it. reading through the back posts here as well as the stories in the star, unless i am missing something it is unclear why mahern would work so hard to seat bramble over nytes. it just seems odd that a prominent dem would go to such extremes to keep another prominent dem out of such a position. any insight?

i do respect councillor nytes for hard work and taking a lead on issues. however in personal interactions with her, she has been arrogant and condescending. her schtick that people don't understand government or from where services come is quite tired. she continuously addressed the citizens of the county yet, from my experience, if someone from outside her district responds to her, she is quick to point out that she is not their representative.

Anonymous said...

8:55 may be right. My interactions with Nytes were similarly condescending.

Mahern may be right about this one point: Ms. Bramble may have been the most-qualified, in his eyes. He's entitled to that opinion. I don't know her, but she seems quite qualified, and not all that political.

Which may end up killing her. (We've gone through some library execs lately...our track record is not good)

What I want to know is:

1. Why did the library board years back, even consider building this monstrosity that cost them twice what it should've? In modern-day library terms, that money should've been invested in IT infrastructure, making the library's volumes more-accessible to more folks. The new building is beautiful, but like school superintendents, their thirst for new buildings comes at a huge cost. And at least school superintendents have more expereince in this field; the library hadn't built a large structure in over 80 years. Their lack of experience shows. To the architects, lawyers and construction manager whores who love this business, the library was like shooting ducks in a wine glass.

2. Why is Mahern supporting a guy who'd moved? Clearly, Pizarro shoudln't have voted, reagrdless for whom he cast his vote. Typical Mahernism, perhaps schooled in Wilsonism: distract them with shiny objects, change the subject...type it in all caps or some such silliness and watch them spin that crap.

The library board's horrid mismanagement goes back several years. I know several staff at the library, and there is severe discontent in the ranks. The bottom line:

An unqualified trustee voted for the director. He shouldn't have. And they spend money like drunken sailors (actually worse...sorry sailors for any unintended insult).

And who pays?


(In all caps Wilson--knock yourself out)

Anonymous said...

If she will give you the time of day..ask Jackie about the origin of the problems with the library. She used to work there. The consensus is the Mahern has done a pretty good job with a bad situation at the new Central branch. He was not on the board when they decided to build it, but he has handled this tough time as well as could be done.

Of all our public institution, the public library is the one that should never have partisan political consideration.

Anonymous said...

anon 8:55,

Here is a thought (re-read the op-ed), the political considerations were unimportant. The selection of the CEO should be based on professional qualifications. Unlike political elective office, the leader of the library should be chosen solely on the basis of professional qualifications. While Ms. Nytes appears to be qualified, she lost out to a more qualified candidate. It is interesting that people can't seem to grasp that this selection was clearly not about politics partisan or otherwise.

The political rules should apply to the selection of the CEO of the library. It looks like that happened in this case.

Gary, you are right about alot of things, but on this one you are dead wrong.

Anonymous said...

I, for one, am glad that in this current political environment where the Bush administration is re-writing science at the EPA for political consideration, that we still have public servants that take their charge seriously enough to courageous resist inappropriate political pressure. Thanks to Mr. Mahern and the other board members who were not swayed by these irrelevant considerations in the selection of the library CEO. (A small amount) of hope has been restored in our system.

Anonymous said...

ok, even if they did chose the better candidate, the process that got them there was not appropriate. isn't that the point of this AI blog entry?

mahern is a political pro and part of the machine. it is still confusing why he would thwart the bid of a fellow democrat mover/shaker.

Anonymous said...

It appears the your premise that Mahern is part of the machine is belied by his support of the admittedly more qualified candidate. Not everything is determine (thank God) by crass poltical calculations. Breath of fresh air.

Anonymous said...

I think louis mahern is right on target here. The political lobbying on the part of the peterson administration and other hacks was unwarranted. The library board did the right thing by resisting this. I recall a few years ago (during the Goldsmith Administration) there were similar incursions by the politicians into library operations, mostly from budgetary/fiscal point of view. This is why you have non-partisan boards - they need to be immune from these political shnanigans Also, I agree that Nytes was qualified, but it appears that the board went with another (in their eyes, more qualified) candidate. That's life.

Anonymous said...

Was Mahern on the board when the decision to built the new library was made? No he was not. Was Mahern on the board when the contracts were let for the construction of the new library? No.
Was Mahern on the board when the lawyers at Tabert-Hahn were hired? No. Was mahern on the board when construction problems were discovered at the main library? No. Does the board consist of 7 members? Yes.

Anonymous said...

wow. the mahern backers are out in full force. i didn't know he was still so popular. perhaps he should run for office again. that's all we need is yet another mahern working for the city.

Eclecticvibe said...

I think the problem is whether the appointed officials can follow the law, regardless of the outcome. We shouldn't just forget about the rule of law because we're happy with the outcome of the decision. Just because there was political pressure to appoint someone, doesn't mean that the process of the selection should be flawed. We should still expect these appointees to reject partisan political pressure, while staying within the confines of the rules set for making decisions.

Anonymous said...

I'm sort of surprised the big picture keeps getting ignored here.

The real issue is not the pressure put on Mahern by other politicians.

The real issue is the ability of Mr. Pizarro to serve. Knowing that Mr. Pizarro no longer lived here, Mahern manipulated the system as much as he now claims others tried to do. And Pizarro should've had the decency to resign, but he didn't.

Using his logic, why don't we get Hudnut to serve? He has the best interests of the city at heart. Of course, he moved away, but, hey, that doesn't seem to matter any more.

As for the Tabbert/Hahn connection, or the construction commencement president, Mahern could easily have influenced different decisions, regardless when the difficulties arose. He chose not to.

Luckily, it seems the library got a qualified director anyway.

But that's hardly the point.

Once again, a Mahern manipulated the system. And somehow now claims he was manipulated himself.
Or that others attempted to manipulate him. And somehow he is now annointed as the patron protector of our library dollars.


Anonymous said...

A little bird told me that the Library as a taxing authority is subject to audits by the state board of accounts for appropriate expeditures. On a day to day basis the person responsible for approving expeditures is the Chief Financial Officer. The public trust is no more important than on the review and approval of expediture of tax dollars. How has the Library fared in past audits is the question that comes to my mind? Who was the CFO during these audits? Enquiring minds want to know.

Wilson46201 said...

Maybe those same minds need to inquire about how to spell "Inquiring"?

Anonymous said...

It was quite intentional Wilson...a play on words...with the National Enquirer.

BTW, speaking of politizing public works...Gary do you think it is any accident that Ms. Nytes, along with your favorite Monroe Gray, had more sidewalks installed of any Counselor. I will forward via link shortly the news story on this topic. Ms. Nytes is a great politican just a second rate CEO candidate that's all.

Anonymous said...

Gary...please take a look at Sheila's new blog entry:

It's about Prince Andre...

Anonymous said...

Wilson, "enquiring" is a perfectly acceptable alternative spelling for "inquiring". Ever heard of a book called a dictionary?

Anonymous said...

I believe is wrong about the slating on Feb 16th. According to my letter from the central committee " the Central Committee has determined that all ward chairs, vice ward chairs, precinct committeepeople and vice committeepeople elected or appointed under the existing (917) precinct map WILL BE allowed to vote at the primary convention" Jim better check your sources.


Anonymous said...

Andre Carson is a remarkable person if you know him. You can say whatever you want but the people who meet him instantly recognize him to be humble, respectful, decent and thoughtful. All good traits in a Congressman.

Anonymous said...

I happened to notice that the comments with the on-line version of Louis Mahern's Indianapolis Star letter to the editor has responses posted from him (or someone purporting to be him) on this topic.

I don't really care one way or another about this hullaballu, but I just thought people here would be curious to hear what additionally he has to say.

Gary, will you reveal your secret sources of information on this topic so we can gauge and weigh their credibility and motivations?

Anonymous said...

The sooner we Democrats say no more MAHERNS ..the better off we will be.....remember that when Dane runs for the 97th house district.

Anonymous said...

What does any of this have to do with Dane? It seems like some people take great joy by attacking people because they are related to someone. Why are the repubs so concerned about Dane?

Anonymous said...

If it weren't for the fact that Dane was related to someone, those that seek to oppose him would simply use some other equally flimsy pretext to attack his substantial candidacy. They fear him and rightfully so. He knows the people and their concerns, evidence his two rock solid victories in difficult races already under his belt. Since he has been in office he has worked tireless on behalf of his constituents. And they know it. The statehouse can certainly use his understanding of how average people's lives can be seriously impacted by the actions of the government. Attack him as you might, but be sure to not underestimate him. For if you do, you lucky will have kinship with two other unfortunate souls who have met that same electoral fate.

Anonymous said...

Dane Mahern...rock solid victory..less than 100 votes!!

Dane Mahern broke the tie vote in the Demo caucus to give us Monroe Gray for council president.

Dane Mahern who refused to vote for Joanne Sanders as minority leader.


Anonymous said...

4:17, there is no acceptable dictionary, Strunk & White, AP Stylebook or other scholarly entry for inquiring with an "e". Think before you type, huh?

11:29: aMEN! Plus, did you ever see Ch. 16 replays of the committee meetings Dane Mahern chaired? It was a train wreck every time. He's a functional illiterate, at best. And embarrassing.

Come to think of it, he'll fit in just fine in the House.

Anonymous said...

Can people just make stuff up and people will belive it. Dane Mahern did not break a tie vote for Monroe Gray he did vote for Monroe just as did every democrat on the council did. I was not at the caucus so I don't know who Dane voted for this year or if he did but I think that should be a private matter within the caucus.

Anonymous said...

There were six offices to be elected in the last election. In council district 19 Dane Mahern received more votes than the Mayor. Dane also received more votes than any of the four at large candidates. I think you will find in District 16 Brian Mahern ran well ahead of the other dems. as well. You may not like it but in a bad Democrat year the Mahern's ran very well.

Anonymous said...

11:56--here are some ideas for you to consider: (sorry for veering the blog off topic, Gary)

From several sources inside the caucus, the decision to choose Monroe Gray as president was close, perhaps one vote. So, Dane's vote was crucial.

And no, it's NOT a private matter within the caucus. That's an arrogant-as-hell attitude. All of us Democrats lost a great deal when that decision was made. It was reinforced throughout Monroe's tenure by arrogant and politically stupid decisions, fostered by the same few who thought they were "owed" something by the party and the city.

That attitude was prevalent in the caucus, but not everyone drank that Kool Aid. Throughout Monroe's tenture, from within the caucus, it was apparent there were multiple decisions that were controversial.

The attitude displayed by the majority within the 2007 Dem caucus, was so out of touch it was laughable. And if you don't think it cost us the mayor's office, you're dreaming. The margin wasn't that much, and people were looking for reasons to blame someone for increased taxes and government ineptness.

Monroe Gray was the willing poster child for that anger. The mayor caught some backwash because the Mayor, somewhat uncharacteristically, refused to distance himself from the inept and politically stupid moves Monroe championed.

The ultimate irony is that Monroe won his district, so he's back. The mayor's gone.

The city loses in that equation. Greg Ballard will be OK as mayor. He owes nobody anything, which is refreshing.

And, to veer back onto topic, if there's a God in heaven, Ballard will use whatever influence he can muster, to stop the Mahern madness whenever he can.

Anonymous said...

Where was Jackie Nytes on the question of tax increase? Did that effect the outcome of the election? Publicly she supported it. But then again Jackie has never been in a close race. (She was bequeathed her Counsel seat; apparently not wisely I might add.) That is until recently. But now she has lost for CEO of the Library. Has she and her friends taken their lumps and moved on? No. Instead they continue to try to make this about the Maherns. Other Library board members failed to help in her cause, but they (and their relatives) are left alone. This is seen by the vast majority of the people for what it is. The selfish personal ambition of one person who tried unsuccessfully (thankfully) to politicize the selection the leader of the Library.

By the way what was the turnout in Jackie's heavily Democratic district? did that also help the Democratic cause?

Anonymous said...

This has become a really interesting discussion and 8:20 managed to bring it full circle.

It will be interesting to see how nytes interacts with TWO maherns now on the council. One has to wonder if there will be any carryover. While it would be amusing to see some paybacks, it won't happen.

That being said, she is clearly politically savvy (making it all the more interesting that she did not get the CEO job) and works hard on the council. I generally disagree with her positions on revenue and spending matters but concede she is doing the job she was elected to do by her constituents.

Since she run unopposed, it is hard to blame her for the numbers voting in her district. She did what she could to keep interest up and even campaigned for the november election when she didn't have to. Part of her district suffered some of the harded blows on property taxes. I would imagine there were many who, in a normal year, would have voted dem but probably stayed home.

Now if she would just stop being so dang condescending . . .

Anonymous said...

Here's an excerpt from an old interview with the Star that illustrates the arrogance that continues.

Louis Mahern
Indianapolis Star, The (IN)
September 4, 2005

What do you mainly use the library for?

I have to be honest; I don't use the library very much. I use the library's Web site to do some research. I don't check books out because -- this is probably a character flaw on my part -- but I need to own the books I read.

In a year and a half on the board, what secrets have you learned about librarians?

I was really shocked, but you would be surprised how many librarians, after hours, dance on the checkout desk with a rose between their teeth.

'Nuff said.

Anonymous said...

Here is a thought (re-read the op-ed), the political considerations were unimportant. The selection of the CEO should be based on professional qualifications. Unlike political elective office, the leader of the library should be chosen solely on the basis of professional qualifications. While Ms. Nytes appears to be qualified, she lost out to a more qualified candidate. It is interesting that people can't seem to grasp that this selection was clearly not about politics partisan or otherwise.
The political rules should apply to the selection of the CEO of the library. It looks like that happened in this case.

Gary, you are right about alot of things, but on this one you are dead wrong.

Jackie Nytes has more as much if not more professional experience than Ms. Bramble as well as more years experience near the top of the organization. This is not about who has more experience to lead the library - it is all about Louie Mahern controlling the process and the ultimate selection. Louie arrogantly ignored the committee structure of the board and announced the search without the chair of the search committee being notified, tried to initiate a vote for the director when the two board members (who have more experience on the board than anyone else serving and have consistently tried to bring accountability to the board) were planning to be out of town. One can only assume that Mahern did this for personal reasons. Don't know whether it is because he wanted someone he could control or wanted payback but the truth is this selection was made to install the person Louie Mahern wanted case closed. Regardless of the reason, the process stinks because Mahern's shit stinks. No the mayor doesn't have an appointment over this board but the council does and Mahern's term is up soon. Brizzi, are you out there?

Gary R. Welsh said...

I never advocated for Jackie's selection as the CEO. In fact, if you go back when she first emerged as one of the finalists, I was critical of a possible connection between her stewardship of the tax and budget issues for the Peterson administration and this job. My criticism is no different than my outing of Patrice Abduallah for not living in his district. Peter Pizarro moved out of state months ago and was no longer eligible to serve on the Board. Mahern and other board members knew this and allowed this fraud to occur--even to the point of thumbing their noses at the duly appointed member named by our elected county officials. What they did was illegal. The ends don't justify the means.

Anonymous said...

Although it has not been mentioned here yet, it is a well known fact that, despite closely working with his opponent on the human rights ordinance, Jackie was very supportive of her fellow Democrat Brian Mahern in his Council race. Jackie knows the long history the Maherns have of supporting her special issue of gay rights. She knows that Dane supported the human rights ordinance and that Brian has a strong stand on these issues as well. I believe that under previous Council district maps she previously represented parts of the district he now represents. In fact, I also believe that her support and sway in that race my have been a contributing factor in his very large margin of victory (close to 1,000 votes, compared to 4 votes last time around). (That may be why it came as a particular shock to her supporters that Louie Mahern didn't do the "political" thing and support her for the CEO). That said, there is simply no reason to believe that Jackie doesn't (or wouldn't) get along with the younger Maherns who serve with her on the Council. Also, I think *all* the people on here are making more to this wider Mahern thing than there is. In fact, I don't think there anything other than an apparent honest disagreement between Louie Mahern and Jackie about who would make the best Library CEO. I know that by making my post I am contributing to the continuation of this thread, but I personally think it is time to stop the name calling and move on.

Anonymous said...

Anon 11:56 in the private Demo caucus, the vote was tied and Dane voted for Monroe over Steve Talley...I was there.....he did it.....of course, after the caucus vote, Talley withdrew and in public all dems voted for Gray...but the fact remains that Dane broke the tie in caucus.

Anonymous said...

Anon 12:16,

Post your name please. So we all can judge the veracity of your comments. And, if you are- as you say- a member of that caucus, your fellow members will know not to trust you. That is, if they trust you now.

Anonymous said...

Anon 7:12 Let see, who could that possibly be....who has a dog in this whole fight...and is a part of that caucus? Maybe anon 9:39 is wrong.