Thursday, November 26, 2009

More Durham Fallout

In the wake of this week's FBI raid of the offices of Tim Durham's Obsidian Enterprises and Fair Finance in Indianapolis and Akron, Ohio, respectively, one political candidate has dropped his candidacy and a congressman is calling on the federal government to seize Durham's assets in order to protect investors. Marion Co. GOP Sheriff candidate Tim Motsinger, for whom Durham recently held a fundraiser, announced he will return Durham's contributions and drop his bid for county sheriff. A statement on his website reads:

In light of the recent investigations concerning the non-campaign-related business affairs of my campaign finance chairman, I have made the decision that it is appropriate to return any and all financial contributions and loans that my campaign has received from him or his affiliated businesses.

Unfortunately, this leaves my campaign in a non-competitive financial position.

Therefore, it is with regret that I have decided to end my campaign for the office of Marion County Sheriff.

I want to thank all the friends and loved ones that have supported my candidacy.
It is disturbing that Motsinger's campaign relied on Durham so much for financial support. According to Fox 59 News, Durham loaned Motsinger's campaign $200,000 from Fair Finance's funds. Yeah, you read that figure correctly. Marion Co. Prosecutor Carl Brizzi has received over $160,000 from Durham in the past. He also faced the embarrassing disclosure this week that he had agreed to serve on the board of Fair Finance Co. He later resigned the board position after the IBJ began asking questions about the troubled company. Brizzi isn't speaking to reporters, but his press secretary issued this statement yesterday:

Mr. Durham recently asked me to serve on the Board of one of his companies, Fair Financial. While I initially accepted the position, I never attended a meeting of the Board, never voted as a Board member, was never involved in any of the business decisions of Fair Financial, and was never compensated as a member of the Board. Upon reading the October IBJ article and uncertain whether I had yet formally taken a position on the Board, I indicated to Mr. Durham that I was no longer interested in serving on the Board.
WISH-TV's Jim Shallow takes a number of other Republican officials to task for accepting political contributions from Durham, including Gov. Mitch Daniels, Sen. Richard Lugar, Attorney General Greg Zoeller, State Treasurer Richard Mourdock, House Republican Leader Brian Bosma and Sen. Mike Delph. Interestingly, this same political reporter ignored $25,000 in contributions U.S. Rep. Andre Carson (D-Indianapolis) accepted from Marla and Phyllis Stevens, who allegedly stole about $6 million from Aviva. His report says nothing about Democratic mayoral hopeful Brian Williams' past business ties to Durham. Williams was a co-founder of Obsidian Enterprises and served on its board. Although his resume has listed his relationship with Durham's company's, he quickly began contacting people yesterday, including this blogger, to distance himself from Durham. Shallow's report notes only one Democrat who received money from Durham. That would be U.S. Rep. Baron Hill. Both Hill and Durham grew up in Seymour. Daniels has received the most campaign money from Durham of any candidate at $200,000.

Unfortunately, many GOP candidates were encouraged by party officials to accept financial help from Durham despite plenty of warning signs that he was living far too extravagant of a lifestyle and had a number of legal disputes involving people with whom he did business. Candidates like Mike Delph had no knowledge of who Durham was until he ran for public office and accepted his contributions because party leaders touted him so highly. He plans to give up the money he received from Durham if the federal investigation reveals that Durham's money may have been the product of ill-gotten gains. The Marion County Republican Party asked Durham to host an annual holiday party at his expansive Geist mansion. Republican members of the City-County Council actually held their caucus to elect their leadership after the 2007 election at Durham's private offices atop the Chase Tower. Those same candidates will now have to cope with purging themselves with hundreds of thousands of dollars Durham gave them if this investigation ends where it appears to be headed.

There is news that Durham has links to the corruption case involving two Henry County law enforcement officers who are facing charges of ghost employment. Durham is listed as a witness for the state in that case according to WRTV's Rafael Sanchez. The two police officers involved in that criminal prosecution may have provided off-duty security work at lavish parties Durham put on at his Geist mansion. Those two police officers are represented by the same criminal defense attorney who is representing Durham, Indianapolis attorney John Tompkins. People might be asking if these two officers worked for the private security company owned by former Marion Co. Sheriff Jack Cottey, who is also tied to Tim Motsinger. Did Cottey's firm staff those parties? There was a story circulating around town awhile back about FBI agents being staked outside Durham's residence taking down the license plate numbers of all of the guests at one of his parties.

Meanwhile, there is even more fallout in Ohio where Fair Finance is headquartered. Congressman John Boccieri (D-OH) put out a statement asking the federal government to seize the assets of Durham and Fair Finance. The Akron Beacon Journal describes the offices of Fair Finance as "emptied" after the FBI's raid on Tuesday. It also notes the decision of Ohio securities regulators to put on hold a pending $250 million security offering by the company. That means the company can no longer sell securities in Ohio since an earlier offering by the company matured this past week. "The company routinely advertised consumer financial products that paid high interest rates and were not federally insured," the paper reports. Investors there worry that their investments with the company may be lost.


karma09 said...

Advance Indiana, thank you for your true news work on this growing scandal. Much to dig through to read through the B.S. scrambling that is going on among the political hacks caught in their self-made vipers' nests.

A quick question: does Brizzi have a personal media representative who is speaking for him, or is this the media spokesperson (Marion Massalimany, sorry on spelling) who is paid for by taxpayers as an employee of the Marion County Prosecutor's Office, doing the personal work of the tainted elected prosecutor for his personal, not office-related, activities? I'm guessing it is one and the same person.

Why are taxpayers paying for Brizzi's personal problems through a prosecutor's office employee?

Brizzi pulled this same stunt when the press reported his divorce in Boone County, and Massalimani issued a press release on Brizzi's behalf several months ago. Melanie Brizzi didn't sue for divorce from MCPO, she sued for divorce from the imperfect man, Brizzi. Isn't it a crime to use public resources for private purposes? Isn't Massalamani's employment for the office's purposes only, not for Brizzi's attempt at personal crisis management.

Are Brizzi or his sugar-daddy, Durham going to cut a check back to the Marion County treasurer for this expense?

Gary R. Welsh said...

You raise a good point, Karma. It is one I raised when Andre Carson's government-paid press secretary fielded questions about the $25,000 in campaign contributions Carson accepted from Phyllis and Marla Stevens. I raised the same issue with former Mayor Bart Peterson, who repeatedly used taxpayer-paid employees to field questions about his re-election campaign in 2007. In Brizzi's case, these questions related to nothing involving his official duties. A government employee should not be answering questions about his marriage/divorce or personal business matters. He can get by with it because the media won't raise questions about it.

Paul K. Ogden said...

Certainly Motsinger had a lot more funding sources for his campaign than Durham. I just don't buy that the loss of Durham's contribution is solely the reason he dropped out. There has to be more to the story there.

karma09 said...

AI, looking through my handy-dandy criminal code book, I find I.C. 35-44-2-4, "Ghost Employment."

"A public servant (Brizzi) who knowingly or intentionally assigns to any employee under his supervision (press hack, any researching done or composing of the press briefing done by other employees) any duties not related to the operation of the governmental entity that he serves ("ahem") commits ghost employment, a Class D Felony."

Also under the same section, any employee who accepts property (such as monetary compensation, a salary) for the performance of duties not related to the operation of the entity commits ghost employment.

We can all easily imagine the behind-the-scenes panic mode on the 6th floor at MCPO, w/ Brizzi, Wyser, Marschall, Massillimani, and who knows how many others being summoned to a meeting, researching Brizzi's role with Fair Finance and anything else involving Durham, pooring over the press release, editing, re-discussing, etc.

Those are easily identifiable and provable crimes being committed by these people, just get their pay stubs and their emails showing who was there and who did what, and that they still took pay for the time. Brizzi's involving them would simply entail multiple counts against him.

What's the official route for making an ethics complaint to the disciplinary commission?

And what mechanisms exist to seek a special prosecutor from a state entity, presumably the A.G.'s office.

Perhaps more appropriately, what federal official would make the call to go after these charges? They nailed Capone on tax evasion, perhaps Brizzi can go down in history as Casper.

Southsider said...

I try to catch the evening news when I am able to do so. Always watched Mike Ahern REPORT the news..when he retired I went elsewhere. If I have that channel on and Shella shows up I change the channel.
And while I'm at it... ALL tv news outlets, if you think I'm going to sit with my laptop and go to your web sites and click on the links section for additional news...well your all in dreamland!!!!

artfuggins said...

I dont buy Democrat Brian Williams hurried explanation that he didn't know Durham well and dropped his connection when things didn't look right. He bragged on his campaign web site about his relationships with Durham and Obsidian Enterprises. The Website was created long after Williams claims to have severed contacts with Durham. Why would you brag on your website about your business relations with someone if you had already decided that person was shady. .......hhhmmmmm!!!!

Gary R. Welsh said...

I agree with art for a change.

Melyssa said...

I won't watch Jim Shallow on Channel 8 or WFYI either. He has no credibility as a journalist. This recent story is just another reason to distrust Shella as a journalist.

Gary R. Welsh said...

It's the biggest political story of the week and Shallow is not planning to discuss it on Ice Miller Week In Review. Gee, I wonder why?