Saturday, August 29, 2009

Scales Weighs In On Vote Against CIB Bailout

City-County Councilor Christine Scales (R), the only Republican councilor to vote against the $27 million a year tax, spend and borrow bailout of the Capital Improvement Board, takes issue with a recent IBJ editorial characterizing the council's vote largely along party lines as partisanship at its worst in a letter to the editor. "This superficial pronouncement of the reasons behind Proposal 285's vote tally lacks thoughtful evaluation of why councilors cast their votes the way the did . . . ," Scales writes. In Scales' defense of her own vote, she says "there were many reasons why councilors balked at voting for the measure foisted upon us by the General Assembly." Scales particularly detested the fact that the council had been handed an all or nothing proposition by the legislature. At its best, Scales notes, the bailout plan "offered only short-term solvency" for the CIB.

Scales desired a "thorough examination of past CIB decisions in order to develop a health strategy for how to best avoid past mistakes." Scales was troubled at being expected to commit to such "a large financial rescue package when the determination of actual dollars needed seemed in constant flux." She adds, "Available funds in the CIB budget were being 'newly' discovered just days before the council vote took place." Scales worried about the negative impact from having the highest hotel tax in the nation on the City's tourism industry. And she complained about the inability of councilors to contribute to"crafting a sound, forward-thinking policy."

Throughout the CIB bailout debate, the IBJ news staff provided some of the best reporting and analysis of the CIB's financial woes. If you followed the IBJ reporting, you would have easily concluded that the bailout plan before the CIB was public policy at its worst. I think this is a case where the IBJ's editors discarded the proof within their own news coverage of this issue in favor of currying favor with Indianapolis' elites, who practically held a gun to the City-County Councilors heads demanding passage of the bailout plan. Kudos to Scales for setting the record straight with the IBJ's editors and its readers.

Amos Is Right

It is not often that I find myself in agreement with radio talk show host Amos Brown, but he has a point concerning recent discussions about money being spent in the 2010 and 2011 budgets of the City-County Council for redistricting. Brown took issue this past week with comments a competing radio talk show host, Abdul-Hakim Shabazz, made about the intention of Republican councilors to redistrict prior to the 2011 municipal election. Amos Brown correctly pointed out that what Shabazz suggested Republicans plan to do is a clear violation of state law in his column in the Indianapolis Recorder this week:

Is the City-County Council’s Republican majority attempting to redraw Council districts before 2010 Census data is released?

If not, why have Council Republicans increased their 2010 budget by $290,000 to cover “professional services” to redistrict? An August 11 budget hearing revealed that and an additional $290,000 would be spent in 2011 for redistricting.

Then WRTV/Channel 6 commentator Abdul Hakim-Shabazz posted on the station’s Capitol Watch Blog that 2010 Census data would be available in December 2010 and that the Council would redistrict by February 2011.

Shabazz’s pronouncements were flat false.

I called out Shabazz on his falsehoods, but neither he nor Channel 6 has corrected the errors of fact.

And the facts, from Marion County Clerk Beth White and Leslie Barnes at the Indiana Election Division are these.

State law requires the City-County Council to redistrict two years after a decennial Census is taken. That would be in 2012.

State law also prohibits the City-County Council from doing any redistricting between November 2, 2010 and November 8, 2011. The only time next year the Council could redistrict is before November, and the only data available would be from 2000.

So, since the Council cannot redistrict next year why is this money being spent? With city/county finances tight, spending $290,000 in 2010 and spending most of that amount in 2011 is wasted money and effort. The Council can wait until mid-2011 to start spending on redistricting; allocating the funds in the 2011 and 2012 budgets.

The current Council shouldn’t even think of redistricting with 10-year-old data. That would be the height of stupidity and arrogance.
I checked the state statute governing how the 25 City-County Council districts are to be redistricted each decennial. I.C. 36-3-4-3(a) provides:

Sec. 3. (a) The city-county legislative body shall, by ordinance, divide the whole county into twenty-five (25) districts that:
(1) are compact, subject only to natural boundary lines (such as railroads, major highways, rivers, creeks, parks, and major industrial complexes);
(2) contain, as nearly as is possible, equal population; and
(3) do not cross precinct boundary lines.
This division shall be made during the second year after a year in which a federal decennial census is conducted and may also be made at any other time, subject to IC 3-11-1.5-32.

The other statute mentioned in this law, I.C. 3-11-1.5.32, says that a "legislative body of a municipality may not change the boundary of a district established . . . after November 8 of the year preceding the year in which a municipal election is to be held and before the day following the date on which the municipal election is held except to assign territory to a municipal legislative body district in an annexation ordinance." This statute closes any window between the time census data is obtained and the time period for filing for municipal office for purposes of adopting a new redistricting plan.

Under federal law, the Census Bureau is supposed to deliver the final census report to the President by December 31, 2010. Shabazz suggested that Republicans would get the census information and redraw the district boundaries in approximately a 30-day window before candidates filed in February, 2011 to run for the City-County Council. The state law clearly provides that the redistricting could not take place until 2012, the second year after the federal decennial census is conducted.

It bothers me that the Republican-controlled council is budgeting $290,000 for redistricting in the 2010 budget when it won't even have any census data with which to work. It plans to spend another $290,000 in 2011; however, the state law would not allow the redistricting plan to be adopted until 2012 at the soonest, a year following the Indianapolis municipal election. The next municipal election does not take place until 2015. It looks to me like the Republicans will be wasting money on redistricting work in the 2010 and 2011 budgets, particularly if the Democrats win back control of the council in 2011. You can bet that they will throw out whatever work the Republicans had done and hire new consultants and lawyers to draw their own districts. In these tight budgetary times, it simply does not make sense to spend money that absolutely doesn't need to be spent.

Friday, August 28, 2009

WISH-TV'S Jim Shella Does It Again

WISH-TV's Jim Shella wasted no time in getting on the air to trash citizen activist Gerry Mann for daring to challenge U.S. Rep. Andre Carson earlier this week during Carson's speech before Indianapolis' Downtown Rotary Club. Here's a little of what Shella had to say about Mann in this report:

When a health care opponent got in the face of Congressman André Carson (D) on Tuesday it looked like a spontaneous event. Now there is evidence that it was planned.

Gerry's View is a web site maintained by Gerry Mann, the Rotary Club member
who confronted Carson during and after a presentation to the club. On the site, Mann encourages others to let their voices be heard by contacting their congressmen.

Most of the commentary is directed at President Obama who, in Gerry's view, is a dictator responsible for tyranny, a Marxist, a crook and a racist who should be impeached. Congressman Carson said he was unaware of the writings when he was confronted Tuesday.

Curiously, none of Shella's reporting researched the misstatements Carson made about Obama's health care plan during his speech to the Rotary Club. Members in attendance complained that Carson read from a prepared text, which he seemed ill at ease reading. When attempting to answer questions, Carson was only able to articulate the talking points he had been briefed to parrot on demand. Many of the Rotary Club members left disappointed that Carson appeared to have such a weak grasp of the plan set out in a more than 1,000-page bill that most members of Congress and even President Obama have not bothered to read.

Shella has always been a mouthpiece for the Carson political machine. Shella deliberately covered up the fact that the late Rep. Julia Carson, Andre's grandmother, had cancer and was not expected to live much longer during the 2006 congressional election. Instead, Shella aided the Carson political machine in dragging up a decades' old police domestic report on her opponent, Eric Dickerson, that resulted in no criminal convictions against him.

Similarly, he played gotcha politics with Andre's special election opponent, Jon Elrod, by using video footage of Elrod signing campaign-related letters and stuffing them in envelopes paid for by his campaign on the House floor, something many lawmakers have done over the years and which does not violate any criminal laws.

Earlier this year, Shella ran a hit piece on a State House rally organized by citizen activists fed up with our government. Shella chose members of the audience rather than actual speakers at the event to caricature the citizens at the rally to his personal liking.

What Shella will never tell his listeners is that his public affairs show, "Indiana Week In Review", is sponsored by Ice Miller, whose public affairs group is co-chaired by Lacy Johnson, a political operative and lobbyist with close ties to the Carson political machine. In other words, Shella gets a pay check from Johnson's law firm. Shella is more interested in kissing up to the political insiders than providing informative political news coverage for WISH-TV's listeners.

City Balancing Budget On Backs Of Pensioners

We're starting this game of short-changing contributions to our public safety pension funds all over again. The City of Indianapolis was dealt a big break a year ago when the State of Indiana agreed to pick up more than $400 million in unfunded pension liability the City had incurred years earlier for its public safety officers. The removal of that debt saved the City at least $30 million a year in debt service to repay that obligation. Now we learn that a pension that benefits hundreds of retired Marion County deputy sheriffs has been placed in jeopardy because the City decided to withhold $3 million in contributions to the fund to help balance the budget. WRTV's Jack Rinehart has the details:

Indianapolis budget shortfalls have put the pensions of hundreds of former Marion County Sheriff's Department deputies in jeopardy.

For the first time since the fund was set up in 1963 that the city failed to make its full contribution, 6News' Jack Rinehart reported.

Former sheriff's deputies said they are concerned because the law states that if the government fails to make a minimum contribution for three years in a row, the pension plan is automatically terminated.

You can't make calculated risks on the backs of people who you've already made a commitment to, people who are risking their lives every day, so that your government can run," said Sgt. Rick Snyder, a former sheriff's deputy.

The pension discrepancy began when the Marion County Sheriff's Department and the Indianapolis Police Department merged in 2007, while more than 350 former sheriff's deputies remained under their original pension plans.

That fund lost 26 percent of its value when the economy slowed last year. The city then withheld a $3 million contribution in an effort to balance the budget.

The administration further angered former sheriff's deputies by fully funding pension plans for Indianapolis fire fighters and former IPD officers.

"I would like the opportunity to come to work every single day knowing that I'm going to be treated just like the guy next to me that was a former IPD officer who's now secure in his pension. I'd like to be secure in my pension as well," said Lt. Mike Perkins.

City Controller David Reynolds told Rinehart that the city fully intends to continue funding the pension plan, but that officials want to wait until the economy stabilizes. He said the city will not miss the three-year mark.

"Pension liability is a core service. We have every intention of funding pension liabilities," Reynolds said.
This development provides further evidence as I've discussed before that the City's budget is not truly balanced. We also learned at the Sheriff's Department's budget hearing this past week that it is behind by at least three months, or $4.5 million, in payments to the private operator of Marion County Jail II, Corrections Corporation of America. At the same time, the Sheriff's department went out and made unnecessary purchases of motorcycles and new cars for its deputies.

I've been a long-time critic of the over-generosity of these public-funded pensions for public safety officers. I think it is critical, however, that we always stay current in funding our obligations to these systems so people can fully appreciate just how much they are costing us. Long-term pension reform is critical, but good luck with that effort. The FOP and firefighters' union exert almost complete control over our City-County Council. A number of the council members are public safety officers or are married to a public safety officer and have a vested interest in keeping those plans as generous as possible.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

EEOC Affirms Race Discrimination Decision Against Marion County Coroner's Office

Former Chief Deputy Coroner John Linehan's quest for vindication in a legal claim he brought against his former employer, the Marion County Coroner's Office, charging that former Coroner Kenneth Ackles discriminated against him because of his race and fired him in retaliation for asserting his right to equal employment opportunity, moved one step closer to being realized after the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") in Washington affirmed an administrative law judge's finding in his favor almost two years ago. In November, 2007, an ALJ found in Linehan's favor and ordered the Marion County Coroner's Office to pay Linehan $360,000, plus more than $60,000 in attorney's fees. The EEOC upheld all of the award except for $36,000 in front pay awarded to Linehan.

In upholding the decision, the EEOC rejected an argument proffered by the Coroner's Office that a heightened standard should have applied because Linehan is Caucasian, and that he should have been "required to additionally establish that sufficient background circumstances exist to determine that the Coroner's Office is 'the unusual employer who discriminates against the majority.'" The Commission noted that it applies "the same standard of proof to all race discrimination claims, regardless of the [complaining party's] race or the type of evidence used." The EEOC dismissed the Coroner's Office assertion that Linehan was not replaced by an African-American because Ackles had temporarily appointed a Caucasian to the role of Chief Deputy for a very brief period before naming Alfarena Ballew, an African-American, as Linehan's permanent replacement. "[T]here is sufficient evidence in the record to create an inference that [Ackles] relieved [Linehan] of his duties and terminated him based on [Ackles'] stated preference for hiring African-American employees," the decision held, based on Ackles preferential treatment of Ballew and "[A]ckles' hearing testimony regarding his reasons for relieving [Linehan] of his duties and terminating him, which the ALJ deemed not credible."

The Marion County Coroner's Office contended that it had valid reasons for terminating Linehan; however, the EEOC concluded the reasons proffered were pretextual. The EEOC found the hearing record devoid of evidence to support Ackles' claim that Linehan failed to follow his policies and, in particular, found Ackles' claim that Linehan had negotiated on his own a contract with the forensic pathology firm, Forensic Pathology Associates of Indiana, and failed to disclose key terms of the contract to him, lacking in credibility. "We find [Ackles'] argument that he considered [Linehan's] conduct in negotiating the pathology contract provisions and allegedly performing inquests when deciding to relieve [Linehan] of his duties is simply unworthy of belief," the decision opines. Similarly, the EEOC found Ackles' contention that Linehan had targeted certain employees for disciplinary action, including Ballew, "unworthy of belief." Ackles accused Linehan of arranging a pay raise for himself behind his back, but the EEOC noted the decision to increase the pay had been made during the previous year's budget discussions before Linehan could have known he would become the chief deputy under Ackles. The EEOC said Ackles' claim that he was concerned Linehan may have committed ghost employment as a consequence of part-time work he performed that had been pre-approved by the Coroner's Office "simply defies belief."

The Coroner's Office believed it should have been accorded a presumption that it did not discriminate against Linehan because he was hired and fired within less than a year. In rejecting this argument, the EEOC noted that the ALJ had found that Ackles' testimony "contain[ed] a number of vague or contradictory statements, assertions and inferences." The EEOC rejected the Coroner's Office's contention that it had not retaliated against Linehan because Ackles didn't know he had complained about racial discrimination. It found that Linehan had discussed his racial discrimination claim with Ackles, and that other officials had spoken to Ackles about Linehan's complaint prior to the decision to fire him. Finally, the EEOC agreed that the $200,000 in compensatory fees awarded to Linehan were not unreasonable in light of the ALJ's finding that he had "suffered from being demoted and fired, and from having his name besmirched in the press, all of which resulted in months of treatment and counseling."

The EEOC's decision orders the Coroner's Office to pay Linehan his award and attorney's fees within 90 days; however, the Coroner's Office has the right to review of the decision before the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals if it files a timely appeal within 60 days.

[Editor's Note: I am currently representing parties who have brought similar claims of racial discrimination against the Coroner's Office, including a former deputy coroner, a rejected job applicant and the FPAI, the forensic pathology group fired by Ackles. The claims of the former employee and the job applicant were settled by the Coroner's Office earlier this year for $100,000; FPAI's case is still pending before Judge David Hamilton in the Southern District of Indiana.]

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Marion County Property Taxpayers Are Being Gouged

Well, I see our friends in the Marion Co. Assessor's Office have been up to their little trick of figuring out how to get around those property tax caps the legislature enacted. The answer from Greg Bowes' office seems to be to jack assessments by absurd amounts. My 2008 assessment, which I just found out about today, is 31% higher than the 2007 assessment. Translated, even with the 1.5% property tax cap on homesteads, my annual property tax bill could jump from $2,400 to $3,789, or an increase of 58%. The assessed value is completely out of whack. Property values in my neighborhood like most of Indianapolis peaked in 2007 when property tax bills arrived in people's mailboxes and taxpayers took to the streets to protest. WTHR has a story and a link to the assessor's office where you can check out just how badly Greg Bowes screwed you over.

Just Waiting To Be Adopted

My sister's registered labradoodle, Maggie, just gave birth to nine puppies, including six males and three females. If you're interested in getting first dibs on the new litter, let me know. The females are available for $750 and the males for $700. They should be ready for adoption, vaccinations included, by October 10. Labradoodles, a cross between a labrador and a poodle, are described as "sociable, friendly, non aggressive, and extremely intuitive." They are considered to be highly intelligent and easily trained as guide dogs, therapy dogs and other assistance dogs. They have non allergic coats.

My City Councilor Is Under Investigation Again For Drunken Misconduct

I'll have to hand it to the Democrats in my City-County Council district. They sure know how to pick them. City-County Councilor Doris Minton-McNeil is under investigation again for allegedly trying to use her Trailblazer to hit someone according to WRTV. "She's likely to hit this girl's baby," the woman told a 911 dispatcher. "I think she's drunk." Police also noticed damage to McNeil's Trailblazer, although she denied to police that she had been drinking or driving. McNeil played the race card last year when she was charged with assaulting a police officer during a bizarre drunken exchange after police arrived at her home to investigate a 911 call she had placed about an alleged knife-wielding child molester being insider her home. A Democratic judge found her not guilty of those charges. Police probably won't even waste their time bringing charges against her this time.

The Star offers these additional details of the incident this past weekend:

In Saturday's incident, a caller named Katherine Haynes reported that Minton-McNeill was speeding and swerving all over the road. Haynes, who told police she and McNeill had a previous conflict, said the councilwoman slammed on her brakes about two feet from where Haynes' daughter was standing with her seven-week-old daughter in a stroller.

When police arrived at Minton-McNeill's home, they found her vehicle's engine was warm and noticed fresh skid marks on the street, according to a police report. McNeill came to the door, pointed down the street toward Haynes and said, "She's lying," the report said.

Lt. Jeff Duhamell, a spokesman for the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, said the incident remains under investigation by Northwest District detectives. He said because McNeill was found in her home, there was not ample evidence to arrest her.

Indiana SAT Scores Fall, Big Surprise

Indiana average SAT scores fell two points last year. Ah, no big deal. We still have the largest and best high school athletic facilities in the country. Here's an example of why are students aren't learning in our public schools. "Among the actions the school plan to take is to make sure teachers are asking questions in their classes that resemble SAT questions so students are familiar with the format," writes the Star's Andy Gammill. Anyone ever seen that episode of the "Simpsons" where the school puts the students through intensive instruction on how to take their standard test? The teacher is explaining how the multiple choice answers follow certain patterns, such as "BBACDAB" and the stupid, trouble-making kids are taken for an extended field trip by the principal so the others can learn the memorization techniques?

RIP Senator Edward M. Kennedy

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy succumbed tonight after his battle with brain cancer, the same disease that took the life of political columnist Robert Novak last week. The Washington Post describes him as "one of the most powerful and influential senators in American history." He should also be remembered, however, for the man who took the life of 28-year-old Mary Jo Kopechne. Forty years ago, a drunken Sen. Kennedy drove his car off a bridge at Chappaquiddick Island, Massachusetts. Kennedy saved his own skin and left his female passenger, Mary Jo Kopechne, behind to drown in his submerged Oldsmobile. Kennedy never called for help. Instead, he returned to his room at a nearby guesthouse and called his attorneys and powerful friends to plan the coverup of his horrendous crime. "The tragedy had a corrosive effect on Kennedy's image and eroded his national standing," the Post writes. Sen. Kennedy's life was saved by Indiana Sen. Birch Bayh (D), who pulled him from the wreckage of the plane on which both were passengers after it crashed near Springfield, Massachusetts in 1963. Kennedy suffered a broken back. It's quite a tragedy that he couldn't extend the same courtesy to Kopechne six years later. He won his first election for the U.S. Senate based on his family's name despite his young age and a damaging disclosure that he had been kicked out of Harvard for cheating on an exam. While many will be praising the life of Sen. Edward Kennedy, I will not be among them.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Mann v. Carson On Health Care Reform

Give the first round in the 7th District health care care debate to long-time Indianapolis resident Gerry Mann. During a speech before the Indianapolis Downtown Rotary Club, Mann challenged the figures U.S. Rep. Andre Carson was tossing around about the number of uninsured Americans. Carson pegs the number at about 46 million, which he bases on U.S. census data. Mann contended that the number Carson was using includes illegal aliens. I checked the most recent U.S. census data and discovered that the 46 million figure used by Carson includes about 10 million uninsured foreign nationals. The census data indicates that foreign nationals are 2.5 times as likely to be uninsured as our American citizen population. Carson accused Mann of spreading myths. The WISH-TV video of the exchange between Carson and Mann appears above.

Sorry, Rep. Carson, but foreign nationals are not American citizens the last time I read the Immigration and Nationality Act. I think you owe Mr. Mann an apology. Carson is not alone in making this mistake. President Obama repeatedly uses the 46 million uninsured figure that includes foreign nationals, counting them as American citizens. This is not a surprise given the fact that Obama is unconstitutionally masquerading as a natural born citizen eligible to hold the office of President of the United States. When Obama and Carson say that the Democratic government-run health care plan will provide coverage to 46 million Americans, they invite criticism that their plan will require U.S. citizens to pay for health insurance coverage for illegal aliens.

Further, the immigration reform legislation that both Obama and Carson support will provide legal status and the possibility of citizenship to most of the illegal population in American currently, which means they will qualify for government benefits as a result of immigration reform, if not directly from the Obama health care plan. Also, I can assure you that the Health & Hospital Corporation spends millions annually providing free health care services to illegal aliens; however, you'll never get that information from them. The HHC refuses to document how much it spends on free health care services for foreign nationals because it wouldn't be politically correct to allow taxpayers to know that bit of information.

UPDATE: True to form, a government-paid worker for the Democratic Party, Terry Burns, is already trashing citizen Mann as just another "teabagger" at his blog, Burns attacks Mann for being a successful businessman and questions whether the 79-year-old receives Medicare. It's just incredible how shameless Democrats have become in their complete disdain for Americans like Mann who have lived the American Dream.

Star Ties William Mays To Insider Trading Deal

The Star's Dan Lee writes today about a settlement reached with three Indiana investors accused of insider trading by the SEC, including the daughter of prominent Indianapolis businessman William Mays. According to Lee's story, the SEC determined that Nancy Jewell, Matthew Murphy, III and Kristin Mays, made a quick profit on the purchase of First Indiana Corp. stock after receiving information about the pending merger with Marshall & Isley from one of First Indiana's directors. The SEC settlement agreement does not specifically identify Bill Mays as the source of the information or include an admission of wrongdoing by the accused; however, Lee makes the obvious connection the three investors had to him:

Three area investors have settled an insider-trading case involving shares of First Indiana Corp. they purchased in 2007, shortly before the bank's shares soared on news of a coming acquisition.

According to the Securities and Exchange Commission, Nancy Jewell, Matthew B. Murphy III and Kristin Mays bought the shares after a member of the board of directors of First Indiana complained on Friday, July 6, 2007, about having to attend a special First Indiana board meeting on Sunday because it would ruin his plans for the day.

The SEC said the board member had a longstanding history of sharing "confidences" with the three. "Based upon this information, which they misappropriated from the Director, each of the defendants purchased First Indiana common stock on the afternoon of (Friday) July 6, 2007," according to the SEC's complaint.

The following Monday, Milwaukee-based Marshall & Ilsley announced it would acquire First Indiana. News of the deal sent First Indiana shares soaring by about 42 percent above the bank's closing stock price the Friday before.

For the settlement, the three returned their gains and paid interest and a penalty equal to their gains. Jewell, Indianapolis, paid $18,720. Murphy, Indianapolis, paid $19,120 and Mays, McCordsville, paid $16,765.

The three settled with the SEC without admitting or denying the allegations.
The SEC settlement does not identify the First Indiana board member who complained about attending the meeting. However, the document does identify Kristin Mays as the daughter of the director and the assistant to the president of the privately held company owned by the director.

Jewell had been a longtime friend of the director's and a property manager for some of his outside business dealings, according to the SEC. Murphy and the director had been partners in a real estate venture.

William Mays, president of Mays Chemical Co., was a director at First Indiana in 2007, according to First Indiana's proxy filed that year. William Mays did not immediately return a phone call to his office seeking comment Monday evening.

William Mays, in addition to being the founder and CEO of Mays Chemical Co., the City's largest minority-owned business, also serves as a director of Indiana Energy Company and health care giant Wellpoint. He also owns the Indianapolis Recorder, Indianapolis' only minority-owned newspaper. Mays, you may recall, was also one of the principal investors in the controversial 300 East restaurant/bar in the Julia Carson Government Center. He has close ties to Ice Miller's Lacy Johnson, another investor in 300 East.

UPDATE: The IBJ's Greg Andrews has more on this developing story, including comments from Bill Mays, who suggests there were many people being probed besides the three named in the SEC settlement agreement. Mays tells Andrews the list of the investigated reads like a "Who's Who" of Indianapolis, making this settlement agreement look more like a coverup than appropriate justice being meted out by our government:

The insider-trading settlements announced by the Securities and Exchange Commission this week were an outgrowth of a broader inquiry into trading in First Indiana Corp. by dozens of people before its sale two years ago, according to a former director of the bank.

“They had an SEC inquiry into, I’ll use the term ‘excessive trading,’ in the stock by a whole bunch of people — it might be 100,” said Bill Mays, a First Indiana director from 2003 until the bank’s $529 million sale to Milwaukee-based Marshall & Ilsley Corp. “You would be shocked by the number of people,” according to Mays, who said he was asked by investigators to identify people he knew on the list. “It reads like a who’s who of Indianapolis.”

Mays, owner of Mays Chemical Co., said the investigation seemed like a questionable use of SEC resources. He said the total dollar value of the trading by those on the list was less than $1 million. Those who executed trades pocketed a handsome return. The per-share price paid by M&I was 42 percent higher than the price at which First Indiana shares closed the prior trading day.

It’s not clear whether the $51,852 in settlements announced yesterday with three local residents — all of whom are close to Mays — wraps up the the inquiry. Officials with M&I and the SEC could not be reached this morning.

According to the SEC, all three individuals bought First Indiana shares the same day that a First Indiana board member complained to them about having to attend a special Sunday board meeting. The M&I deal was announced the following Monday morning.

SEC records do not accuse the director of impropriety, and he is not identified by name in court records. However, the description in court papers matches only one director —Mays — and he acknowledged to IBJ that he did complain.

Furthermore, one of the settling parties is Mays’ daughter, Kristen, 33, who serves as assistant to the president of Mays Chemical, and another is Matthew B. Murphy III, 51, the company’s director of finance and administration. The other person settling is Nancy Jewell, 52, CEO of Indiana Minority Health Coalition. Without admitting or denying allegations of wrongdoing, all three agreed to return the amount of their profits, plus pay an equal amount as a penalty. That totaled $15,920 for Mays, $18,156 for Murphy and $17,776 for Jewell.

According to the SEC, the director complained to all three that the special meeting was “ruining his scheduled plans for the day.”

Kristen Mays, Murphy and Jewell “then each misappropriated that information,” the SEC alleges.

Kudos To Brightpoint

Our current city administration has slashed funding for our city's parks at the same time it is raising taxes and borrowing money to support the sports palaces that benefit the billionaire sports team owners. When someone in the private sector steps up to help out our struggling parks who serve the average and income-challenged folks of our city, it's worth mentioning. WISH-TV has a story on what Brightpoint, Inc. is doing to help one of our parks, Watkins Park, on the city's northwestside:

An inner city park is getting a makeover thanks to the generosity of a private company.

Brightpoint Incorporated is donating more than $50,000 and 1,200 volunteer hours to make improvements to Watkins Park on the city's northwest side. It's part of their annual week of caring.

They're resurfacing the softball field and basketball court as well as repairing the gym, play room and creating a computer lab.

"This is a wonderful example of exactly what Indy Parks needs as far as some great capital investment and a way to attack our deferred maintenance and build some long-term relationships with some new companies," said Indy Parks Director Stuart Lowry.

The Indy Parks has faced a $4 million budget cut this year and $2 million cut next year.

Parks leaders are relying on public-private partnerships to help make needed improvements.

A Star editorial today tells of the challenges facing our parks department:

Yet, parks director Stuart Lowry, a thoughtful and talented administrator who's starting his second year on the job, faces a more immediate challenge. The department must absorb a proposed $2.3 million budget cut in the next year -- with spending reduced from $29.4 million this year to $27.1 million in 2010.

Advocates point out that -- at $31 a resident -- Indianapolis' parks department already receives significantly fewer dollars per capita than systems in comparable cities. Columbus, Ohio, for instance, budgeted more than $47 per resident this year for its parks.

Let's see, how many sports palaces are Columbus, Ohio taxpayers supporting? We're spending at least $100 million a year on the CIB facilities, almost four times as much as we spend on our city park system. That works out to about $114 a person each year that we spend on the CIB. It says a lot about the priorities of the people who run this city.

Monday, August 24, 2009

An Image To Remember

Here you see Ross Mangano of Indiana Live racino in Shelbyville testifying before a legislative study committee today in support of allowing the conversion of the racinos at Indiana's two horse race tracks into full blown casinos. Currently, the racinos may offer slot machines only. Adding table games, the race track's owners urge, will allow them to survive. They complain that Indiana's franchise fee and taxes are bankrupting them, something I think they should have thought about before making their investments. These guys knew once they got their foot in the door a little that they would have no problem pushing it wide open because of the enormous control they exercise over so many state lawmakers. Sitting immediately to Mangano's right in the picture is Doug Brown, a lobbyist for the Shelbyville race track. He is also a member of Indianapolis' Capital Improvement Board. You can take it to the bank that when these racinos are allowed to become full blown casinos that a deal will be cut to divert a certain percent of additional tax revenues generated by the casinos to the CIB. Keep in mind also that another CIB board member, Craig Huse, is a shareholder of Centaur, which owns the Anderson racino.
UPDATE: Check this connection out. The Pacers Foundation has listed as its Secretary, Susan Kilkenny of Centaur Gaming, Inc. Centaur owns an off-track-betting parlor in Claypool Court, property that is leased to the gaming company by Simon Property Group.

Sheriff's Deputy Arrested For Solicitation While Moonlighting As Security Officer

The Star's John Tuohy has a story about a Marion County deputy sheriff who was arrested for soliciting sex from a female customer at a gas station at which he was employed to work off duty as a security officer. Tuohy writes:

A rookie Marion County Jail guard was arrested and accused of soliciting sex from a customer at a gas station where he moonlights on security duty.

Deputy Paul Wagner, 25, was charged preliminarily with soliciting prostitution and official misconduct while working at the Speedway station in the 5100 block of East Washington Street, said Col. John Layton of the Marion County Sheriff's Department.

Wagner was under surveillance by the Sheriff's Department when he offered a female customer a candy bar and Coke or a pack of cigarettes for oral sex, authorities said. Layton said the woman, who was not a prostitute but a regular customer at the gas station, had complained that Wagner had harassed her before.

The Sheriff's Department set up the sting and arrested Wagner early Saturday. Wagner was charged with official misconduct because he was wearing his sheriff's uniform at the time.

Moonlighting by Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department officers, more than half of whom work second jobs, has come under close scrutiny over concerns the system in place now leaves the city open to safety and liability issues, as well as embarrassing or even potentially criminal instances of corruption.

At a recent budget committee hearing, the Sheriff's office was asked by Pat Andrews during public comment about the sheriff's office policy on off-duty work by deputies. Chief Deputy Kerry Forrestal confirmed that the sheriff's office receives no fee from private businesses that use sheriff's deputies for off-duty work. The deputies are allowed to use their department-issued vehicles, uniforms and equipment to perform their off-duty work. He said the office monitors the work they perform, including the number of hours they are working and for whom they are working. A deputy is barred from working more hours than they work during their full-time job during a week. Wagner had been with the department for 10 months at the time of his arrest and was suspended without pay. To the Sheriff's Office's credit, the deputy in question was busted by its own officers.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

On Those Death Panels

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's discussion of so-called "death panels" to describe end-of-life counseling requirements in the Obama health care plan doesn't appear to be off the mark after the recent disclosure of VA policies on the subject adopted by the Obama administration only last month. An end-of-life planning document, "Your Life, Your Choices", had been proposed as the preferred living will for VA officials to utilize in counseling veterans until the Bush White House caught wind of it and pulled the plug on it (no pun intended). This document takes the "hurry up and die" approach to counseling veterans with questions like these that are analogous to a push poll:

  • "I can no longer walk but get around in a wheelchair."
  • "I can no longer get outside-I spend all day at home."
  • "I can no longer contribute to my family's well being."
  • "I live in a nursing home."
  • "My situation causes severe emotional burden for my family (such as feeling worried or stressed all the time."
  • "I am a severe financial burden on my family."
  • "I cannot seem to shake the blues."

Former Bush White House official Jim Towey drew attention to this little-noticed development at the VA after the Wall Street Journal published an opinion piece this past week entitled, "The Death Book For Veterans." The author of the VA document, Dr. Robert Pearlman, is an advocate for physician-assisted suicide as Towey notes. Towey has authored his own end-of-life counseling booklet that sells for $5. During a discussion of this issue on FOX News Sunday this morning, Assistant VA Secretary Tammy Duckworth suggested that Towey is simply interested in peddling his own booklet on which the VA wouldn't spend money. Duckworth disputed whether the Pearlman-authored directives had been adopted as official VA policy; however, FOX News' Chris Wallace confronted her with evidence on the VA's own website suggesting otherwise, and that the VA had posted a disclaimer on its website only after Towey's column was published indicating that the policy was still undergoing further revisions.

Gifts To Mayor Ballard Just Par For The Course

The Star's Behind Closed Doors" column leads off today with an item that is remarkably similar to my post from earlier this week commenting on Mayor Greg Ballard's disclosure that he had accepted free memberships to country clubs despite his pledge to end country club politics:

Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard is just the same average Joe he was when he pulled off his upset win in November 2007 -- if, that is, you don't count the two country club memberships, the Columbia Club membership and all the free tickets he gets to sporting events.

Back on Nov. 7, 2007, the morning after he stunned the Indianapolis political world by beating then-Mayor Bart Peterson, Ballard promised he'd be a different kind of politician.

"The old guys, they just don't get it," Ballard told The Indianapolis Star that day. "This is the end of Republican country-club politics."

He said he played his golf games on public courses and didn't plan on changing who he is just because he was now mayor.

"If they think that, they've got another thing coming," he said . . .

And then there are the club memberships. In his addendum, Ballard said he has "yet to play golf as a member at Highland or Woodstock, (but) I may play in the future."

Playing there comes at a price. A membership at Woodstock ranges from $2,500 to $9,000. A spokesman for Highland said a membership there ranges "from zero to $16,000."

We suggest calling Highland and asking for the Ballard "zero fee" special.

The Columbia Club said a membership -- which provides access to three Indianapolis-area golf courses and 180 more worldwide -- usually costs $1,500, plus monthly fees, though a special $120 fee honoring the club's 120th anniversary is available this year.

Ballard, by the way, isn't the only politician who gets such perks, though none of the clubs will say who else does.
Based on accounts I've received in the past, there may be some pretty upset dues-paying members at Highland and Woodstock, who I understand paid considerably more to join the clubs than the bargain prices mentioned in today's column. The mayor's people make the point to the Star that Ballard went above and beyond the disclosure required of him by disclosing the free golf club memberships. That is a testament to just how weak our ethics disclosure statements are here in Indianapolis to think that city and county officials can accept gifts valued in the tens of thousands of dollars and not be legally required to disclose them. So much for the ballyhooed claims about a tougher ethics ordinance.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Budget Hearing Tales

Had Enough Indy blog has been providing some good reporting on recent budget hearings conducted by the Indianapolis City-County Council. Here are some items worthy of note:

  • At the August 12 budget hearing, CCC President Bob Cochrum asks City Controller David Reynolds if $16 million in rainy day funds (surplus COIT dollars) can be tapped for use by a municipal corporation (presumably the CIB).
  • The council's clerk, Melissa Thompson, put out a notice for the budget hearing on August 13 stating a start time of 5:30 p.m. The meeting actually started at 5:00 p.m. Councilor Ed Coleman's proposal concerning the potential sale of city golf courses was tabled indefinitely without any public testimony.
  • At the August 17 meeting of the Metropolitan Development Committee, Chairman Kent Smith neglects to allow time for public comment despite going out of his way to state the importance of public input at these meetings.
  • At the August 18 meeting of the Administration & Finance Committee, Chairman Marilyn Pfisterer took up Proposal 292 concerning the pay of township assessors, which had previously been tabled. The public notice of the meeting made no mention of Proposal 292 being an action item at the committee meeting.
  • At the August 19 meeting of the Public Safety Committee, local attorney and blogger Paul Ogden was rudely stalked by the Sheriff's counsel, Kevin Murray, while he attempted to ask questions about the Sheriff's budget. As described by the blog, "After Ogden's first couple of points were made, this fellow was asked to answer for the Sheriff." "He identified himself as Kevin Murray, also a lawyer." "He moved very, very close to Ogden." "Within inches. It was so close that it was, in animal behavior terms, a threatening distance." "Several times he tried to stop Ogden from continuing his comments." "He hovered just behind/beside Ogden while there was a second microphone just on the other side of where Sheriff Anderson was seated." "A person who tries to bring forward information during public comment time should not be dogged like this fellow dogged Ogden."
  • Chairman Benjamin Hunter rushed through the August 20 meeting of the Public Works Committee so City-County Councilors could attend the Colts pre-season game at Lucas Oil Stadium, no doubt free tickets given to them as a reward for their support of the $21 million a year tax, spend and borrow bailout scheme for the CIB.

Our City-County Council is not inspiring much public confidence, is it?

Friday, August 21, 2009

GOP Party In The Park

I have my differences with the Marion Co. GOP leadership, but I'll still plug this event on Sunday afternoon at Eagles Crest in Eagle Creek Park (7201 Fishback Road) from 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. because it's for a good cause:

The Marion County Republican throwing a party! It's all about our community and our volunteers. It's a thank-you to the folks that work tirelessly to ensure Republican victories at the ballot box and who are the first to speak out for good government. It's also about the community. The GOP Party in the Park is a chance for us to reach out. The community is welcome to join us for this fun filled afternoon of food, drinks, games, music from the John Hammond Experience with IndyNile, and friends. Best of all, all this fun benefits another great community organization, Gleaners Food Bank of Indianapolis.

The GOP Party in the Park is a free event with the donation of a non-perishable food item. Some of our favorite Republicans will also sit in the dunk tank throughout the afternoon. For a cash donation to Gleaners, the community will have the chance to send them into the tank!

To attend, please RSVP at

A Tale Of The Health Care Debate

Over the course of my lunch hour today, it became unmistakeably clear to me why the health care debate in America is so divisive. As I was leaving my building, I ran into the nice retired neighbor down the hall from me who was the biggest of Obama supporters during the 2008 election. A couple of times last year I took a shot at convincing him that Obama was just another Chicago politician, but I quickly realized that we would no longer be on speaking terms if I pressed my case against Obama. I recently noticed that my neighbor had removed all the Obama bumper stickers from his car. I asked him why he had done this. "We're in open revolt against him," he declared. There were a few other words about some deal with big Pharma uttered before he rushed off to catch his ride.

I proceed on to my favorite local pub where I couldn't help but share the story about my neighbor's disillusionment with one of my favorite bartenders, who is still a believer in The One. She lamented how all these crazies are stirring everyone up and making them scared for no good reason. I asked her if she didn't think some of those folks had good reason to worry about Obama's proposed government-run health care plan. "Absolutely not," she said. "I don't have health insurance and can't afford it." The bartender went on to explain how she pays cash whenever she visits a doctor and negotiates her rates. "That's how I was able to afford my nose job."

I asked my bartender friend, who drives a late model car and owns her own home upon which she had made substantial renovations, if she had ever asked the owner of the bar to offer her a health insurance plan. "She can't afford to buy health insurance for me," she replied. "She's got her own family to take care of." She added, "If I develop any serious health problems, you can bet I'm going to be getting care from Wishard Hospital, which provides great services." "I'm all for them building a new hospital because that's exactly what people like me need to take care of us when we get sick and can't afford health care because we have no insurance."

I didn't raise this issue with bartender today, but I've discussed it with her before. As you and I know, restaurant bartenders and servers earn most of their money from tips. Many, though not all, fail to report significant amounts of their tip earnings to the government. This saves both the employee and the employer money in payroll taxes the government collects from us to pay for those health care services she gets for free at places like Wishard, and to fund Medicare and Social Security for retired Americans. Medicare and Social Security will go broke in the near future because there aren't enough people paying into the system to cover the growing number of beneficiaries and growing costs of these entitlement programs. I was tempted to raise the "are you paying your fair share" argument, but to avoid having a drink tossed in my face, I chose to skirt that issue.

Sitting next to me is an employee of Anthem. I'm thinking this guy is going to be sympathetic with my arguments. Hey, I'm self-employed. I spend thousands of dollars a year on my own health insurance I purchase through his employer, and I rarely see a doctor or utilize any health care benefits because the first $2,500 comes directly out of my pocket. I would rather not buy health insurance, but my parents brought me up to accept personal responsibility. It would never occur to me to believe it was someone else's responsibility to take care of my bills when I get sick simply because I was too selfish to purchase health insurance.

So I asked the guy working for Anthem what he thought about Obama putting private health insurers like Anthem out of business. "That's not true," he shot back. "Our company is going to be given contracts to administer Obama's health care plan just like we do with Medicare." Perhaps under a short-term deal Angela Braly and other health care insurance executives cut with the Obama administration, not unlike the deals big Pharma and the hospitals cut with them, he'll keep his private job funded exclusively with taxpayer dollars. Eventually though as I see it, everyone at Anthem is going to eventually be converted into another government bureaucrat, but only after the Angela Bralys have walked away with tens of millions of dollars in bonuses as their reward for selling out the shareholders and other stakeholders in their companies.

So I left my favorite local pub with a somber reminder of just how quickly the American Dream is fading. What incentive is there to earn an honest living, pay your fair share of taxes, buy your own home and put away a little nest egg to live on when you retire? Let's just sit on our asses and look to government to take care of everything for us. Let's just call it "Hope and Change."

Parking Rates At Airport Raised; Politicians Still Park For Free

Faced with higher costs from a fancy new airport terminal and declining revenues, the Indianapolis Airport Authority is raising parking rates from between 12% to nearly 30% in an effort to boost revenues by $4 million. The biggest percentage increase will be paid by those choosing the cheapest parking at the airport in the economy lot. The politicians, including city-county councilors, state lawmakers and other selected state and local officials, will continue to receive free parking privileges at the airport in the covered garage next to the terminal. I guess this is another one of those tax increases that will only be paid by outsiders. Right?

Hero's Welcome For Lockerbie Terrorist's Return To Libya

The man who helped blow up a jetliner 21 years ago over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing 270 persons, including 189 Americans, receives a hero's welcome from thousands of his fellow Muslims. When Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi stepped off the jet the country's leader dispatched to bring him home to Triipoli, Libyan Prsident Gadhafi's son personally escorted him off the plane with the roaring approval of the thousands waving flags who gathered to welcome him home. President Barack Hussein Obama pleaded with Libyan officials to avoid this very scene after his pleas to Scottish officials not to release him failed. Scottish officials decided to release Megrahi from prison early because he is dying of prostate cancer. Megrahi denies he committed the crime of which he was convicted. He served only eight years of a life sentence for his crime. Meanwhile, back in America, a 17-year-old Rifqa Bary pleads with her fellow Americans to understand that she will be murdered by her own family because she committed one of the worst conceivable acts in Islam--she converted to Christianity. Bary ran away from her home in Columbus, Ohio to Florida after fearing her life would be taken by the hands of her own father.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Indy Ranks In Top Five Cities For Dogfighting

Indianapolis now has another negative distinction. We rank among the top five cities in the country for illegal dogfighting. WRTV's Renee Jameson brings the news:

"The number of raids on dogfighting operations has doubled since the Vick case. The number of new laws is 26, including both state and federal, including a new law in Indiana, which makes it a felony to be a spectator in an animal fight," said John Goodwin with the Humane Society of the United States.

Indianapolis ranks among the top five cities in the country for dogfighting, which authorities attribute to its central location.

Indianapolis Animal Care and Control launched an Animal Cruelty Task Force two years ago and have since uncovered dogfighting rings in the city, officials said.

"Everything is so secretive. The only way to catch them is actually in the act," said lead investigator Lt. Jerry Bippus. "You got your other crimes to go along with it. You've got your drug dealing. You've got your weapons. And then you have gambling. That's what dogfighting is. It's all about the gambling."

Bippus said puppies bred from dogfighting champions can fetch up to $20,000.

Authorities said if people suspect dogfighting they should look for ownership of several dogs, tires or other items suspended from trees to provide jaw-strengthening activities and a treadmill, used to train dogs for fighting.

It's Time To Play The Conspiracy Card Again

Have you ever noticed how Democrats play the "vast right wing conspiracy" card whenever the truth is more than they can bear? Hillary Clinton played that card when her husband's serial adultery started to catch up with him. The media took up her cause and set out to assist she and Bill Clinton in destroying anyone who dared to aid in the government's case against her husband for perjury and obstruction of justice. After the body count piled up on the Republican side, Bill finally gave a half-hearted admission that he had done something wrong but said he only lied to protect his family. Yeah, right.

Last year, anyone who dared point up Barack Hussein Obama's undeniable Muslim heritage or simply uttered his given middle name was branded an anti-Muslim bigot shamelessly trying to link Obama to terrorists and questioning his patriotism. People seeking relevant information about the natural-born status of a would-be president, who at one time or another has held citizenship to three nations, were branded "right wing conspiracists" and derogatorily dubbed "birthers" for asking Obama to produce his original birth certificate and any foreign passports he has held during his lifetime. Continued stonewalling and the expenditure of millions of dollars on attorneys by Obama has so far succeeded in denying answers to the American people on that small matter we refer to as "constitutional eligibility."

Now we turn to health care. The American people see Obama's health care plan for what it is: socialized medicine. As opposition grows amid many unanswered questions by Obama and the Democratic proponents of his big government health care plan, out comes the "vast right wing conspiracy" card. The Washington Times reports on who Obama is blaming for opposition to his health care plan:

President Obama took to the conservative airwaves Thursday to charge that Republican leaders are engaged in a vast right-wing conspiracy to kill health care reform in order to repeat the 1994 mid-term takeover of Congress, which followed the defeat of President Clinton's reform plan.

"I think early on, a decision was made by the Republican leadership that said, 'Look, let's not give him a victory, maybe we can have a replay of 1993, '94, when Clinton came in, he failed on health care and then we won in the mid-term elections and we got the majority. And I think there are some folks who are taking a page out that playbook," the president said.

Appearing on the Michael Smerconish radio show, Mr. Obama said he would "love to have more Republicans engaged and involved in this process," but he vowed to win the battle, with or without support from the minority party in Congress.

"I guarantee you, Joe, we are going to get health care reform done," he said to one caller. "I know there are a lot of people out there who've been handwringing, and folks in the press are following every little twist and turn of the legislative process, but having a big bill like this is always messy."

I've got news for you, folks. The Republicans are so dysfunctional these days they couldn't possibly get their act together to organize anything against Obama or the Democratic Party. The Republican Party hasn't been behind the tea parties. And it certainly isn't behind the folks showing up at town hall meetings to bitch about what Obama's health care plan may or may not mean to them. In case Obama hasn't noticed, his party has overwhelming majorities in both houses of Congress, including a filibuster proof majority in the Senate. If he's having trouble passing his plan, it's a sure bet that more than a handful of members in his own party are having doubts about his plan. With the news media overwhelmingly on his side, the vast right wing conspiracy theory is always a safe card to play. Let's not let the truth get in the way when a lie will work.

Ballard Wants To Tap Rainy Day Fund To Aid Billionaire Simons

Would someone tell me when Mayor Greg Ballard reaches the bottom? Another day brings new outrage at his blatant hypocrisy. The man who ran against higher taxes and in favor of transparency in government is suggesting that the City consider tapping $16 million in rainy day funds to help provide an additional $15 million a year subsidy to the billionaire owners of the Indiana Pacers. [See below--the original blog poster IBJ's Anthony Schoettle is now contradicting his earlier blog post] The IBJ's Anthony Schoettle blogs today about the mayor's idea amidst skepticism from council members:

City-County Council President Bob Cockrum said it’s not an ideal time for the Pacers to come looking for help, but added that he is open to listening to the concerns of team officials and the city’s Capital Improvement Board, which is charged with overseeing Conseco Fieldhouse.

“The problem is, where does the money come from?” Cockrum said. “There’s certainly nothing in the Municipal Corporations Committee [budget]. I’m sure it will be discussed in September.”

One source of the funding could be the city’s rainy day fund, an idea floated by Mayor Greg Ballard. The mayor’s proposal, sources said, is to squirrel away as much as $16 million in that fund in 2010.

The only reason the City will have any extra funds in next year's budget is because Ballard decided to make permanent Bart Peterson's 65% income tax increase, a tax increase opposed by candidate Ballard. As I've previously discussed, the so-called surplus quickly disappears when you factor out the infusion of federal dollars rolling into the City's budget, funds that are not likely to be there in the future. The 2010 budget also relies on a rosier picture for tax collections than may actually materialize.

UPDATE: Well, now Schoettle is contradicting his own words on his blog. "Mayor Ballard has not publicly suggested the rainy day fund money should be directed to the Pacers," he now writes. "In fact, he has resisted the idea of spending that money at all." "Certain member os (sic) the council, however, appear more willing to delve into that fund." Who are you to believe? At first we're told the CIB bailout includes money for the Pacers. Then we're told it's off the table. Three days after the bailout is approved by the council, we learn the subsidy to the Pacers is back on the table. I'm beginning to believe you cannot believe anyone on what their intentions are. Schoettle suggests now the mayor "has not publicly suggested" the idea. What this suggests to me is that a source from the mayor's office mentioned it to him but now doesn't want it attributed to the mayor. Just blame it on those bad councilors.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Daniels' Administration Whitewashes CIB Audit, Big Surprise

The State Board of Accounts spent about two minutes writing up this whitewash of the CIB's past audit reports mere days after Gov. Mitch Daniels signed into law the new state budget that included the controversial $21 million a year tax, spend and borrow plan for the CIB. Here's what the rubber-stamp auditors at the State Board of Accounts wrote in a letter dated July 7, 2009:

We have reviewed the audit reports prepared by BKD, LLP, Independent Public Accountants, for the period January 1, 2007 through December 31, 2008. In our opinion, the audit reports were prepared in accordance with the guidelines established by the State Board of Accounts. Per the Independent Public Accountants’ opinions, the financial statements included in the reports present fairly the financial condition of the Capital Improvement Board of Managers, as of December 31, 2007 and 2008 and the results of its operations for the periods then ended, on the basis of accounting described in the reports.

The Independent Public Accountants' reports are filed with this letter in our office as a matter of public record.
Thanks for your contributiion to the CIB Ponzi scheme, Gov. Daniels. Hope your buddy Jim Morris makes all the money you set out to help him and others make at our expense.

Here's the language included in the budget bill:

The state board of accounts shall audit annually the accounts, books, and records of the board and prepare a financial report and a compliance audit report. The board shall submit to the city-county legislative body financial and compliance reports of the state board of accounts. The board shall post the reports of the state board of accounts on the board's Internet web site. The city-county legislative body shall discuss the financial and compliance reports of the state board of accounts in a public hearing.

Extortion Efforts For Pacers Stepped Up

Indianapolis city leaders assured us that a $15 million dollar a year subsidy for the Indiana Pacers was off the table when City-County Councilors last week voted on a $21 million a year tax, spend and borrow bailout scheme for the Capital Improvement Board. Three days later, we learned that was a big fat lie meant to throw off opposition to the bailout plan. The IBJ's Anthony Schoettle renews those discussions on his blog today. I'm not sure whether the extortionist in this case is CIB Vice President Pat Early, who obviously doesn't represent the public's interest on the CIB, or the Simons. Schoettle writes:

The city’s Capital Improvement Board, which owns Conseco Fieldhouse, is still trying to figure out what to do about the Indiana Pacers’ request for financial aid to the tune of $15 million for the upcoming year.

The money is not allocated in the CIB budget approved by the City-County Council earlier this month, but the issue is not dead yet.

“We’re dealing with things one at a time,” said CIB member Pat Early, who has been the point person in dealing with the Pacers. “To say absolutely, positively, the Pacers are on their own is not an accurate statement. As we work through this, we are hopeful we can be creative.”

I’m not sure what “be creative” means, and I’m not sure Early does either. But Early added that there’s no thought that the financial problems facing the small market Pacers “will simply go away.”

“The Pacers are desperate to seek solutions to get themselves closer to break even,” Early said. “We’re not closing the door on anything.”

Early gave no indication where the funds would come from, but he did say the possibility of the Pacers’ folding or moving if this situation isn’t eventually addressed is a real one. He said the team’s ownership has not made any threats or comments about moving or folding the franchise, but the team’s financial challenges dictate city leaders consider that possibility.

“Then we still have all the costs associated with owning and operating that facility and no one left to occupy or operate it,” Early said.

Either Pat Early is the worst negotiator on the face of the earth, or he is orchestrating an extortion plot against the public on behalf of the Simons to get the additional money they want to subsidize their NBA franchise--the additional money the Pacers' management deny they ever requested I might add. The more than $400 million Indianapolis taxpayers have forked over to help the Simons build their business fortune over the years just won't cut it. The CIB's current board is scheduled to be replaced next January. You can bet every effort will be made to pull off this give-away prior to the seating of a new board.

Instead of worrying about how the taxpaying public can help the Simons purchase another $25 million mansion in Bel-Air, city leaders might focus their attention on a real threat to downtown's economic future. Vacancy rates are approaching a high-water mark not seen since the early 1990s before Circle Centre Mall opened. Safeco is abandoning space on North Meridian Street now occupied by 580 employees, who are being located to the City's far northside. Eli Lilly is contracting its Indianapolis-based employment and planning to lease out space in the Faris Building. Lilly's headcount at its downtown facilities is down several thousand from five years ago. "Departures by Safeco and Lilly would dump nearly 1 million square feet of office space-the equivalent of another Chase Tower-onto a market segment that already is reeling," the IBJ's Cory Schouten reports. "Observers say office-vacancy rates could exceed the 23-percent peak of the early 1990s before the market levels off," he adds. The continued loss of downtown jobs has a much greater economic impact on downtown than the Pacers. Has somebody figured out yet that businesses don't choose to locate downtown because there is a professional football or basketball team that plays there?

"No More Country Club Politics" Mayor Accepts Free Memberships To Country Clubs

I still remember it as if it happened yesterday. It was the night of the 2007 November municipal election at the Murat where supporters of Greg Ballard were celebrating his upset win over Democrat Bart Peterson. The Mayor-elect told his cheering supporters that his election marked an end to country club politics in Indianapolis. I just obtained a copy of Mayor Ballard's economic statement of interest he filed on May 1, 2009, which was only recently uploaded to the City's ethics web page. Although Mayor Ballard checked the box next to the word "NO" when asked if he had accepted "any entertainment, food, drink, honoraria, travel expenses and registration fees from a person who has a business relationship with any city/county agency department", an addendum attached to his statement belies that assertion. In the addendum, Mayor Ballard states, "I have been given a membership to the Columbia Club downtown and also the Highland and Woodstock clubs." He adds,"Although I have yet to play golf as a member at Highland or Woodstock, I may play in the future."

Well, isn't that special? The man who promised to end country club politics has accepted free memberships to three private clubs. I don't know what it costs today, but I recall that it used to cost as much as $50,000 to get a club membership at Highland. Woodstock's membership similarly costs in the tens of thousands of dollars to join. And the Columbia Club membership is worth a couple of thousand dollars a year. If he declared all these free gifts on his income tax return, he couldn't afford to pay the taxes on his mayoral salary.

There's still more. Ballard accepted two leather jackets from Rolls-Royce valued at $500. He accepted Celine Dion concert tickets from the Pacers valued at $500. Although he doesn't disclose the value of all the free tickets he, his wife and family receive, his addendum states:

Moreover, I make it a point to participate in as many activities as possible because it is important to lend official support to productive members of the community. Attendance at such functions is often necessary to further the City's economic development interests. Therefore, I regularly attend sporting events, including Colts, Indians, and Pacer games and the Indianapolis 500, as well as cultural events, such as Dance Kaleidoscope.
Tickets to events at properties managed by the Capital Improvement Board are often made available to the City. Additionally, the Pacers provide the City with four near court side tickets, and the Indians provide the City with four seats behind home plate. My staff and I routinely distribute suite tickets to employees and community groups so that more can enjoy those activities. From time to time, I use these tickets because I am an ardent supporter of our local teams.
Finally, this year, I attended the Super Bowl in support of the City's preparations for the 2012 Super Bowl in Indianapolis. This trip was funded by the Super Bowl Committee. My economic development trip to Japan was funded by the Greater Indianapolis Progress Committee (GIPC), with funds designated for economic development. Finally, I also attended the NCAA Final Four this year at personal expense, although the tickets were provided by the NCAA.
There you have it, folks. Our mayor has been totally taken in by the perks of office. He may have a cavalier attitude about accepting free tickets, trips and country club memberships, but I can assure you that you cannot accept all of these freebies and claim it doesn't influence your decision-making. Those court-side tickets to the Pacer games would cost you or me several hundred dollars a pop. The value of his free tickets to sporting events easily reach into the thousands of dollars annually, none of which are individually disclosed on the Mayor's statement of economic interest. In fact, his statement actually states he accepted nothing in excess of $100 value from anyone doing business with the city or county. That may be attributable to the numerous loopholes included in the City's ethics ordinance. For example, "gifts, favors, services, entertainment, food, drink, travel expenses or registration expenses from public agencies or institutions" are exempt from disclosure. I suppose if the CIB and the City get corporate suites to use for the Colts and Pacers games, along with free tickets, and give them to the politicians, they don't feel obliged to report these as gifts under this loophole. As far as I'm concerned, however, these are gifts from the Simons' Pacers and the Colts' Jim Irsay.

What is happening as a result of all of these freebies is that Mayor Ballard and his family are living well beyond what his mayoral salary of $102,000 would otherwise support. Is it any wonder that he's now for whatever the people who've bestowed all of these generous gifts on him support? For a guy who ran on the meme of "I'm just a common person like you", he's doing a hell of a job of being like one of them.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Jackie Nytes' Payoff Comes Quickly

The administration of Mayor Greg Ballard wasted no time in delivering the payoff to the CDC which employs City-County Councilor Jackie Nytes in consideration for her sole vote among Democratic councilors in support of the $21 million a year tax, spend and borrow bailout plan for the Capital Improvement Board. The administration puts out this press release today announcing the $1 million grant to the Mapleton-Fall Creek CDC, which employs Nytes as its executive director:

The first project funded by the Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP) began today in the Mapleton-Fall Creek area of the city's near north side. Part of the $29 million in NSP funds granted to Indianapolis from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) are being used to demolish a house in the 2900 block of North Park Avenue, making way for eventual new construction. "These funds are a welcomed assistance for our neighborhoods needing a boost to become vibrant again," said Mayor Greg Ballard. "I am pleased to see NSP funds being spent in a variety of ways to reduce and remove blight and help improve the quality of life for citizens throughout Marion County."

The Mapleton-Fall Creek Community Development Corporation (CDC), along with five other partners selected for projects in the NSP areas, were each awarded $1 million to begin work by the Metropolitan Development Commission. Federal guidelines dictate the funds can be used for acquisition of properties for the Indy Land Bank, acquisition for rehabilitation of properties, acquisition for new construction, demolition, rental development, financing mechanisms and administration of the funds.

The NSP funds were approved by Congress in late 2008 in an effort to help neighborhoods recover from the effects of widespread foreclosures. The Mapleton Fall Creek CDC is in the process of completing its plan for a 21 block area to be revitalized, including selective demolition, rehab of existing vacant and blighted homes, new home construction and eventual retail development. The plans also include the development three small neighborhood parks.

A public meeting is set for August 26th at Broadway United Methodist Church at 29th and Broadway at 6:30 p.m. to further the discussion on these projects. In addition to homeownership opportunities, quality rental homes will continue to be an option in the neighborhood especially given the number of duplexes in the area.

"Removing blight paves the way for building a stronger neighborhood," said
Mark Montgomery, Chairman of the Community Building Committee for the Mapleton Fall Creek CDC. "Projects like this restore hope to residents of the area who are tired of looking at abandoned houses."

Other partners in the NSP plan are the Concord Community Development Corporation, Southeast Neighborhood Development, Greater Eastside Housing Project Team, Englewood Community Development Corporation and the Michigan B&O Reinvestment Team.
Nytes has a made a career out of using government service to line her and her husband's own pockets. Will there be more government contracts for her husband's printing business like he won during the Peterson administration as a result of the yeoman's work Nytes did in helping pass his tax increases? Bear in mind that these are federal funds we are talking about. Jackie Nytes violated the Little Hatch Act when she ran for the partisan position on the City-County Council last time while employed by an entity that received federal HUD funding. Nytes had better plan to resign her position with the CDC before she runs for county office next year because she can rest assured that a complaint will be filed against her this time.

On the subject of buying off and/or threatening and intimidating councilors prior to last week's tax increase vote, stories are beginning to surface of unprecedented pressure being applied to Republican councilors by the City's ruling elites. Didn't Gov. Mitch Daniels even get into the act by telephoning councilors with a not-so-subtle message for them? Didn't one councilor who planned to vote against the tax increase have his very business livelihood threatened by one of the elites if he didn't cast a vote in favor of the tax increase? And didn't another councilor break down in tears under the enormity of the pressure exerted on her. A source describes the actions taken by the proponents to win the favorable vote last week as a scene right out of the Sopranos. Are you surprised? Indianapolis is, after all, run by an organized crime syndicate, in case you hadn't noticed, even if they do have the audacity to think of themselves as "civic leaders."