Monday, February 15, 2010

Plowman Investigation Leaves Many Unanswered Questions

The Star's Francesca Jarosz has a lot of good questions about the investigation of City-County Councilor Lincoln Plowman and his recent suspension as a high-ranking IMPD officer for failing to cooperate in an ongoing FBI investigation. Everybody wants to know the nature of the investigation. Public Safety Director Frank Straub knows the nature of the investigation but won't tell reporters what it is. He cites Plowman's right to privacy and right to a fair process. But this poses a problem for his fellow councilors, who are still in the dark and don't know what if any potential matters he should be recused from voting on. As it stands, there is no confirmation whether the investigation relates to his work on the council or as a police officer. People can only speculate.

An ethics specialist tells Jarosz that Plowman should either disclose the nature of the investigation or step down from the council until it is concluded. The council has had numerous examples of other councilors facing criminal charges. Former Councilor Ron Gibson was charged with shoving a police officer as was Councilor Doris Minton-McNeill. Councilor Paul Bateman is facing charges he misspent over $1 million of a nonprofit's money. Councilor Monroe Gray faced charges that he failed to disclose contracts his minority-owned business had with city entities. As Jarosz points out, in each of those cases, other councilors knew of the specific allegations against their fellow councilor.

Frankly, I think it is an outrage that the Ballard administration won't disclose the nature of the investigation. This suggests to me that officials in the administration are going out of their way to protect Plowman, or they fear the investigation points to corruption or malfeasance within the administration. In any other major city in this country, an official would have clued reporters into what was taking place. How many times do you turn on the news and hear about details of charges against a school teacher at one of our public schools long before any criminal charges are brought, if they are brought at all? Plowman is a public official in two capacities. We have the right to know why he wouldn't answer questions posed to him by the FBI. He and the Ballard administration only raise further suspicions in the public's mind when they choose to stonewall on this matter. Let me remind people that this problem wouldn't exist at all if public employees of the city-county were barred from serving on the council as our state constitution mandates.


I know said...

What else is new about this and official mis-conduct in Indiana?

White collar and public corruption in Indiana is just as strong a gangland as Chicago and Illinois.

State government is just as corrupt as the City and their friends.

artfuggins said...

Maybe this explains why Councilor Bateman is supporting Ron Gibson for mayor. According to your posting, they have something in common.

Had Enough Indy? said...

I can see both sides of this debate - but not for much longer. I don't know if it involves the FBI or 'just' IMPD - but they need to go full out with their investigation.

If Plowman got caught up in the Durham scandal, then we might have a very long wait.

Meanwhile, with the Kent Smith seat vacant, Plowman's vote becomes even more critical to push through any Republican party measures. Lets hope there are no close votes until the Plowman intrigue is open to the public for at least cursory review.

Sean Shepard said...

I think it's fair for someone to arrange to be represented by counsel before they are to be questioned by authorities.

In fact, my advice to anyone is NEVER, EVER, EVER do so without representation of counsel.

Is the mention of the Ballard administration just speculation or is there reason to believe a lone councilor being questioned in this case (or possibly dragged into something as part of a broader probe) is now connected with some other over-arching cover up conspiracy?

I know there are criticisms to be had of the Ballard administration (no more so than the Peterson though - perhaps fewer actually but the disappointment factor is higher for those on the same political side of the spectrum) but with what we know so far it seems a stretch to try and insinuate a connection here.

I haven't seen anything yet in this case that has outraged me. But, as AI rightly points out, we don't know much officially.

Now, the council's voting record of the past year ... that's another story. THAT was an outrage. ;-)

varangianguard said...

Here's my opinion.

I can hardly imagine a Councilman and police major not having some kind of personal lawyer.

Quick-hiring a lawyer with Mr. Voyles' reputation insinuates that where there is smoke, there is fire. And, Mr. Voyles seemingly is known for being able to deflect, deter and run interference with the best of them.

Saying he has done nothing illegal, doesn't necessarily cover anything shady, unethical or improper. Of course, around here there is plenty of that to go around without being charged with anything.

Marycatherine Barton said...

Councilor Plowman, please either disclose to the citizens of Marion County, the nature of the ongoing criminal investigation of you, or step down, until it is completed.

Carlos F. Lam said...

Gary, I have to disagree with the idea that the reason for the investigation should be disclosed.

First, Plowman has a right to be judged by a jury of his peers if his case goes to trial, and any disclosure may taint that process. Yes, I know that in a republican form of gov't the people have a right to know what's up with their public officials, but the right to a fair trial -- when the accused faces the deprivation of liberty -- is more important, particularly since the details can come out after the trial, etc.

Second, as a prosecutor, I can already see Jim Voyles arguing to a jury, "From the first minute, the gov't focused in on Lincoln! They didn't look around to see what was really going on; they wanted to 'get him' come hell or high water! They even leaked news about their investigation to make the people turn against him!" That type of argument is tough to refute in a corruption case. The gov't is simultaneously attempting to prove that one gov't official (the defendant) is corrupt and that other ones (the investigators) are not.

Gary R. Welsh said...

Let's not forget what Ballard did as one of his first acts of reorganizing IMPD after the council gave him control of it. He promoted Plowman to Major and put him in charge of Investigations. A few months later, Ballard removed Plowman from that position without any public comment. The media should have been asking questions then but it wasn't. Also, Plowman is no stranger to internal investigations. He was in charge of that area when Jack Cottey was sheriff.