Saturday, October 31, 2009

State Rep. Ed DeLaney Brutally Beaten By Indianapolis Man

State Rep. Ed DeLaney thought he was meeting a prospective client in Carmel to discuss a land purchase. Instead, a 38-year-old Indianapolis man armed with a gun, Augustus J. Mendenhall, brutally attacked him for reasons that are unclear. Lucky for DeLaney, Mendenhall's gun jammed before he could get off a shot. Mendenhall then began beating DeLaney. Carmel police apprehended Mendenhall after someone who witnessed the attack called police. Mendenhall has been charged with several felonies, including attempted murder. "The attack shocked Ann DeLaney, who at first thought the call from the Carmel Police Department was a joke," writes the Star's Carrie Ritchie. "This is so inexplicable," Ann DeLaney said. "We're still trying to figure out what this is all about." Rep. DeLaney suffered multiple broken bones in and around his eye according to the report. Otherwise, his wife says he's doing well under medical care. Best wishes to Rep. DeLaney for a speedy recovery. The Indiana Law Blog speculates on the identity of Mendenhall as being a fellow Indianapolis attorney, who the Roll of Attorneys indicates was admitted last year to practice law.

UPDATE: Ruth Holladay has a possible motive for the attack. She blogs that it had something to do with the closure of Mendenhall's father's business, a porn store, way back in 1983 according to her source. WRTV has now confirmed what Holladay blogged. Here's what they say about the old case, which apparently involved Ed's wife, Ann DeLaney, who was a deputy prosecutor for then Marion Co. Prosecutor Steve Goldsmith:

Speculation has centered around an old court case from 1983 that involved Mendenhall's father, Burke Mendenhall, who owned a building in the 4200 block of West 38th Street in which he intended to set up an adult bookstore.

According to court records, the Marion County prosecutor at the time, Steven Goldsmith, directed the Indianapolis Police Department to "lock, seal and secure" the bookstore on Mendenhall's property.

There was a long, drawn out court battle that lasted six years. DeLaney's wife was deputy prosecutor at the time.
UPDATE II: The Star's Kevin O'Neal sheds more light on the background of this case. It turns out that Ed DeLaney had represented the DeBartolo Group that used to own Lafayette Square Mall before the Simon Property Group acquired the company. The company's owners did not want Mendenhall's father to lease property he owned to a tenant that planned to operate an adult bookstore near their property. Goldsmith, then the prosecutor, filed a civil RICO action that allowed Goldsmith and the police to seize the tenant's business. The seizure was upheld by our state's Supreme Court; however, the U.S. Supreme Court later overturned that decision, saying Mendenhall's constitutional rights had been violated on grounds of prior restraint. Mendenhall later lost a civil lawsuit in federal district court against Goldsmith when the court ruled he was immune from civil liability for his actions as prosecutor.

The last time I drove up in that area there is an adult video store, Southern Nights Video, that has operated for many years immediately south of Lafayette Square along 38th Street and Commercial Drive. Goldsmith's actions seem a bit extreme, if not troubling, in retrospect. He's lucky Mendenhall's son didn't direct his anger at him instead of DeLaney. One could have gotten the impression that because DeLaney's wife worked for the prosecutor's office, he was able to leverage his law firm's political clout (he then worked for Barnes & Thornburg) with that office to get the most extreme governmental action possible against Mendenhall's father to produce the outcome his client desired.

There's also another interesting connection between Ed's wife, Ann, and Goldsmith. Early in the administration of then Gov. Evan Bayh, Ann was accused of offering two state legislators state jobs in consideration for a vote on legislation backed by Bayh while she was lobbying on behalf of Bayh. Goldsmith declined to prosecute her. Interestingly, we also learn that Mendenhall interned in the Marion Co. Prosecutor's Office for two years recently while he was completing his law school studies.

UPDATE III: The Indiana Law Blog has an update on DeLaney's medical condition and the news is good.

More Wishard Lies

For the umpteenth week in a row, Indianapolis Star editor Dennis Ryerson is running another Sunday editorial pushing the Wishard referendum. It's full of lies just like all of his earlier editorials. Here's some of his latest lies:

  • "Opponents of the Wishard plan have been unable to refute the contention that a new hospital is needed."
  • "Nor have [the opponents] cast serious doubt upon the financial position that Wishard has laid out."
  • "What [opponents] have seized upon, as a last resort, are a technicality and an insinuation: Taxpayers would have to cover the Wishard bonds if worse came to worst, therefore, taxpayers are being led into a trap."
  • "Wishard, though, has ample present and prospective money to pay off the bonds."
  • "Will changes in health-care law affect those federal payments? Perhaps. Drastically? That is politically improbable."

Gee, where to begin? Ryerson, who has been real prickly on open and transparent processes in his editorial viewpoint on every other matter of public importance hasn't a care about the Wishard referendum process. Let's start with how HHC officials secretly developed plans to build a new hospital at least two years ago, never mentioning it in its recorded board meeting minutes. When the Star's own business reporter discovered in early June that the IU Board of Trustees had an item on its agenda to sign off on a proposed land swap of the Wishard property for land owned by IU west of the campus, HHC CEO Matt Gutwein denied any specific plans to build a new hospital. A little more than two weeks later, Gutwein and his lobbyists secretly inserted a special election referendum into the special session budget bill at the last minute that circumvented the new law requiring referendum for large construction projects. This special election forced a costly special election only five months after the public discovered there was even a plan under consideration for a new hospital. The HHC then drafted murky language for the referendum question that leaves voters begging exactly what are they voting to approve.

From the beginning of their presentation, which had obviously been carefully crafted and molded long before the special election got sprung on us in the state budget, HHC officials have sought to mislead the public on what the referendum will mean. It doesn't tell us HHC is building a new hospital, along with a parking garage, office complex and power plant. It doesn't tell us how much the construction costs will be. It doesn't tell us how much money will be borrowed. It doesn't tell you how the borrowed funds will be repaid. It doesn't tell you that you are voting to approve a new tax levy to back the general obligation bonds that are being issued to finance its construction. It doesn't tell you how much your property taxes would have to be raised to pay for the bonds. Essentially, all of the critical information voters need to make an informed decision is missing from the referendum question. And yet none of that bothers Ryerson in the least bit. So much for openness and transparency in government.

Contrary to Ryerson's assertion, the burden is not on the opponents to prove that a new hospital is not needed. The burden is on the HHC, and they've not been asked to do that in any critical way. More than $1.5 billion has been spent by nonprofit hospitals constructing new hospitals in the Indianapolis area over the last five or six years. Winona Hospital in the central city closed four years ago and remains a vacant eyesore now owned by the City of Indianapolis. St. Francis is closing its Beech Grove Hospital and moving to a new hospital further south. Major expansions and renovations have taken place at Methodist, IU, Riley and Veterans Hospitals all within a stone's throw of Wishard. Marion County is the only major county in Indiana with a county-owned hospital. Why is that? Why can't the funds directed at Wishard instead be redirected to existing hospital to serve the poor and uninsured? Why has Wishard spent tens of millions building new operating rooms, renovating rooms, installing new cafeterias, etc. during the past several years if they planned to tear it down? If the buildings are in such bad shape, why is the hospital fully accredited, and why is it rated so highly for its care as the HHC claims?

The opponents have raised very serious doubts about the financial viability of this plan contrary to Ryerson's assertion. It relies entirely on a source of revenues the HHC didn't even have until it entered the nursing home business statewide over the last several years. Its "ownership" of these nursing homes is merely a legal fiction to allow it to collect upper limit Medicaid payments from the federal government at a rate double what other nursing homes in Indiana are receiving. The HHC's own former CEO Mitch Roob called it a scam that would eventually get them in trouble with the feds. Indeed, the Bush administration tried unsuccessfully to end these payments a couple of years ago, but the Congress intervened to stop them from taking administrative action. The GAO has long complained that these payments are not in keeping with the cost sharing agreement between the federal government and state governments underpinning Medicaid.

As we speak, Congress is considering the most comprehensive overhaul of our health care delivery system in the history of our country. President Obama has stated that he will help pay for his national health insurance plan by cutting more than $600 billion out of Medicare and Medicaid. On the chopping block is Medicaid disproportionate share payments, of which Wishard receives more than $100 million a year. Obama plans to cut those payments by at least one-third, if not eliminate them altogether. If universal health care coverage becomes a reality, people will be able to go to any Medicaid-certified hospital; they won't need to go to hospitals like Wishard. Ryerson might brush off these changes that are on the horizon easily, but it's a real landscape changer. If the HHC officials had allowed the referendum election to take place at the next election, the May 2010 primary instead, we would probably have a clearer picture of what health care reform will mean to the industry and, in particular, its financial impact on Wishard.

Ryerson can call it far-fetched speculation to suggest that Marion Co. property taxpayers will wind up footing the bill for a new hospital, but the odds are actually very high that Wishard's financial picture will change drastically over the next several years. Indianapolis Taxpayers PAC's Carl Moldthan has already pointed out discrepancies in the dollar amounts Gutwein has been providing for the cost of the new hospital to the tune of tens of millions and we've not even broken ground on construction. Inevitably, these projects always wind up costing considerably more than officials originally claim they will cost. HHC officials say trust us because we studied this one better than what other projects like the Central Library and Lucas Oil Stadium were studied before being undertaken. Really? As of June of this year, Matt, you said there wasn't even any plan to build a new hospital.

For all his disinformation, at least Ryerson didn't repeat the false claim that HHC has reduced your property tax bills by tens of millions of dollars through efficiencies as one ill-informed, out-of-state, non-voting radio talk show host/blogger did today. I'm going to explain this to those of you with thick skulls one last time. The 2008 property tax reform and relief law required the rollback of certain levies in Marion County. Yes, that new law reduced your tax levy going to HHC by about $25 million; however, you were required to pay a 1% increase in the state sales tax. The state is using some of those revenues to replace the $25 million or so in lost revenues in the form of property tax replacement revenues. If you want to give credit to someone for reducing those property tax levies, give the credit where it is due: the lawmakers who voted to approve that law. While Mayor Peterson was busy raising your local income tax by 65%, or $90 million a year, two years ago, HHC was hoarding cash to build this new hospital. It now claims to have $150 million for that purpose. And contrary to the ill-informed views of that writer, it is a bit of a stretch to say lawmakers decided to put this question before voters and not the HHC when most of them didn't even know it had been inserted into the state budget until after they had voted on it, just as most of them didn't know they were voting on a property tax exemption for nursing homes. Make no mistake about it, we are voting on this referendum because Matt Gutwein and HHC's lobbyists got Sen. Luke Kenley and Rep. Bill Crawford to sneak it into the budget under radar without a single public hearing.

Speaking of dishonesty, Ryerson allows another big pro-Wishard column penned by Gutwein and Wishard's medical director, Dr. Lisa Harris. Essentially, they're telling us Wishard will be closed if the referendum is not approved on November 3. "On Tuesday, you will decide whether Wishard will continue to exist," they write. That assertion makes both of them big fat liars. When WRTV's Norm Cox pressed Gutwein on this claim, he conceded that the current hospital could operate as is for another ten years. TEN YEARS! That's a lifetime as these things go and assumes they won't spend the kind of money they've spent in recent years to modernize and update its facilities. You know how Gutwein has repeatedly stated during several dozen public appearances over the past several months while on the county payroll making $300,000 a year that state law prohibits him from urging you to vote yes on the referendum question so he won't do that? With a wink and a nod, of course. The two write at the end of their column: "Please vote yes to ensure Wishard remains a part of our community for another 150 years."

As another example of his blatant bias on this subject, Ryerson placed former State Rep. Jon Elrod's well-argued comments in opposition to the Wishard referendum as a run-of-the-mill "letter to the editor", along with letters from people in support of the referendum who don't even live in Marion County. Ryerson has only allowed one guest column during this debate in opposition to the referendum, last week's column by Carl Moldthan. He has run at least eight guest columns in support of the referendum over the past several months, in addition to his own over-editorializing in support of it and the blatantly misleading, pro-Wishard stories that have run on the paper's news pages.

Ryerson's newspaper is paying a big price for the lack of trust he has endeared to the Indianapolis public over the past year. When he's not been pushing a taxpayer bailout of the CIB, he's been pushing for another boondoggle of a public construction project over which he'll be the first to point fingers when things don't go as planned. I'm happy to report that people are following my advice and dropping their Star subscriptions to register their disapproval with the newspaper's content. A former columnist for the Star and fellow blogger Ruth Holladay reports on the Star's plummeting circulation numbers over the past year. Daily circulation dropped by 41,479 subscribers, or 17%. The Sunday edition, the most-read paper of the week, dropped 25,987, or about 8.1%. Gannett-owned newspaper overall fared a little better. Daily circulations are off 13.2%, while Sunday circulations are off 7.6% Holladay notes.

Indianapolis Ranks As 5th Most Dangerous City, Not Among Safest As Ballard Claimed

How the Ballard administration could make this sort of mistake is beyond me, but someone read a Forbes ranking of the safest cities in the U.S., saw Indianapolis was ranked 36th and then put out a press release declaring, "Indianapolis Ranks Among Top 40 Safest Cities In The U.S." Because the ranking including the ranking of the 40 largest metropolitan areas, that meant that Indianapolis actually ranked as the fifth most dangerous city to live in the United States. When it comes to violent crime, Indianapolis is a worse place to live than Chicago or Philadelphia. The Star's Tom Spalding has the reaction from the mayor's office to the misinterpretation of the Forbes data:

Robert Vane, Ballard's press secretary, said the staff just misinterpreted what Forbes put out.

"The statistics back us up," Vane said. "We have a very positive legacy on crime that has nothing to do with the Forbes survey."

Which is probably just as well, because Forbes' ranking wasn't especially kind to Indy when it comes specifically to violent crime: It ranked Indianapolis No. 30 -- worse than Chicago (26) and Philadelphia (28).

Forbes actually factored in four categories to achieve its "safest city" rankings: violent crime, workplace fatality rates, traffic deaths and natural disaster risks.
Indianapolis scored dead last -- No. 40 -- in workplace fatality rates and No. 26 in traffic deaths. Its best ranking was in the area the city is least able to control: the wrath of Mother Nature. It ranked No. 19 in natural disaster risk.
So, you could say . . .

Indianapolis Ranked Large City Where You Most Likely Will Be Killed on the Job
Indiana Department of Labor officials looked at the survey and said its conclusions appeared speculative, said spokesman Sean Keefer. At best, they said, a poll that combined four factors should be viewed as subjective.
All is not bad here. Spalding's story notes that Miami, Nashville, Houston and Jacksonville come in as more dangerous places to live than Indianapolis. Also, experts question the validity of the criteria used to rank the cities according to Spalding.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Marla Stevens Lived At Bellagio For Months

There are more strange details emerging in the $5.9 million embezzlement case of Phyllis and Marla Stevens. According to a WHO-TV report out of Des Moines, Phyllis Stevens fled to Las Vegas to join her spouse, Marla Stevens, after her employer confronted her with the embezzlement allegations after a quick flight down to Indianapolis, where she attempted to withdraw as much as $170,000 from a joint bank account held with Marla Stevens. After arriving in Las Vegas, Phyllis again tried to withdraw large sums of money from the couple's account before FBI agents apprehended her.

WHO-TV reports that Marla Stevens had been living in one of Las Vegas' swankiest hotels, the Bellagio, for months. Earlier reports suggested Marla had been living at the couple's Florida home at the time of Phyllis' arrest, one of five the couple was thought to own. Apparently, Marla went on a spending spree with an American Express account at the hotel spent primarily on lodging and room service at the exclusive hotel and casino. About $2 million of Aviva's money landed in that account according to investigators. The couple was kind enough to pay about $900,000 of the money to the IRS according to the report.

Marla Stevens left a federal courthouse this week on a motorized scooter with a smile on her face. She was happy because a federal judge agreed to release her partner, Phyllis, prior to her criminal trial. Phyllis must wear a GPS and electronic monitor, abide by a curfew and her travel is restricted to Polk County, Iowa. There were new allegations of wrongdoing against Marla as well in the WHO-TV report. Marla Stevens tried to obtain fake documents from the couple's long-time friends, Ed and Lynn Fallon, who planned to move into one of their homes in Des Moines according to prosecutors. The Fallons were shocked by the request and turned down Marla's request. Phyllis' lawyer, William Kutmus, joked with reporters outside the courtroom about this being a "very unusual" case.

Only Phyllis has been charged with criminal wrongdoing to date, although Marla has been named as a co-defendant in Aviva's civil lawsuit to recover the stolen money. The report says prosecutors haven't ruled out the possibility that Phyllis may have embezzled money from Indianapolis Life Insurance, the company that employed Phyllis at the time Aviva acquired it in 2004. Phyllis transferred to the Des Moines office after that acquisition. That is when she allegedly began stealing close to $6 million over a 5-year period from the company.

During the past several years, the couple has doled out about $175,000 to liberal Democratic candidates, including $25,000 to U.S. Rep. Andre Carson, who received more money from the couple than any other individual contributors. A Carson spokesperson claims he barely knew who the couple was; however, those familiar with the local political scene know that Marla acted as a hatchet woman for the Carson political machine, spreading defamatory information about his and his grandmother's political opponents.

You just can't make up shit this good. I'll have to hand it to Marla for living out her fantasies to the fullest.

What Rising Property Values?

Last week, I told you about how my tax bill showed an increase of nearly 60% over last year's bill, due largely to a 30% increase in my assessment. Everyone who lives in my neighborhood knows that property values have generally been falling since 2007. So why the spike in assessments? The Star's Andrea Neal had a column on this phenomenon earlier this week that I neglected to mention and discusses how the assessors are permitted to use sales data that is several years old to arrive at assessments. As she explains this unusual rise in property values:

Expect property taxes to be back in the headlines now that November bills are due. Some homeowners are understandably dismayed their property values are rising at a time when the housing market is struggling.

One Indianapolis resident saw his assessed value jump by nearly $66,000, accompanied by a tax increase of $1,600. His story was not unusual in his historic neighborhood, where some experienced assessment increases of 10 percent or higher. The value of a $470,800 home on Broadway Street rose to $521,800. Another valued at $695,400 jumped to $775,200. "Anyone who has not been hiding under a rock knows property values certainly did not increase in the past year," one homeowner said.

In Allen County, more than 13,000 property owners received notices that their assessed value had gone up 10 percent or more, which will mean higher tax bills on their spring installments, The News-Sentinel reported. Assessed value rose for 31 percent of county residents. County Assessor Stacey O'Day said the increases were the result of several factors including a change in law that allowed assessors to update property values every year based on sales prices for comparable homes. Also, the sales data used to compute new assessments preceded the worst of the recession.
Such stories almost guarantee that property taxes will be back on the radar screen of the 2010 Indiana General Assembly. First on the agenda is SJR 1: the proposed constitutional amendment to cap property taxes at 1 percent of a home's value, 2 percent of a farm's value and 3 percent of a business' value.
Neal goes on in her column to advocate for the need to enact a constitutional amendment to make a state law capping property taxes permanent, a proposal that has so far been blocked by House Speaker Pat Bauer. But as I pointed out in my post, the property tax cap did not protect me from getting a record-breaking property tax increase bill. If the assessor's office can use sales data that is several years old as an excuse to raise my property tax assessment higher than my home's actual value, the tax cap will never protect me. The legislature needs to change the law to prevent assessors from using dated sales data as an excuse to increase property tax assessments during the worst economic downturn in modern times. Assessors are simply using this approach as a way of avoiding the economic impact of the property tax caps on local governments. According to the Marion Co. Treasurer's Office, only 1,200 Marion County homeowners benefitted from this year's property tax cap.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Race-Baiting Amos Brown Calls Opponents Of Wishard Referendum Racists

You'll find no member of the African-American community in Indianapolis who promotes racial divisions and general hatred within his community towards whites more than radio talk show host Amos Brown, shown at left with his anti-Semitic, anti-American, anti-gay and anti-white friend he calls The Honorable, Nation of Islam Leader Louis Farrakhan. Brown has become infamous for his weekly columns in the Indianapolis Recorder that repeat the tired-old meme that white folks are out to get the black folks in this town. This week, the renowned racist takes on the Wishard referendum and its opponents, including this blog. Of course, we're all just a bunch of racists who want to harm the black folks according to Brown. His pathetic rantings follow:

And because a disproportionate number of African-Americans patronize Wishard, opposition by predominantly white tax protestors makes it appear, to some in our Black community, to be racially based.

Most opponents advocating voting “no” are fair-minded. Their opposition is based on long standing convictions against tax increases. Unfortunately, though, one nefarious blogger’s advocacy against the Wishard referendum is blinded by his bigotry and racism that approaches that of Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, Glenn Beck and their ilk.

Other than the bigoted blogger, I respect the views of the referendum opponents, but I feel strongly that they’re wrong.
Hey, I'll gladly be lumped in the company of Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck over your ilk anyday, Amos. And Mayor Ballard just recently named this most divisive man as co-chair of the 2010 census effort in Indianapolis. This would be the same man who bad-mouthed Ballard repeatedly during the 2007 campaign and has repeatedly called him and members of his staff racists. You see, Amos Brown only cares about process when it affects members of his race. Ironically, the real racism in this debate is his support of a health care system in Marion County that quite obviously seeks to segregate the county's poor, minority population from the health care facilities that primarily serve middle and upper class whites. In a truly color-blind health care delivery system, all Marion County residents could choose the hospital of their choice, and our tax dollars would follow them--sort of like school choice. No, Brown wants no part of that. He wants a separate hospital to serve this population. In other words, he favors segregated health care services in this county. Go figure.

Will Jack Cottey's Coattails Help Tim Motsinger?

These days if you see former Marion Co. Sheriff Jack Cottey, you'll probably see Tim Motsinger near his side. Motsinger is a former Lieutenant for IMPD's North District and served as a Captain under Sheriff Cottey. Motsinger is seeking the Republican nomination for Marion Co. sheriff next year. The video above captures an ugly scene about seven years ago when Cottey barged into a local tow operator's office and demanded the return of his car, which had been towed because it was illegally parked on the Circle while Cottey and Motsinger were in the Columbia Club. True to form, Motsinger is at Cottey's side while he goes on a curse-filled tirade against the poor attendant on duty at the tow operator's office. Motsinger doesn't do anything embarrassing in the video, but he does look a bit taken back by his boss' rude and insolent behavior. Some Republicans wonder whether Motsinger's ties to Cottey will hurt his chances in next year's sheriff's race. Bart McAtee, the son of another former Sheriff, is facing off against Motsinger. He served as a Chief Deputy in IMPD's Operations Division in 2007 and now works as a Lieutenant in charge of motorcycle escorts. Enjoy the video while it's still posted. It may not last much longer.

Tim Ping Officially Enters District 90 Race

You read it here first. Now Tim Ping is making his Republican candidacy for state representative in District 90 official. Ping is seeking to replace State Rep. Mike Murphy, who is running in next year's hotly-contested 5th District congressional race. Ping currently serves as the CIO for the Department of Natural Resources and serves as a member of the Metropolitan Development Commission. Ping will face at least one other opponent, City-County Councilor Mike Speedy, who announced his bid recently. Speedy recently angered many conservatives when he joined all but one other Repubican councilor, Christine Scales, in voting for the tax, spend and borrow bailout of the CIB. Here's Ping's announcement:

Lifelong southeast side resident, Tim Ping, formally announces his candidacy for Indiana State Representative District 90 today.

Ping is running to succeed the current State Representative, Mike Murphy, who has decided to run for Congress. "I am excited to take my many years of public service to the Legislature where I can advance the issues that matter to our district," said Ping.

Ping is the Chief Information Officer for the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, a position he accepted to assist the Daniels administration in bringing innovative and effective public programs as well as genuine fiscal discipline to state government.

"I am proud of my fiscally conservative record during my public sector service and look forward to taking the same fresh, aggressive, conservative values to the State House."

Ping served his country as a member of the United States Marine Corp during the Viet Nam War. Today, Ping serves in a number of volunteer capacities and currently is a Commissioner in the Metropolitan Development Commission, a Commissioner in the Indianapolis Redevelopment Commission and a Scout Leader where he chairs a pack committee consisting of over 100 cub scouts.

Ping and his wife Jennifer are the parents of three children and continue to live on the southeast side of Indianapolis where Ping was raised before attending and graduating from Indiana University. The Pings attend Southport Presbyterian Church.

Lawmakers Grow Backbone, Caution Voters About Wishard Referendum

Well, it took a former state legislator in Jon Elrod to come forward and speak out publicly against the Wishard referendum before two Marion Co. legislators finally grew a spine and spoke out publicly on their concerns about the Wishard referendum that will be voted on at a special election in five days. Many voters have already cast their votes at early satellite voting centers or by absentee ballots. Nonetheless, State Rep. Phil Hinkle (R) and State Sen. Scott Schneider (R) voiced the following concerns in a press release today:

State Rep. Phil Hinkle and State Sen. Scott Schneider today offered a "second opinion" on the Wishard Hospital referendum voters are currently deciding.

The two Indianapolis Republican lawmakers are cautioning local taxpayers about the difficulty of Wishard officials to predict revenue 30 years out, the seeming inability for government to complete construction projects on budget and on time, and that the passage of the referendum will mean little to no protections for property taxpayers.

"We have come forward to caution taxpayers and voice our concerns about Wishard's hospital initiative," said Hinkle. "Taxpayers are taking a risk if they choose to approve this project."

Hinkle and Schneider teamed-up to warn voters of what they called three "fatal flaws" in Wishard's initiative:
1. Difficulty of Wishard officials to predict revenue streams over the next three decades, especially given the far-reaching health care reforms now being debated in Washington, D.C.
2. Inability of government to complete construction projects on budget and on time, pointing to delays and cost over-runs at projects like the Marion County-Indianapolis Central Library; and
3. Elimination of property tax protections for homeowners, business owners and remaining farmers, because once passed by referendum, any funding ever needed from property taxes would be outside the state's property tax caps.

"We doubt anyone knows for certain how the national health care debate will end or what delivery systems will be used or look like in the near or distant future," Hinkle said. "The referendum comes at a very awkward time to make such an important community decision. Many are disappointed the public wasn't included earlier and that the vote was not taken during an election when more voices would be heard and more ballots would be cast. It seems like inside baseball to us."

Hinkle and Schneider pointed to recent Marion County projects that have struggled to finish on time and within budgeted estimates. The Indianapolis-Marion County Central Library expansion project opened more than two years late and an estimated $50 million over budget. The construction of Lucas Oil Stadium overran budgeted expectations by an estimated $95 million and costs $20 million more annually to operate than expected.

"We bring up these past projects to remind taxpayers about what can happen despite the best intentions," said Schneider. "As soon as there is a snag in any part of Wishard's finances, taxpayers are on the hook. Should the need ever arise, Indiana's property tax caps will not apply to the cost or debt service of the proposed hospital. That's something taxpayers need to be aware of when they vote now through Tuesday."

"While we support Wishard as an institution and appreciate their efforts for our community, the fact still remains they are asking taxpayers to co-sign a $600 million loan. Taxpayers need to be aware of this when they go to the ballot box," Schneider said.
I'm concerned that these lawmakers voices have been added to the mix much too late in the debate to have much effect. I would point out that neither Hinkle nor Schneider urged voters to cast a "no" vote on Tuesday in their press release; they simply offered their cautionary concerns that its approval might lead to higher property taxes and cost much more than projected by HHC. To say I've not been disappointed in the lack of support from so-called fiscal conservatives in this county on this issue is an understatement.

I heard several people who attended the Washington GOP Township Club meeting express disappointment today that 5th District GOP candidate Dr. John McGoff joined the chorus of political insiders urging expediency by supporting the ill-planned project. Ironically, HHC CEO Matt Gutwein dissed the hospital where McGoff works as an emergency room physician, Community East, earlier in one of his presentations to the Municipal Corporations Committee. Gutwein suggested the hospital might be closed because of financial problems. Of course, Gutwein never stated that one of the hospital's problems is Wishard's hogging of disproportionate share payments. Gutwein's HHC blocked legislative efforts to share some of those revenues with Community East. I've not heard other 5th District candidates take a position on the Wishard referendum, although Luke Messer's campaign manager, Jennifer Hallowell, worked the room last night promoting the referendum. U.S. Rep. Dan Burton is a ranking member of the Government Reform Committee that should be investigating HHC's nursing home Medicaid scam. He's had nothing to say on the issue. He must be too busy playing golf to notice there's a referendum going on in Marion County.

UPDATE: WRTV's Norm Cox reports that both Schneider and Hinkle say they will vote against the Wishard referendum. Their press release did not include that important fact.

Brian Howey Plays Pot Calling Kettle Black

Last weekend, a local lawyer asked me about a story Brian Howey ran in his newsletter last week calling into question the validity of a blog post I had on an anonymous mailing that was sent out to numerous local news services raising questions about a 1995 OWI arrest and conviction of 5th District congressional candidate Luke Messer. I don't waste my money buying a subscription to his political newletter, but one of his subscribers past along the item he ran, which reads in part:

The Advance Indiana blog head­line Oct. 14 was sensational: “Anonymous Mailing Hits Luke Messer OWI Guilty Plea.”

The first paragraph read: “An anonymous letter ar­rived in the mailboxes of several area news sources today, including this blog.”

And then the entire content of the mailing was posted. What makes this newsworthy is that Advance Indiana’s Gary Welsh didn’t bother to call the Messer campaign to confirm whether the information was true. Or whether it was the same “Allen Luke Messer” that is now running for the 5th CD seat.

Howey Politics Indiana, which also received the packet, appears to have been the only news source which sought a confirmation and comment. Advance Indiana would later add the HPI quote from Jennifer Hallowell of the Messer campaign to its website.

With the Post-Tribune teetering on the brink and the New York Times preparing to cleave away 8 percent of its news staff, this is a disturbing glimpse into the future of American journalism.

Many of the blogs will pump out rumors. Some never follow up. Others will, but only later. The notion of picking up the phone for confirmation is quaint or burdensome. The danger for society is that unless a new economic model can be found, it will be the blogs and “journalists” without degrees - and in many cases, without ethics - who will fill the void.
First of all, Mr. Howey, I omitted most of the information contained in the anonymous letter that accompanied Marion Co. court records on Messer's 1995 OWI arrest and conviction because I could not independently verify the information. If you read the anonymous letter as you claim, you would know that I did not post its entire content as you falsely assert in your newsletter. Some of the more damning allegations were omitted. I independently verified that the person on those court records was indeed the same Luke Messer who is running for Congress and is a licensed attorney in Indiana by matching birth dates and spelling of his name. No, I didn't call up Messer to confirm his arrest and conviction. Nor did you bother to contact me to determine what efforts I undertook to confirm the criminal court records were Messer's. In 2007, I reported on the fact that my city councilor Patrice Abduallah didn't live in his council district, which he represented and was on the ballot as a candidate to represent for another four years. Did I call him to confirm what I already knew? No. I could observe with my own eyes that he didn't live in the dilapidated dump of a house that he claimed as a residence, and that had been cited by the City for numerous code violations.

Howey's claim that he is the only news source to confirm the information is patently false. Messer's hometown newspaper, The Shelbyville News, ran a story a few days after it received the same anonymous letter. Jeff Tucker reported for the newspaper on October 20 and confirmed the 1995 OWI arrest and conviction of Messer's as reported on his blog:

Luke Messer’s campaign for Congress, which has surged in recent months as the Shelbyville lawyer distances himself from the seven-candidate pack in fundraising, said Monday that the revelation of Messer’s drunken-driving conviction in 1996 is likely a “dirty trick” from a rival campaign.

The Shelbyville News received a mailed envelope Monday from an anonymous source. The envelope contained two pages of court documents disclosing that Messer was convicted after a traffic stop along Interstate 65 in Indianapolis the night of Aug. 3, 1995.

Messer pleaded guilty Jan. 19, 1996, and was sentenced to 60 days in jail, with 58 suspended, and he received one day of credit time, the court papers state. He also was fined $177, with $123 of court costs, and had his driver’s license restricted for 180 days.

Messer’s campaign spokesperson, Jennifer Hallowell, confirmed the conviction on Monday. Messer was 26 years old at the time, working as a private attorney at an Indianapolis law firm, Hallowell said. Messer was appointed to the Indiana House of Representatives in 2003.

“He did get a DUI 14 years ago. He made a mistake. He regrets it, and he learned an important lesson,” Hallowell told The Shelbyville News. “I think people will see this for what it is — a dirty trick that likely came from a desperate campaign.”

The anonymous letters were mailed to several Indianapolis-area media outlets last week, Hallowell said, although as of Monday the case had been reported on only a few political blogs.

Hallowell said the anonymous mailings occurred the day before third-quarter campaign finance records were released by the Federal Elections Commission in the 5th District Republican primary. Those reports showed that Messer is distancing himself from the pack of six challengers attempting to unseat U.S. Rep. Dan Burton, R-Indianapolis.

As of Sept. 30, Messer has raised $332,442 for his campaign, while Burton had raised $418,284. The next-closest candidate was Carmel businessman Brose McVey, who had raised $154,587.

Hallowell said the anonymous packages would not hinder Messer’s momentum.

“Luke has built a successful grassroots campaign that has financial strength, and we continue to see momentum and have received endorsements from hundreds of Hoosiers. We expect to be announcing those and many more in the upcoming weeks,” Hallowell said.
It is indeed quite humorous that Howey chose to single out this blog for allegedly spreading false rumors, particularly since he has been accused of doing the same in the past by various campaigns. I used to get calls and e-mails from people asking me if I was writing for Howey because items I would post on this blog would appear word for word in his newsletter. Howey never asked for permission to use my blog entries. If he thinks this blog is recklessly spreading rumors, then why does he cut and paste my material? If Howey was interested in real investigative journalism, perhaps he would have put some effort of his own into gathering the true facts and maybe even tried to crack who the person or campaign was behind the anonymous letter.

Stevens Embezzlement Case To Test Spousal Privilege For Gay Couples

Phyllis Stevens is facing criminal and civil charges in a federal district court in Des Moines, Iowa for allegedly embezzling $5.9 million from her former employer, Aviva. Her spouse, Marla Stevens, is a defendant in the civil action brought against the couple by Aviva to recover the embezzled funds. Marla and Phyllis were married in a civil union in Toronto Canada in 2005. Marla's attorneys are asserting that she cannot be questioned in a deposition about communications she had with Phyllis because of the spousal privilege. Aviva's lawyers say they only want to ask Marla questions concerning the whereabouts of the couple's assets. Iowa courts legalized gay marriages in April; however, the proceedings in question are being brought under federal law. The federal Defense of Marriage Act does not recognize same-sex marriages. The Des Moines Register's Tom Witosky has more:

Marla Stevens is asserting that she cannot be required to give a deposition in a lawsuit filed by her partner's former employer, Aviva USA, partially because Iowa law says "neither husband nor wife" can be questioned in a legal proceeding about any communication that took place between them.

Same-sex marriages have been legal in Iowa since April when the Iowa Supreme Court ruled unanimously that a state law defining marriage as only between a man and a woman was unconstitutional.

However, the federal Defense of Marriage Act defines marriage as between a man and a woman and arguably prohibits Marla or Phyllis Stevens from claiming a spousal privilege, some legal experts said.

They also said few cases exist outlining whether all legal rights afforded to partners in heterosexual marriages are also available to same-sex couples in states where the marriages are legal.

"Legal questions regarding spousal rights in same-sex marriages are there because there is little case law," said Brian Moulton, legislative counsel for the Human Rights Campaign, a national gay rights legal group.

"The essential question is whether a same-sex married couple in a state where marriage is legal is entitled to the same rights of any married couple both state and federally."

Laurie Doré, a Drake University law professor, agreed that even in Iowa where same-sex marriage is legal, questions about spousal privilege need to be clarified.

"There is not a lot of Iowa law about it right now," she said. "This is an area that will be looked at as it goes along."

Michael Burdette, Marla Stevens' lawyer, also said in a legal brief that his client cannot be compelled to give a deposition because "potentially Marla Stevens remains at risk of being indicted on some offense arising out of the allegations that Phyllis Stevens has embezzled."

A hearing on whether Marla Stevens can be compelled to give a deposition in the Aviva lawsuit is today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Ross Walters.

Lawyers for Aviva, in a motion filed Wednesday, said neither the 5th Amendment privilege against self-incrimination nor the spousal privilege are available legally to Marla Stevens.

The company's lawyers said Aviva is only seeking information concerning the whereabout of assets that the defendants "may attempt to dissipate."
Legal experts argue that federal law will control in this case and no spousal privilege can be claimed. Witosky writes:

Of the spousal privilege, Mark Weinhardt, Aviva's lawyer, wrote that same- sex marriages are not recognized by federal law.

"This is a case pending in federal, not state, court and it is governed by federal rules," he wrote.

He also questions whether Marla Stevens can claim to be a resident of Iowa since she has said in court documents that she had not lived in the state from 2004 until Oct. 1, 2009.

Phyllis Stevens has pleaded not guilty to an 18-count indictment accusing her of wire fraud, money laundering, embezzlement, computer fraud and aggravated identity theft in the embezzlement of $5.9 million from Aviva.

Marla Stevens has not been charged. But Burdette said that she is under federal investigation.

In one motion, Burdette said Marla Stevens has been contacted by a relative, who was questioned by an agent for the Federal Bureau of Investigation under a threat of being subpoenaed before a federal grand jury in Iowa.

The relative is not identified, but Kevin Kohler, an FBI agent, testified Tuesday that he had interviewed a sister of Marla Stevens, who also served as trustee of a Stevens family trust that paid up to $90,000 to Marla Stevens over a period of years. Daryn Beringer of Purchase, N.Y. is Marla Stevens only full sister.
Witosky's story notes there are efforts in Congress by some Democrats to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act. Laying that aside, this case could be groundbreaking in determining what the federal law means in states that have legalized gay marriages. Witosky adds new information on Marla's income sources in today's story. He says a family trust paid her $90,000 over a period of years. The story also cites Aviva's lawyers as claiming that Marla never lived with Phyllis after she moved to Iowa in 2004.

Many HHC Nursing Homes Rate Below Average

You can add another lie HHC CEO Matt Gutwein has been telling voters in Marion County as part of his campaign to pass the Wishard referendum during the November 3 special election, a vaguely-worded question that asks you to approve property tax levy increase to support the issuance of more than $700 million in general obligation bonds to fund a new county hospital, although you would never know that after reading the referendum question. Gutwein has repeatedly bragged about how the quality of care provided by the nursing homes HHC "owns and operates" is better than other nursing homes. "Nursing homes are a growing part of Marion County Health and Hospital Corp.'s bottom line," Star business reporter Dan Lee writes. "Yet almost half of its nursing homes -- 17 of 35 -- were rated below average, according to a Star review of Indiana State Department of Health records for the past three years. Eleven of the homes ranked in the bottom 25 percent of the almost 500 facilities reviewed in the state's Nursing Home Report Card system." Lee explains how critical the revenue from these nursing homes are:

Income from nursing homes is an important part of Health and Hospital Corp.'s strategy to pay for a proposed new Wishard Memorial Hospital. The $754 million complex would replace the existing one on West 10th Street.

Marion County voters head to the polls Tuesday to vote yes or no on giving the Health and Hospital Corp., Wishard's parent organization, the authority to issue bonds needed to finance the new hospital.

Corporation officials have said the project can be completed without using additional property tax revenue, and they view their nursing home operations as part of the reason why.

In 2009, nursing homes will account for roughly 42 percent of Health and Hospital
Corp.'s projected $848 million in revenue, according to Dan Sellers, the corporation's chief financial officer.

As income from nursing homes has increased, Wishard has relied less on property tax revenue. In 2009, Wishard received $24.9 million, or 5 percent of its revenue, from property taxes, down from $51.9 million, or 15 percent, in 2003, according to hospital documents.
According to Lee's story, HHC plans to acquire even more nursing homes in the coming years, as many as seven more by next year. His story is deceptively misleading, however, because of what he fails to mention in his story. Here are some of those facts:

  • Lee continues to claim that HHC owns these nursing homes and simply has management agreements with American Senior Communities to operate them. What he doesn't tell you is that HHC actually leases the nursing homes from an entity owned by Eagle Care, Inc., an entity owned by the same people who own ASC. HHC merely creates a legal fiction to make it appear that it owns the nursing homes so it can qualify to receive upper limit payments from Medicaid, which effectively doubles the Medicaid reimbursement rate of its nursing homes compared to other nursing homes. Former HHC CEO Mitch Roob has called this a scam on the federal government.
  • Lee conveniently omits the fact that virtually all of these nursing homes are located outside of Marion County, some in the far reaches of the state. HHC is a municipal corporation that is suppose to operate for the benefit of Marion County residents. Would we expect the City of Indianapolis to operate water and sewer services in Fort Wayne or Evansville? So why is our municipal-owned corporation doing business all over the state?
  • Lee conveniently omits the fact that HHC recently closed Lockefield Village, one of the few nursing homes it operates within the municipal corporation. HHC built the nursing home, which is adjacent to the Wishard hospital campus, in only 1995 at a considerable cost to taxpayers. When HHC closed it, it received a rating of just 1 out of 5, the lowest possible rating for evaluating the nursing home's quality of care.
  • Lee repeats the myth that because the nursing home scam has been so wildly successful, HHC has been able to reduce property taxes in Marion County by more than $50 million a year. Like Gutwein, Lee conveniently omits the fact that most of that reduction is the result of the passage of the 2008 property tax reform and relief law that mandated a roll back in certain tax levies, including one imposed by HHC. Taxpayers were forced to pay a 1% higher sales tax to help pay for the replacement tax dollars HHC is now receiving from the state. The truth is that HHC has banked most of the nursing home revenue windfall to spend on the hospital--nearly $150 million to date--rather than reduce our property tax burden.
  • Lee continues the Star's campaign of deception by giving people the impression they are not voting to approve a property tax levy increase if they vote to approve a referendum.
This demonstrates how important it is for the taxpaying-public to look elsewhere for your information on this issue. The local news media simply cannot be trusted to give you the facts on the Wishard referendum. They are all in the tank with the HHC officials and are doing everything they can to hoodwink you into voting for the referendum under the mistaken impression that it does not call for a property tax increase. It does. It authorizes what could become one of the largest property tax increases in Marion County history. That increase will not be protected by the state property tax caps. You will pay these higher taxes on top of that increase. Get the facts so you can make an informed decision.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Center Township Trustee Selling Off Drummer's Real Estate Portfolio

Whether it's by deliberate design or happenstance, Center Township Trustee William Douglas has been taking steps to unload the more than $10 million real estate portfolio accumulated by former Trustee Carl Drummer, who resigned awhile back to become an Ice Miller lobbyist. Not surprisingly, Drummer's law firm is still making all kinds of money billing the Trustee's office for legal work. The IBJ's Cory Schouten reports on efforts by Douglas to sell off the Fall Creek YMCA, which Drummer foolishly purchased in 2004 for $1.5 million and converted to a private health club called Healthplex, which is now closed. Schouten reports:

The owner of the vacant former Fall Creek YMCA along West 10th Street in Indianapolis is seeking bidders interested in tearing down the building and redeveloping the prime 2-acre site.

Center Township bought the property in 2004, a year after the YMCA closed its branch. It most recently served as a fitness center called Healthplex operated by the Indiana Minority Health Coalition, but the facility closed earlier this year when revenue came up short.

The Center Township Trustee’s Office is looking for a developer interested in a long-term lease with an option to buy the property at 860 W. 10th St., according to a bid packet. The township wants a mixed-use development supporting the Indiana Avenue Cultural District and nearby IUPUI and hospital campuses. The deal would come with a restriction against freestanding fast-food restaurants.

The materials suggest a minimum annual rent of $210,250 for the first five years of a 15-year lease, with two 15-year options, and a minimum ultimate purchase price of $2.9 million. The tenant would pay all expenses.

Five potential buyers have picked up packets so far, said Phillip L. Bayt, a partner at local law firm Ice Miller LLP who represents the township. Bids will be accepted from Nov. 6 to Dec. 4. Township officials would then listen to presentations from two finalists.

Bids will be evaluated based on price, financial strength and experience of the bidder, and the proposed development’s impact on the neighborhood. Market observers say student or senior housing likely would be a component of any development plan.

The former YMCA is one of several land holdings amassed by former Center Township Trustee Carl Drummer. Critics assailed the strategy as divergent from the office’s primary responsibility for poor relief.
Schouten's story notes a recent deal the Trustee's office entered into with Riley Area Development Corporation to redevelop the old workforce building on 875 Massachusetts Avenue, another building that has sat vacant for years. That plan, by the way, is sparking criticsm from some Mass Avenue business owners who are upset about the lack of off-street parking being offered for the new apartment building/retail proposed at the site.

Speaking of Healthplex, did anyone else notice that the downtown location is one of the satellite voting centers for early voting for the November 3 special election? It's conveniently located across the street from Wishard Hospital so that people getting their free health care at taxpayers expense and HHC workers and visitors can be directed over to Healthplex to vote. It's obvious what is going on here. People can already vote early at the Clerk's Office in the City-County Building. The only reason to locate that satellite voting center at the Healthplex is to make it easy for people who don't pay property taxes or who make a living working for HHC to cast their votes to raise your property taxes. The Health & Hospital Corporation is shameless in the tactics it is employing to win this referendum election. One person who stood in line for a vaccination against the swine flu this past week tells me that workers were allowed to provide advocacy materials urging passage of the referendum while people waited in line to get a flu shot.

More Pit Bull Madness: IMPD Officer Breaks Arm In Fight With Dog

An IMPD officer suffered a broken arm while fending off an attack by a pit bull yesterday. "Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Sgt. Ronald Brezik shattered his forearm near the wrist after attack at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday on the 4000 block of North Vinewood Avenue," the Star's John Touhy writes . . . "Brezik had responded to a call that a vicious dog in the neighborhood had bitten a person." "When Brezik went to lock the gate to the yard to keep the dog inside, it rushed through another gate and attacked him, according to an IMPD report." "The dog tried biting Brezik's leg while he was kicking it away. Brezik pulled out his gun and shot at the dog and missed, but the dog ran away. It was later caught." According to Tuohy's report, Brezik fell and broke his arm during the attack. He will be required to undergo surgery to repair his broken arm. The complaint of a person being bitten earlier by the dog proved unfounded. It's bad enough that our police officers face so much danger fighting criminals in this town. They shouldn't also have to worry about whether a pit bull dog is going to pop out of nowhere and threaten life and limb.

Tully: Ballard Breaks Promise On Smoking Ban Ordinance

Star political columnist Matt Tully discovers yet another campaign promise Mayor Greg Ballard has broken. I didn't follow the mayoral candidates' views on a smoking ban ordinance during the last campaign, but Ballard made promises to support the ban according to those who followed the issue closely. Tully describes how Mayor Ballard met behind closed doors with Republican councilors prior to Monday night's council meeting to urge a "no" vote on the proposed ordinance. Tully says Ballard didn't like it because it didn't exclude private clubs or private residences. "Private residences?" Yeah, you read that write. Tully writes:

But it appears we're also dealing with a serious lack of political courage and a sad example of backpedaling on a promise.

In 2007, as a candidate for mayor, Ballard said this: "I can assure you that I am a supporter of the smoke-free workplace. Secondhand smoke is a proven health hazard, and I would support any legislation to limit the impact of secondhand smoke."

He wrote those words in an e-mail to Bruce Hetrick, a local businessman and smoke-free workplace advocate. Back then, when asked about the issue, Ballard was straightforward.

These days, however, we're learning about the mayor's thoughts on big issues by investigating the secretive words he delivers at closed-door political meetings.

Leaders take a stand, even on controversial measures. The old Greg Ballard, the one who campaigned as the regular guy next door, would have understood that.
How times change.

Cochran said Ballard worries about the ramifications of the ordinance. He said the mayor wanted an exemption for private clubs and a guarantee that the ban would not include private residences.

Private residences?

Now the mayor is just being silly. What's next? A complaint that the ordinance would create death panels?
Tully takes Ballard to task for failing to become involved in the public debate and helping carve out the exemption for private clubs. I'm amused that the man who promised to end country club politics when he was elected mayor is so worried about whether private clubs will be allowed to operate smoking facilities while all other businesses would be forced to operate smoke-free facilities. I'm a very anti-smoker person, but I'm ambivalent about the need for a city-wide ordinance. Many of my favorite establishments have voluntarily gone smoke free. I think it would be grossly unfair, however, to pass an ordinance that exempted the Columbia Club and other private clubs frequented by wealthy citizens while forcing a ban on neighborhood restaurant/bars frequented by average joes.

As many of you have already surmised, I've long ago given up on Ballard. I've never known a politician who so fundamentally broke the trust of the people who put him into office as Ballard has done. I hardly recognize the guy who ran for mayor in 2007 as an outsider with no strings attached.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Democrats File Ethics Complaint Against Ballard

Fox59 News' Russ McQuaid had the scoop tonight on an ethics complaint the Marion County Democratic Chairman Ed Treacy filed against Mayor Greg Ballard for giving free use of an IMPD police car to a friend and political contributor to aid in security at his private golf course. The complaint alleges that Mayor Ballard personally requested the IMPD car be furnished to golf course owner Dave Bego. I'm sure many will get a big kick out of the idea of Treacy, a long-time lobbyist, filing an ethics complaint against a politician. Mayoral spokesman Robert Vane reacted angrily to Treacy's complaint, claiming the mayor had nothing to do with the decision to place the car at the golf course. Here's the text of the complaint which was posted at the Indianapolis Times blog:



A. Mayor Gregory A. Ballard

1. Gregory A. Ballard (“Ballard”) is Mayor of the Consolidated City of Indianapolis and Marion County (“City”), an official for purposes of the Ethics Code of the Consolidated City and County, Revised Code Section 293-101 et seq. (“Ethics Code”).
2. As Mayor, Ballard appoints the director of the department of public safety “Director”). Revised Code of the Consolidated City of Indianapolis and Marion County
(“Revised Code”), Section 251-211.
3. In turn, the Director appoints the Chief (“Chief”) of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department (“IMPD”).
4. Because of his appointment power, Ballard exercises authority and control over the affairs of IMPD.

B. Dave Bego

5. Dave Bego, of 8071 Knue Road, Indianapolis, Indiana (“Bego”), is owner of
Maple Creek Golf and Country Club, Inc., located at 10501 E. 21st Street, Indianapolis, Indiana, 46250 (“Golf Club”). See “City of Indianapolis/ Marion County Property Information & Tax Payment System” report, attached hereto as Exhibit A.


6. The Ethics Code establishes the city-county ethics commission (“Ethics
Commission”) to promptly resolve matters within its jurisdiction. Revised Code Sec. 293-331.
7. This matter, a violation of the Ethics Code within the prior two years by an
official, Gregory A. Ballard, is within the Ethics Commission’s jurisdiction. Revised Code Sec. 293-334.
8. A violation of the Ethics Code “shall be subject to the enforcement procedures
and penalties” set forth by Revised Code Section 103-3. Revised Code Sec. 293-402(c).
9. A person who has violated the Ethics Code “shall be fined, by way of a penalty
therefore, an amount not exceeding any limitation under IC 36-1-3-8 for each such violation, act or omission,” and may be subject to an injunction by the city. Revised Code Sec. 103-3


10. On October 8, 2007, Dave Bego donated Nine Hundred Ninety Dollars ($990) to
Ballard’s campaign committee, the Greg Ballard for Mayor Committee (“Political Action
Committee”). See CFA-4 Schedule A-1, filed with Marion County Circuit Court Clerk on
October 19, 2007, attached hereto as Exhibit B.
11. Bego recently told Ballard that the Golf Club is a frequent victim of car break-ins.
12. Within a short period thereafter, Ballard caused IMPD to provide Bego and the
Golf Club a marked IMPD police cruiser to park and operate at the Golf Club as a security measure.
13. For about a month during September and October 2009, Bego and his Golf Club
maintained exclusive possession and control of the marked IMPD police cruiser.
14. Only after a news report by reporter Russ McQuaid was aired by Fox59
Indianapolis did IMPD recall its marked police cruiser. News report available online at,0,7304522.story (last visited October 27, 2009).


15. The goals of the Ethics Code are expressly stated:
(1) Duties should be carried out impartially;
(2) Decisions and policy should not be made outside of proper
channels of city and county government;
(3) Public office should not be used for private gain; and
(4) Actions, transactions, or involvements should not be
performed or engaged in which have the potential to become a
conflict of interest.
Revised Code Section 293-101(c).
16. Article II of the Ethics Code sets forth specific standards of ethical conduct.
Revised Code Section 293-201 et seq.
17. Revised Code Section 293-213 states, “An official . . . shall not use city or county
property or personnel for any purpose other than for official city or county business.”
18. By allowing Mr. Bego, a campaign contributor, to exercise exclusive possession
and control of the marked IMPD police cruiser for about a month and simultaneously preventing the marked IMPD police cruiser from being used for official police business or maintenance and repair, Ballard used city property for private business in violation of Revised Code Section 293-213.
19. Ballard’s use of the marked IMPD police cruiser for private business also violates the goals of the Ethics Code.
a) Ballard’s use reveals a lack of impartiality in carrying out his duties. Of all of the victims of crime within the Consolidated City of Indianapolis and Marion County, only one – a campaign contributor – was allowed exclusive possession and
control of a marked IMPD police cruiser.
(b) Ballard’s decision to use the marked IMPD police cruiser was made outside the proper channels of city and county government, and barred its use for official police business.
(c) Ballard’s decision to use the marked IMPD police cruiser allowed the office of the Mayor to be used for the private gain of a campaign contributor.
(d) Ballard’s interests are conflicted by allowing a campaign contributor to maintain exclusive possession and control over property of the city and county, purchased from public funds,instead of committing such property to its intended purpose of preventing crime.

WHEREFORE, the undersigned respectfully requests that the Ethics Commission
determine that Respondent, Gregory A. Ballard, violated the Ethics Code and subject him to the enforcement procedures and penalties prescribed by the Ethics Code, including a fine and an injunction under Revised Code Section 103-3.

Edward Treacy

Bauer Proposes Ethics Reforms

He's been a state lawmaker for four decades and, up to this point, exhibited no signs of being concerned about legislative ethics. Today, House Speaker Pat Bauer turned over a new leaf in announcing an ethics reform package he will push to adopt next year. “Public trust in the workings of state government is critical if we are to do the people’s business,” Bauer said at a Statehouse press conference today. “Today’s announcement demonstrates a commitment to maintaining the public’s trust and a willingness to enact reforms that will make sure that conduct by all branches of government is above reproach.”

Bauer's ethics reforms fall into three categories: legislative branch restrictions; executive branch restrictions; and state contracting and political contributions.

Bauer wants to reduce from $100 to $50 the reporting theshhold of gifts by lobbyists to lawmakers. That would capture a lot of those free sporting event tickets and dinners at St. Elmo that fall outside the current reporting requirement. He also wants to impose a one-year cooling off period for ex-legislators who wish to become lobbyists. The most perplexing proposal in his package is one that would prohibit lobbyists with multiple clients from representing clients whose representation poses a conflict of interest between the lobbyists' clients. Lawyer lobbyists are already subject to this ethical consideration under the Indiana Rules of Professional Responsibility, although that doesn't seem to stop some of the big lobbying firms from taking on representations that pose conflicts of interest among their clients.

Bauer wants to impose the one-year cooling off rule on lobbying to appointed persons in the executive branch. He is also proposing to bar the governor and gubernatorial candidates from engaging in political fundraising during the long legislative session during odd-numbers years and during reorganization day in the even-numbered years.

Perhaps one of the most important changes Bauer is proposing is to bar persons who hold contracts with state government or are bidding for state contracts from contributing to any individual who holds a state office or is a candidate for a state office. This is important in efforts to curtail pay-to-play politics. Such persons would be required to register with the Indiana Elections Division, a list of which would be provided in a searchable database on the Election Division's website. Civil and criminal penalties would be imposed on those who violated this prohibition. Contractors who violate the requirement could have their contracts voided, while bidders who violate the prohibition could be found to be non-responsive in their bids.

I'm not sure what Bauer's motive is in proposing these ethics reforms, although I applaud him for having done so. Some are suggesting a cynical motive based on ongoing investigative reporting on lobbying activities by some newspapers. Personally, the ethics reforms don't go far enough for me, but they are a big step in the right direction. Bauer is politically wise to get out front of this issue before it becomes an albatross around his neck during next year's critical legislative races that will decide who will control the House after next year's election and get to redraw legislative boundaries for the next decade. Current political trends favor the House Republicans in their quest to retake control of the Indiana House. Bauer may simply be pre-empting a move by House Republicans to make ethics an issue next year.

Jon Elrod Urges No Vote On Wishard Referendum

The following is a guest post by former State Rep. Jon Elrod explaining why you should vote no on the Wishard referendum. It's great to see there's a real Republican left in Marion County.

As the old maxim says, “The only certainty in life is death and taxes.” So if a governmental entity tells me they need the ability to raise taxes, but promises not to raise taxes, I am skeptical.

HHC must issue bonds to get a mortgage to build a shiny new hospital. In order to get a decent rate, the bonds must be secured by a property tax levy. But they assure us that the money from the nursing homes will pay the mortgage, without a tax levy.


These nursing homes were not built or purchased by HHC. They are not managed by HHC. Nor has HHC made any investment in the nursing homes. But there are complicated contracts in place that make it appear that HHC owns and operates the nursing homes. So how does HHC make millions annually off of nursing homes that it does not own or manage?

Well, it’s a scam; er, loophole. Medicare reimburses government nursing homes $55 a day more than private nursing homes. So an enterprising private nursing home owner came to HHC and said if we make HHC the owner on paper, we can split that extra $55 and both make millions.

That works until a president promises to cut $500B in Medicare waste. Oh wait... Just one change in the rules for what constitutes a “government” nursing home, and no more $55 reimbursement. Then HHC’s contracts will terminate. Then property taxes will pay the mortgage on the hospital.

Is this likely? Well, evidently no bank is willing to loan HHC money at a reasonable rate without the property tax levy. If the banks are not willing to risk it, why should taxpayers? HHC knows it needs the property taxes. Why, just two years after the property tax revolt that threw Peterson out of office, would HHC risk another backlash? They want the property taxes.

But let’s say the nursing home money continues to flow for the full30 years on the mortgage. Does HHC have to spend the nursing home money on the mortgage? No. HHC can spend that money however it wishes. HHC can collect property taxes whenever it wants. There is no mechanism to ensure the property taxes will be collected only in the event that the nursing home money dries up. When has government ever declined to spend money when it had the opportunity?

If you vote yes on the referendum, do so because you are willing to pay more taxes for a shiny new hospital, not because you think the hospital will be free.

I admit that a new hospital is a better use of taxpayer money than the Simon Building, Lucas Oil Stadium, or that spaceship that landed behind our Central Library. But that is not a justification.

Property taxes are the most regressive of all taxes. Owners or renters (through rent), pay them regardless of their income. They tax a basic necessity: shelter. At least the sales tax does not apply to necessities (groceries, health care, education). The poor people in the poorest neighborhoods will be most affected by this tax.

If you support the constitutional property tax caps, vote against this amendment. Your tax rate will no longer be capped at 1% for residential.

In my opinion, all of the “free” nursing home money should be saved up. The hospital should be built in phases. But HHC wants a shiny new hospital now, and that little bronze placard that immortalizes the board and officers.

Vote no.

Jonathan R. Elrod

Monday, October 26, 2009

What Tangled Webs the School of Medicine and Wishard Weave

The following is a guest post by Carl Moldthan of the Indianapolis Taxpayers PAC.

Over the past 29 years that I have been involved in trying to protect the taxpayers of Marion County and it has been my disgust and displeasure to find situations setup by public officials primarily to confuse and deceive the taxpayers. The Wishard and IU School of Medicine (IUSOM) contract is one such situation. Trying to sort out this mess is like trying to solve a Rubik's Cube in the dark. But like my dad used to say, “Where there’s a will, there a way”.

According to Indiana Code, Wishard’s job or duty is to provide healthcare and hospital care for those less fortunate than most. In other words, they cure the sick and injured who don’t have any money. The law does not say anything about Wishard being a teaching hospital or a research facility, it is there for one purpose and one purpose only, assist the poor in their health problems and needs. That does not mean Wishard cannot allow someone else to do research at Wishard but if that happens, the taxpayers of Marion County should NOT PAY for this research.

Wishard and IUSOM have a contract for services to be provided by IUSOM through IU Health. IU Health is a non-profit organization and I guess was created to confuse and deceive the taxpayers of Marion County. Well, I was able to obtain the IRS 990 forms that were filed in 2005-06-07 and I found some very interesting and disheartening data. It seems that IU Health is doing research and charging Wishard for the research they do.

On the 990 form IU Health lists $43,792,243 in salaries and benefits for I guess doctors. There is also a line item listed as “Compensation of current officers, directors, key employees etc… at $1,794,492. However, at least the first figure seems legitimate because there should be doctor’s salaries, but the line items I have a problem with are as follows: What is Wishard doing paying $1.7 million in rent for a building located at 8910 Purdue RD, Suite 500? Why is Wishard being charged $216,929 for a phone system located on Purdue Rd? And there is more (see below).

Now there is only one reason I can come up with why this deal is setup in this manner and that is that IU Health is doing research on the Marion County Taxpayer’s DIME. Let’ take a look and you tell me what you think.

I found items on this 990 that should in no way be charged to Wishard and they are as follows:

$1,511,800 (06) $1,791,492 (07)
Officers, directors and key employees
Why should Wishard pay for officers of a corporation to do what IUSOM is suppose to do, if not, then let’s take our business elsewhere.

$153,734 (06) $73,540 (07)
Wishard already has a very sophisticated accounting system why should we pay for someone else’s?

$41,548 (06) $102,394 (07)
Wishard already pays for all Malpractice insurance so why is this needed? Attorneys already rape our community for enough money every year, why should we pay more?

$138,990 (06) $1,559,884 (07)
Wishard spends a small fortune on supplies, why then does IU Health buy them? And why was there an increase of over 1,000%?

$312,250 (06) $216,929 (07)
Why should Wishard pay for phones they don’t and can’t use?

$140,057 (06) $121,966 (07)
Why is Wishard doing so much mailing from Purdue Road?

$1,588,730 (06) $1,703,955 (07)
Occupancy (Office Space)
Why is Wishard paying rent for an unneeded office and why so far from IUSOM and Wishard?

$613,767 (06) $717,052 (07)
Equipment Rental & Maintenance
Why is IU Health renting equipment when Wishard has everything that is needed?

$233,564 (06) $159,433 (07)
Printing & Publications
What does IU Health have to print? All printing needs should be taken care of by IUSOM.

$192,665 (06) $64,264 (07)
Travel, where, when and what for? The contract is for Wishard which is located in Indianapolis why should anyone in this group be going anywhere to complete its duties with Wishard. This sounds like something IUSOM should be paying for.

$54,567 (06) $352,864 (07)
Conferences, meetings
Why is IU Health charging Wishard for Conferences, shouldn’t that be IUSOM responsibilities?

$529,449 (06) $681,316 (07)
Other Expenses
What Other Expenses?

$197,709 (06)
Why is IU Health doing marketing, Wishard does enough of that?

$1,535,929 (06)
Contracted Services
What contract services?

$585,053 (06)
What misc?

$994,848 (06)
Non-Capitated Services
I thought this contract was inclusive?

$53,424 (07)
Why Grants?

Grand Total
$8,824,660 (06) $7,598,513 (07)
From this 990 it seems that Wishard is paying for items they should not be paying for. If this is wrong then I think I and the taxpayers of Marion County need and deserve an answer.

There are a lot of questions I have about this entire setup and they are as follows:
· Why does IUSOM need to go through IU Health?
· Are all the people who work
for IU Health also employees of IUSOM and Wishard?
· Why does IU Health have
over $12 million in investments as of 2007?
· Isn’t there an easier more
direct manner of doing this contract?
As I said before, all Wishard needs is doctors, just doctors. As taxpayers we don’t care if IUSOM does research or for that matter anything within the laws of Indiana as long as it doesn’t cost Marion County taxpayers more. It is because of this contract and other confusing facts that I am very skeptical of this Wishard Bond Issue and I believe everyone in Marion should also be skeptical and VOTE NO on November 3rd.