Monday, May 31, 2010

What Passes For A Celebrity These Days

I feel for any parent trying to raise a child in today's society with the people deemed celebrities by the media. Throughout this weekend, there has been a smelly load of news coverage by the Star and the local TV stations of Kim Kardashian's participation in the Indianapolis 500 festivities this weekend. Kardashian is famous for making a XXX home video with her former boyfriend, Ray J, a wannabe R&B singer, which myteriously fell into the hands of Vivid Entertainment and instantly shot across the Internet for the viewing pleasure of voyeurs worldwide. The "unauthorized" publication of the video won her a cool $5 million. Her sex video helped launch the reality show she does with her sisters, mother and step-father, former Olympic star Bruce Jenner, who has to be the poorest excuse for a step-father to ever walk the face of the earth, and who looks even creepier than Michael Jackson looked after having so much plastic surgery work on his face.

The other night I was channel surfing when I came upon one of the "serious news shows" having a sit-down interview with Kim and her mommy. The mommy talked about how proud she was of her daughter and the success she's enjoining from many new business ventures. It seems your daughters are snapping up perfume and other products bearing her name in hopes of being just like Kim. The interviewer, referencing the sex tape, asked mommy if she didn't have a problem with some of the attention her daughter had gotten. Without batting an eye, mommy said she and her daughters were good at making lemonade out of lemons. The sex tape led to an opportunity to do a spread for Playboy, a deal which mommy proudly said she landed for her daughter and which paid very well. The interviewer wondered what her late father, Robert Kadashian, would think of all of this. He would be so proud mommy Kardashian said because Kim and her daughters were such successful entrepreneurs.

The father, you may recall, was one of O.J. Simpson's best friends who had a law degree but hadn't practiced law for several years and had allowed his law license to lapse when O.J. decided to slay his ex-wife, Nicole, and a helpful male friend who he mistook as a new lover with a knife. Daddy Kardashian carried away the garment bag that O.J. had taken with him on his last-minute trip to Chicago after the killings. Daddy decided to renew his law license and sat through the one-year trial of his best friend without actually doing any legal work other than to protect the confidentiality of any conversations he had with O.J. after the killings. Hey, it got his picture on TV every day if nothing else. When the dumbest jury ever assembled returned a not guilty verdict, nobody showed a look of disbelief more than Daddy Kardashian, who decided he no longer wanted to be O.J.'s best friend after he became a free man. He later died of throat cancer undoubtedly brought on by the guilt of holding back the truth. Would it be possible for the news media in this country just to pretend that Kim Kardashian and her ilk no longer exist?  

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Sorry Kids, We Don't Have Enough Money To Open Our Pools This Weekend

I mentioned in one of my posts earlier this week a decison by the Ballard administration to open only one-third of IndyPark pools this weekend in order to save money. Since taking office, Ballard has slashed the park's budget, permanently closed two pools, shortened the season for the remaining fifteen pools and reduced the days of operation of other pools. The cuts impact working middle class and economically-disadvantaged families disproportionately, who don't have a pool in their back yard or a membership at a club to keep their children cool and entertained during the summer months. The Star's Jason Thomas has a story on the cuts today:

Only a third of Indianapolis' 15 outdoor pools will open today, as part of a cost-saving strategy of the Indy Parks aquatics department. The remainder open June 5.

Citywide budget cuts also mean that eight pools will close one day during the week and six will end the season Aug. 1 -- one week earlier than in previous years . . .

Staggering the openings has altered the time-honored tradition of visiting the pool on Memorial Day weekend at some locations and has upset neighborhood residents who will have to wait a week before taking a swim.

"We didn't know we were outcasts," said Jerry Thomas, 39, who enjoyed the shade of a shelter on Tuesday at Douglass Park on the Eastside, one of the facilities that will open June 5 and be closed on Mondays. "Who are you singling out?"

Despite the cuts, parks officials touted $6.5 million in improvements and upgrades over the past year as evidence of the city's commitment to aquatic centers.
IndyParks Foundation and not the City's budget made possible the improvements and upgrades to some city pools. The administration angered residents last year when they scheduled the renovations during the summer months so that the parks department could save money by not having to operate them for a whole year. With the shortened season, many pools will be open this summer less than 60 days, with most opening on June 5 and some closing as early as August 1. While average folks sweat out this long, hot Memorial Day weekend with their restless kids, Mayor Ballard will be attending swank parties attended by out-of-town celebrities and grazing at the buffet table at his suite during the running of the Indianapolis 500. He wouldn't have it any other way.

It could not be more clear that the Ballard administration doesn't give a damn about the City's parks and pools. The only reason Ballard made the improvements to the pools at all is because they were leaking so damn much water every year. The leaks may be plugged, but your water and sewer bills are going to continue going through the roof, in part so Ballard can reward the fat cat contractors who put more than $1 million in his campaign coffers with transportation contracts as a result of his so-called sale of the water and sewer utilities. Civic leaders with warped perspectives call him a visionary for doing this when it's really just more credit card financing.

I have a suggestion for the Mayor. Why doesn't he just let John Bales and his cronies sell off the parks and redevelop the land into a better use so he'll have more money to spend on his precious professional sports teams and downtown improvements to impress Super Bowl attendees as much as possible in 2012 and more money to spend on his overseas junkets for him and his wife? For a guy that claims to be proud of the fact that he grew up in a working class family on the City's eastside, he sure has a lot of contempt for average folks in this town.

Friday, May 28, 2010

IMPD Officer Set Fire To Indy Chicken Limo?

An Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department officer arrested yesterday for setting fire to an apartment complex is now suspected of setting nine fires in his police district. Officer Jesse Russell, Jr., who resigned from the police force after his arrest, is suspected of setting fire to the Indy Chicken Limo. Observant readers will recall that the car's owner and his Indy Chicken costume became a fixture during the successful Bart Lies campaign to unseat former Mayor Bart Peterson during the 2007 mayoral election. This blogger wonders when the limo owner doesn't come to the realization that Greg lies too.

Obama Investigates Self; Concludes No Wrongdoing

Imagine Democrats accepting a self-investigating report from a Republican president about potential criminal wrongdoing by the president or his staff. That is exactly what President Barack Obama's administration is asking you to do with the release of its report on the allegation made by U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA) that the Obama White House had offered him a federal job in exchange for dropping his bid against turncoat Sen. Arlen Specter in the Pennsylvania primary this month. The White House report says the alleged offer of U.S. Navy Secretary would have had to occur after the President had already nominated Ray Mabus to the post. The report relies on the fact that Specter switched parties a month after the Mabus appointment was made; however, that assumption is based on the White House not having prior knowledge of Specter's intent to switch parties.

The report acknowledges that federal positions were discussed with Rep. Sestak in consideration to "avoid a divisive Senate primary." It insists, however, that all of the positions discussed with Sestak were merely uncompensated advisory positions that would have allowed him to remain in his House seat. This is where the report gets really funny. The White House enlisted former President Bill Clinton "to raise with Congressman Sestak options of service on Presidential  or other Senior Executive Branch Advisory Board" at the instigation of Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel. Shades of Rod Blagojevich trying to sell Obama's senate seat for a position in the administration? Congressman Sestak rebuffed the overtures made by Clinton according to the report. Observant readers may recall that Clinton, during the height of the Monica Lewinsky scandal, enlisted then U.N. Ambassador Bill Richardson to extend a job offer to Lewinsky at the U.N. in order to silence her and convince her not to cooperate with the Independent Counsel's investigation, which ultimately led to a recommendation of impeachment by the U.S. House of Representatives.

Don't hold your breath waiting for Democrats to investigate the allegations made by their own U.S. Senate candidate. There will be no need for a special prosecutor. We'll just be told it's time to move along, there's nothing to see here. More important matters require our attention. And don't you just love how the administration conveniently releases the report on the Friday afternoon before Memorial Day weekend, hoping that many reporters have already started their vacation weekend and will have forgotten the whole matter by the time they return to work next week?

New Attorney Disciplinary Commission Executive Secretary Takes Little Hatch Act Seriously

The new incoming Executive Secretary of the Attorney Disciplinary Commission, Michael Witte, is facing a complaint filed with his new employer for pointing out at a recent public meeting that two Dearborn County employees are violating the Little Hatch Act before he even starts his new job. The complaint is made by Dearborn County Commissioner Jeff Hughes against Witte, who serves as the county's attorney. Here's what a press release put out by Hughes says:
Dearborn County Commissioner Jeff Hughes announced today that he is "deeply troubled" that County Attorney, G. Michael Witte accused two county employees of violating the Hatch Act.

"It appears that our Attorney acted completely on his own and without the authorization of his client, the Dearborn County Board of Commissioners. I feel that he may not have done an adequate job researching the issue before he acted on it," Hughes stated.

In a public meeting on May 17, 2010, Witte accused two county employees, Bryan Messmore, Victim Advocate Coordinator of the Dearborn-Ohio County prosecutor's Office and Detective Shane McHenry of the Dearborn County Sheriff's Department of violating the Hatch Act.

"I am bringing this issue forward because of my concern and the concerns expressed by the citizens of Dearborn County regarding our attorney's conduct. I heard this issue was even brought forward by several members of county Council at its May 25, 2010 meeting," Hughes continued.

Hughes further stated that he "believes Mr. Witte may have possibly engaged in behavior that is within the jurisdiction of the Disciplinary Commission of the Supreme Court. I have requested an investigation to be conducted by the Disciplinary Commission and understand that any final determination is up to the Supreme Court."
According to the Indiana Law Blog, a May 10th press release from the Indiana Supreme Court announced Witte's appointment as the Disciplinary Commission's Executive Secretary. Witte, the first Asian-American to serve as a judge in Indiana, served as a superior court judge in Dearborn County for 23 years before becoming the county's attorney. His new job begins in mid-June. I'm assuming that he had not yet stepped down as the county's attorney when he raised his concerns about the possible Little Hatch Act violations. Hughes believes Witte owed a higher duty to the county commissioners, who apparently wanted Witte to keep his powder dry on the possible violations of the Little Hatch Act by the two employees.

The Little Hatch Act prohibits certain state and local employees whose jobs are funded in whole or in part with federal funds from engaging in partisan politics, which includes becoming a candidate for a partisan office. The City of Terre Haute endured lengthy litigation that went all the way to the Supreme Court in its last municipal election after the losing candidate belatedly raised a Little Hatch Act problem. If these two employees are on the November ballot, it would be extremely important that the issue of their qualification be determined sooner rather than later. Although the Little Hatch Act is a federal law, its prohibition is incorporated into Indiana's election statute for qualfications of candidates for state and local offices.

In the past, I've pointed out how a number of City-County Councilors in Marion County have flaunted the Little Hatch Act without consequence. As many as one-third of our current council is comprised of state and local government employees, although not all of those councilors have jobs funded in whole or in part with federal funds. I applaud Witte for taking the law seriously. Afer all, as attorneys, we take an oath to serve as officers of the court. We aren't suppose to condone violationing the law, even if that's what our client wants to do. A few years back, my City-County Councilor, Patrice Abduallah, had to resign his seat and drop his bid for re-election on the council after I disclosed on this blog that he did not live in his district. Later, I learned that Marion Co. Clerk Beth White knew when he filed his candidacy for re-election that he didn't live in his district because his statement of candidacy listed an address outside his district. Nonetheless, White kept quiet and allowed Abduallah to continue serving as an electd councilor and to seek re-election. White is also an attorney. As an officer of the court, not to mention the oath she took to faithfully administer her office, she owed a duty to the public to disclose Abduallah's violation of the law. She said it wasn't her job to raise the issue; rather, someone else had to file a complaint. I'll take public servants who think like Witte over White any day.

UPDATE: The Indiana Legislative Insight is also reporting today that Witte also notified the Office of Special Counsel with the Justice Department of the possible violations. Quoting from Witte's letter to the OSC, the newsletter writes:

In my capacity as County Attorney for the Dearborn County Board of Commissioners, and on their behalf, I must advise you that Dearborn County, Indiana might be out of compliance with several federal grant contracts of which we are the recipient. Specifically, I believe we are non-compliant with the Hatch Act provisions of several grants. It is the intent of this self-reporting letter to notify you of our internal review and to let your office act accordingly.
The letter went on to detail those concerns according to ILI.

UPDATE II: Eagle Country 99.3 FM in Dearborn County has more on the story. That story reads in part:

County Attorney Mike Witte shocked everybody at the Dearborn County Commissioners meeting on Monday, saying that Republican county commissioner candidate Shane McHenry may be in violation of the Hatch Act of 1939. McHenry is a detective with the Dearborn County Sheriff's Office, but works under the Dearborn County Special Crimes Unit which receives federal funding.

Bryan Messmore, a county councilman who works with the Dearborn County Prosecutor's Office as a victim advocate coordinator, was a second name listed in a letter Witte submitted to the U.S. Office of Special Counsel on Monday.

That federal office's Hatch Act Unit may deliver an opinion once the matter has been investigated.
This story includes the full text of Witte's letter to the OSC, which reads as follows:

Ms. Carolyn S. Martorana

Attorney, Hatch Act Unit
U.S. Office of Special Counsel
1730 M Street, N.W. Suite 218
Washington, D.C. 20036

Re: Request for Hatch Act inquiry or advisory opinion

Dear Ms. Martorana:

In my capacity as County Attorney for the Dearborn County Board of Commissioners, and on their behalf, I must advise you that Dearborn County, Indiana might be out of compliance with several federal grant contracts of which we are the recipient. Specifically, I believe we are non-compliant with the Hatch Act provisions of several grants. It is the intent of this self-reporting letter to notify you of our internal review and to let your office act accordingly. I understand that the act of questioning election candidacies does not rest within our authority, but rather with the Office of Special Counsel and the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board, or with our state election board and judicial review process.

The purported non-compliance scenarios are outlined below. I ask for the Office of Special Counsel to conduct inquiries and/or issue advisory opinions.

I. Victims of Crime Act (VOCA), Grant #09VA023, $80,116.00

Recipient: Dearborn County Government
Beneficiary: Dearborn-Ohio Counties Prosecutor's Office
Hatch Act Employee: Bryan Messmore, Dearborn-Ohio Counties Prosecutor Victim Advocate Coordinator and Dearborn County Council member

Mr. Messmore's salary and benefits totaling $50,988.0 are funded by a VOCA grant awarded through the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute. In late 2009 or early 2010 Mr. Messmore was elected to the Dearborn County Council through a special election. The election was by a caucus of the Republican Party Central Committee to fill a mid-term vacancy caused by an incumbent councilman resigning his office. Mr. Messmore competed in a contested election with at least two other candidates, a Mr. Schmitts and a Mr. Baker.

During this election process, Mr. Messmore was a full-time employee of the Dearborn County Prosecutor's Office whose salary was funded by a federal grant. Mr. Messmore continues to serve the dual role of councilman and Victim Advocate Coordinator under VOCA funding. He is a local officer or employee whose principal employment is in connection with an activity which is financed in whole or in part by loans or grants made by the United States or Federal agency.

II. 2009 Recovery Act JAG Subgrantee, Grant #09-JRA-005, $174,673.00

2009 Recovery Act Edward Byrne JAG, Award #2009-SB-B9-0261, $57,951.00
2009 Edward Byrne JAG , Application #2009-H1473-DJ, $14,372.00
Recipient: Dearborn County Government
Beneficiary: Dearborn-Ohio Counties Prosecutor's Office Special Crimes Unit
Hatch Act Employee: Shane McHenry, Detective for Dearborn-Ohio Counties Prosecutor's Office Special Crimes Unit

In January of 2006, the Dearborn-Ohio Counties Prosecutor's Office in conjunction with the Dearborn County Sheriff's Department, the Lawrenceburg Police Department, and the Aurora Police Department formed a multi-jurisdictional task force to address serious felony crimes in Dearborn County, Indiana. Operating under the name of the Dearborn County Special Crimes Unit (SCU), it is comprised of three detectives from the Dearborn County Sheriff's Department, one detective from the Lawrenceburg Police Department, one detective from the Aurora Police Department, and two investigators from the Dearborn-Ohio Counties Prosecutor's Office.

Detective Shane McHenry is one of the three detectives of the Dearborn County Sheriff's Department assigned to this SCU. Although his pay is routed through the Sheriff's Department, he is assigned to the SCU and is viewed by many as the lead detective for the unit.

Mr. McHenry was a candidate in the May 4, 2010 Republican primary election for the office of Dearborn County Commissioner. Mr. McHenry won the election over two other candidates, a Mr. Thompson and a Mr. Rowland. He is now the Republican candidate for County Commissioner in the fall election. During this election process, Mr. McHenry was a full-time employee of the Dearborn County Sheriff's Office assigned to the SCU which was funded by at least $246,996.00 in federal grant money. Mr. McHenry continues to work for the SCU and act as the Republican candidate for County Commissioner for the November 2, 2010 general election. His campaign material referenced himself as a "Detective for ... Special Crimes Unit". He is a local officer or employee whose principal employment is in connection with an activity which is financed in whole or in part by loans or grants made by the United States or Federal agency.

After June 18, my contact information will change to the following:

G. Michael Witte, Executive Secretary
Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission
30 South Meridian Street, Suite 850
Indianapolis, IN 46204

I will no longer be serving as Dearborn County Attorney, but I will be available for any discussion on these issues if necessary. Attached to this letter is contact information if needed. Thank you for your attention to this matter.


G. Michael Witte
Dearborn County Attorney

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Ballard Solution For IndyGo: Borrow From Peter To Pay Paul

If I didn't know better, I would think Greg Ballard is really former Mayor Bart Peterson. Ballard has come up with another budget gimmick to put out the fire brewing among users of the IndyGo public bus system after his administration proposed route cuts, para transit cuts and fare increases to fill a budget hole of more than $3 million. A press release explains Ballard's plan to borrow from Peter to pay Paul:

The proposed short-term solution leverages existing dollars from a number of sources, including IndyGo’s existing general operating balance, the rebalancing of IndyGo’s revenues in 2011 between operating and capital, the use of a $5 million line of credit, and other IndyGo reserves. The stop-gap measure would be used to prevent fare increases and route terminations through 2011.
A stop-gap measure to avoid cuts through 2011. In other words, we're not going to deal with this problem until after the next election. Ballard told the media he thinks that a regional approach is needed as a long-term solution. In other words, he wants the taxpayers in the surrounding counties to join Marion County in paying a new tax to fund a regional transportation system. It's the Chicago Way.

Ballard recently announced an unspecified plan to plug a hole in the library board's budget to prevent the closure of six branches, largely in economically-challenged communities. Ballard's administration has gotten an earful lately from a disconcerted public which is wondering why Ballard is doing back flips to find the money for a $15 million a year subsidy for the billionaire Simons and their Indiana Pacers while basic services are being cut. Ballard is simply trying to tamp down the firestorms at IndyGo and the library through next year's election with these band-aids so he can do what he really wants to do and give more money to the Pacers. He recently announced a $10 million plan to turn Georgia Street downtown into an entertainment area as part of the City's preparations for hosting the 2012 Super Bowl using federal funds. So much for Ballard's promise not to use taxpayer dollars on the Super Bowl. If someone could explain to me the difference between Ballard's policies and Peterson's policies, please do so. Had enough, Indy?

UPDATE: Here's another observation about our Mayor's priorities. It's Memorial Day Weekend but only one-third of the City's pools will be opening. The remainder will open in June. Ballard decided to permanently close two pools. And while his parks department made some much-needed improvements to other pools, the City last year made those renovations during an already shortened summer season of operation in order to avoid opening them to save additional money. It truly reflects the low priority he gives to common people in comparison to the always first-served billionaire sports team owners and their sports palaces.

Indiana's Job Claims Are A Fraud

Many of the business expansions the administration of Gov. Mitch Daniels has funded with state dollars through the Indiana Economic Development Corporation sit empty after much fanfare when they were originally announced. Do you want to know the specifics on how your tax dollars were spent? That information is strictly off limits according to the Daniels administration. Those were some of the findings of an investigative report by WTHR's Bob Segal that aired last night. Frustrated by months of stonewalling on open records law requests, Segal confronted Daniels not once but twice about the requests. The second time Daniels stormed out of the room without responding. As Segal's report discovered, the reason the administration is keeping the public information secret is because the job claims being made by the IEDC--over 100,000 jobs created--are simply not true.

A former member of Daniels' Office of Management and Budget is blowing the whistle on the fraudulent job claims of IEDC. Tad DeHaven served as Deputy Director of OMB's Government Efficiency and Planning Office. DeHaven told Segal that the administration's secrecy claims to the public records is specious. "I can tell you if they have the numbers and they were good, you'd have them by now," said Tad DeHaven. "If they don't the numbers, it means either they're bad or they don't have them," he continued "IEDC was one of those programs we consistently laughed at because we knew that their numbers were ‘wave their magic wand and, poof, up they came,'" he said. "No one in their right mind would have believed the numbers coming out of IEDC because these state agencies would just submit whatever numbers they wanted to: real, fake...who knew? We didn't audit it, and whenever we'd suggest an independent auditing process, it was always shot down."

Mitch Roob, the guy who handed the failed multi-million dollar contract to his former employer to manage the state's welfare programs while serving as Secretary of FSSA in the Daniels administration, wants you to believe him when he says 87% of the jobs are on track, even if he can't release the specific details. Segal's investigation suggests the actual percentage is below 60%. Roob conceded that his agency had no way of tracking whether all of the business firms awarded state incentives actually produced the jobs promised. Although Segal's investigation found that every other state and city that he contacted made this kind of information available to the public, Roob insists the information must remain confidential under Indiana law. "That's not a mistake," Roob said. "That is a competitive weapon that companies believe can be used against them by their competitors."

What is particularly embarrassing about Roob's claim is that his counterpart agency in Illinois, the Department of Commerce and Community Affairs, makes all of this information public. Roob served as a member of former Gov. James Thompson's administration before moving to Indiana. DCCA Director Warren Ribley was puzzled by Roob's claims. "I don't understand that philosophy, particularly if a state is using public funds and state tax dollars to pay the bill for those new jobs," Ribley said in response to Segal's inquiry. "We need to hold [companies] accountable to make sure they do create those jobs, and the public also has the right to hold us accountable" said Ribley, adding that publicly releasing corporate job numbers has not discouraged companies from bringing jobs to Illinois. "We've never had a single company express concern or raise the fact that they did not want to choose Illinois because they were going to have to report that information," he said. In the case of Illinois, they provide to the public the number of jobs promised, the actual number of jobs produced and the wages paid on those jobs, among other information.

If Gov. Daniels is planning to run for president, he had some moments in Segal's report that could come back to haunt him and don't bode well for the scrutiny presidential candidates often face. He reacted angrily when Segal first asked him about his own report's finding that less than 60% of the jobs claimed to have been produced never materialized. "You seem to have a blindingly clear view of what is perfectly obvious," the governor said of the Eyewitness News investigation. "In a recession, a lot of businesses have to change their plans." Daniels directed Segal to attend an IEDC board meeting if he wanted the specific information he requested, which are open to the public. So Segal took him up on his offer and this was what transpired:

WTHR attended IEDC's spring board meeting, where board members reviewed charts and graphs showing summary job information. But despite the governor's invitation, the board offered no job realization numbers to support specific job commitments previously promoted by Daniels and the IEDC. So after the meeting, WTHR again asked the governor to provide that information and, this time, he simply walked out.

IEDC director Mitch Roob explained the governor and IEDC will not release Indiana's detailed job numbers to anyone. While the state uses Hoosier tax dollars to help attract new jobs, Hoosier tax payers do not get to see what they're paying for.

"We don't share it with the public. We don't release it to the news media. That's confidential information," Roob said.
Political advisers to Daniels must have cringed after watching Segal's report last night. I'm sure Democratic operatives are storing away the video footage from this investigative report, particularly the part where Daniels stormed out of the room to avoid Segal's questioning. Nationally, Republicans should be having second thoughts about what kind of a candidate this guy would make. Daniels showed poor form this past week when he cancelled his own health insurance plan he muscled through the legislature a few years back, which he funded with a cigarette tax increase, blaming its demise on Obama's health insurance reform, even though it doesn't take effect fully for another three to four years. While some pundits in this state and elsewhere have played up Daniels' chances of winning the 2012 GOP presidential nomination if he chooses to run, you won't find me among those pundits. People forget that Daniels was arrested for drug dealing when he was a student at Princeton while other brave American soldiers were getting killed and wounded in Vietnam. That may be a badge of honor for a Democratic candidate, but Republican voters are far less forgiving on such transgressions. While the Indiana media may have ignored his drug arrest at Princeton during his previous gubernatorial campaigns, Republican Party voters nationally won't once that case is put under a microscope. You can bet his opponents won't let that one slip by.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Will Congress Investigate Barry's Second Attempt To Buy A Senate Seat?

One of the grounds for impeachment of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich and his pending public corruption trial in Chicago is his attempt to sell the Senate seat vacated by Barack Obama. One of Blago's ideas was to land a new job in the Obama administration, perhaps Secretary of Health & Human Services. There was strong evidence that pointed to the involvement of Obama's Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel, and other Obama aides, in that sorted mess, who were helping lead Obama's transition team in Chicago at the time.

The winner of the Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate seat in Pennsylvania, U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak, affirmatively states that the White House earlier this year attempted to cajole him into dropping his primary bid against turncoat Sen. Arlen Specter in consideration for a job in the Obama administration. Sestak won't say who offered him the job, but conventional wisdom suggests such an offer would not have been extended without Emanuel's and Obama's approval.

Emanual and Obama were tied at the hip during Blago's first run for governor. The two met regularly to plot and plan out Blago's campaign. Many friends of Obama were later rewarded with jobs and appointments made by Blago, as well as lucrative state contracts. So what are the chances the Democratic-controlled Congress will investigate this impeachable offense? And where are all those great legal scholars on the Left crying out for justice at the highest levels of our government when public duty calls? Hear the sound of crickets?

Firm Tied To Past Public Corruption Case Will Manage Ballard's Pave-And-Sidewalks-For-Votes Scam

Mayor Greg Ballard's plan to borrow and spend $425 million on street and sidewalk improvements to buy votes ahead of next year's election, for which you will pay through higher sewer and water rates, has a manager. The IBJ reports on American Structurepoint landing this deal:

American Structurepoint has been tapped by the Indianapolis Department of Public Works as program manager for the city’s “RebuildIndy” infrastructure-improvement initiative.

RebuildIndy is the formal name of the massive infrastructure improvements Mayor Greg Ballard wants to make with $425 million in expected proceeds from selling the city’s water and sewer utilities to Citizens Energy Group.
Observant readers of this blog will recall that this is the firm formerly known as American Consulting Engineers ("ACE"). The firm's two owners, James Wurster and Willis Conner, were indicted by former Prosecutor Scott Newman in connection with an alleged bribery case involving former State Rep. Sam Turpin, who chaired the House Ways & Means Committee at the time. Newman's case fell apart when the Court of Appeals threw out the original charges against Turpin, who pleaded guilty to a lesser charge. The charges against Wurster and Conner had to be dropped, but the two haven't ended their influence peddling ways. They are among many contractors associated with the construction industry who have made large contributions to Mayor Ballard's re-election committee and have been dutifully rewarded with city contracts.You see how it works? Pay To Play is the Ballard way.

Incidentally, American Structurepoint is the same firm the City of Carmel has been using to manage its roundabout projects, the costs of which have come in way over budget.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

GOP Sets Caucus In Third District Race

Third District Republican precinct committepersons will meet on June 12th in Columbia City to nominate the party's candidate for both the special election and November general election ballot to replace U.S. Rep. Mark Souder, who resigned after admitting to having an affair with a female member of his staff. Fort Wayne City Councilor Mitch Harper is calling on the Allen Co. GOP to make its list of committeepersons available to the public at his blog, Fort Wayne Observed. "You would think the names of the precinct committeepersons would be public information available through the Election Board," he writes. "That used to be the case but is not the case now." He laments about a state law that permits the parties to keep the lists private and says he recently sought a change in the party's by-laws to make the list public. He says that some opposed his proposal because they didn't want to be contacted by the public, and because some law enforcement officers didn't want it known that they serve as precinct committeepersons.  Huh? As Marion County has had its share of caucuses in recent years, I can attest to candidate complaints that the respective parties provided them with outdated and inaccurate lists when the county chairman favored another candidate over them. Nobody really knew whether the people who presented themselves as PCs were actually PCs. At a GOP caucus a few years ago, people complained about PCs with out-of-state license plates showing up to vote.

Justice Ted Boehm To Retire

Indiana Supreme Court Justice Theodore Boehm will be retiring from the court after fourteen years of service effective September 30, 2010 according to a press released issued by the court today. Former Gov. Evan Bayh appointed Boehm to the court during his second term. This will become the first vacancy on the high court that Gov. Mitch Daniels will fill. Any speculation on possible appointments? A seven-member judicial nominating commission will recommend three candidates to the governor from which he will make a final selection. The commission is chaired by Chief Justice Randall Shepard, who was appointed to the court by former governor Robert Orr, a Republican. Click here for a list of the commission members. Expect there to be pressure on the Governor to appoint a woman to the court. There are no women on the current 5-member court.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Brian Williams Is The Only Politician Who Gets It On Utility Transfer

Democratic mayoral candidate Brian Williams is one of the last politicians I thought I would find myself applauding, but when it comes to the proposed transfer of the utilities to Citizens Energy, he is far and away the only politician in Indianapolis who gets it. He was the first to point up the inflated numbers Mayor Ballard repeatedly stated when selling the deal to the public. He was the first to point up that cash payments being made to the City of Indianapolis would result in higher water rates because Citizens Energy planned to borrow all of the money. He was the first to raise questions about additional borrowing by the City associated with the plan to pay for infrastructure improvements using PILOT revenues paid by the utility. He was the first to raise questions about the unspecified liabilities the City is agreeing to assume, which could reach into the billions in a worst case scenario. He was the first to disclose the exorbitant professional fees the City is shelling out to make this deal go through, which includes a $10,000 a month fee to the public relations firm that recently hired Mayor Greg Ballard's son. And he now has even more to say about the insanity of a deal that will have potentially longer-term negative consequences than any act a mayor of this city has taken in modern history.

Unlike the Mayor, City-County Councilors, the usual suspects from the civic community and the editors of the Star and IBJ, Williams made exhaustive public records request to the City seeking more information on the deal before publicly endorsing any particular plan. Those documents reveal some extremely troubling issues that have not been discussed in the plethora of staged dog-and-pony shows put on by Mayor Ballard's administration. In particular, the proposed transfer of the utilities relies on a study prepared by Citigroup, which is being paid $6.75 million to conduct this transaction, makes some highly questionable assumptions. A press release from Williams' campaign details the following, obviously-flawed assumptions being made by the Ballard administration and Citizens Energy:

  • An immediate and sustained 15% decrease in operating costs
  • An immediate and sustained 5% decrease in capital costs
  • A household growth rate from 2010 to 2020 double that of from 2000 to 2010
  • Residential water use as a proportion of total use 20% higher than the City's estimates
As I've previously discussed, I don't see how Citizens Energy will be able to achieve the cost savings it says it can achieve from the combined operation of the gas, water and sewer utilities. Mayor Ballard has proposed saddling the newly-combined utility with the inefficient and one-sided agreements with Veolia and United Water. This extra layer of management will pose the same problems the City struggled with over the last several years. Under this management team, water rates have increased 100% and sewer rates are climbing at even higher rates to comply with a federal consent decree for the CSO. The IURC has been highly critical of the Veolia agreement and admonished the Ballard administration to renegotiate it. Instead of doing that, the Ballard administration wants to pass the problem on to Citizens in hopes of gaining access to hundreds of millions of dollars to fund pork barrel projects ahead of next year's election.

"Citizens CEO Carey Lykins has suggested that any loss in work force would come through attrition, but an immediate 15% drop in operating costs cannot be achieved in such a manner. Lykins has suggested by combining the gas and water utilities capital costs can be lowered by increased bargaining power," Williams said. "However, because gas utilities require far fewer capital expenditures it is unclear how this modest increase in capital projects will create the substantial discount assumed," he continued. 

One of the questions I wanted to pose to Citizens Energy during their recent meeting with area bloggers was what growth assumptions were assumed between now and 2025. Unfortunately, we ran out of time before I could pose that question. Williams got some answers and they are dubious to say the least. The City and Citizens base this deal on the assumption that the number of households will grow at double the rate over the next 10 years that the number grew over the past decade. It also assumes 20% higher residential use as a proportion of total water consumption than the City's current estimates.

While Indianapolis experienced some population growth during the past decade after years of declining population, the prospect for sustaining that level of growth, let alone double that growth rate, is simply wishful thinking. People continue to move into the fast-growing suburban counties that ring Marion County, and large industrial customers continue to go out of business at an alarming rate. The fewer people and businesses that consume water and produce sewage, the larger the customers' bills must increase to meet the costs of operating these utilities. Water rates are already projected to climb another 100% and sewer rates are expected to increase another 300% during the coming years. Commenting on the residential use assumptions, Williams said, "This is an important figure as residential water rate are substantially higher than commercial and industrial rates." "If residential usage rises relative to commercial and industrial, the income per unit for the water provided increases thus lowering the need for increased rates."
Williams returns to the earlier point he made that the Ballard administration is relying on revenues from 30-year bonds funded by revenues generated from the transfer of the utilities to fund improvements with a relatively short life span. Citizens will issue 30-year bonds to fund the $263 million it will pay the City to pay for these infrastructure improvements. The City will issue another $140 million in 30-year bonds. Essentially, it's the equivalent of taking out a 30-year loan to purchase a new car. No banker in his right mind would make such a loan, and only a fool of a customer would obligate himself to repay a 30-year loan on a car that he won't even be driving in 10 years.
I think the Indianapolis community owes a great deal of gratitude to Williams for bringing these issues to light. At the end of the day, however, I don't think it will make any difference. There are no people sitting at the table deciding these matters who have the common sense or the will to do what's in the public interest. Williams likely won't win the Democratic nomination for mayor. Democratic leaders have already decided they want Melina Kennedy, who stumbled badly on the experience issue in her run for prosecutor four years ago, despite their public misgivings about this proposed transfer of the utilities. She can't even say anything publicly about this proposal because her law firm helped put the deal together for the Ballard administration and is being paid by taxpayers as much as $540 an hour to do the work. It really is sad that we simply don't have any honest and intelligent elected officials in this city to save us from jumping off this bridge. The City may survive this deal, but it might look a whole lot more like Detroit in a few years than the shining city on the hill our current elected officials blindly envision.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Leerkamp Defends Charges; Criticizes Delph Criticism

Hamilton Co. Prosecutor Sonia Leerkamp met with Star reporters yesterday and defended criticism that the misdemeanor charges she brought against four former Carmel High School basketball players accused of sexually assaulting a 14-year-old basketball player on a bus and in the school's locker room didn't match the crime. She also responded to Sen. Mike Delph's criticism of her for not bringing felony charges in the case. Delph is the only elected official in Hamilton Co. to criticize the handling of the case to date. The parents of one of the victims in the current case claims their son was held down, his pants were removed and he was anally penetrated on a team bus where 51 students and three coaches were riding at the time. The parents say their son was victimized not once but on several occasions by the same basketball players accused in this case.

Leekamp's response to criticsm sounded strikingly similar to her explanation to the Star a decade ago in another case where she brought no charges in a case this blog exclusively recalled where three swim team members at the school were accused of repeatedly sexually assaulting a 15-year-old swim team member in the school's locker room and showers. Leerkamp complained that witnesses, who she exclusively got to choose to testifify before a 6-person grand jury, gave conflicting testimony during the grand jury proceedings. "I'm not going to necessarily accuse any of the victims of not being credible witnesses," Leerkamp told The Star. "What I'm saying is, in the context of all the evidence, that is what has to be weighed." By not bringing the more serious charges of criminal deviate sexual conduct, criminal confinement and sexual battery, Leerkamp is saying that she doesn't believe the victim's claims just like she said she didn't believe the victim a decade ago, who she said suffered from "a learning disability." In the case a decade ago involving the 15-year-old swimmer, Leerkamp said then that the grand jury heard insufficient evidence to indict the accused. She said she thought the students were mean to the victim then because of his learning disability.

Joel Schumm, a clinical professor at the IU School of Law-Indianapolis, said Leerkamp's comments sounded more like one would expect to hear from a criminal defense attorney, not a prosecutor. The attorney for the victim is not surprised that some witnesses gave differing accounts. "These are star basketball players -- senior basketball players who had a lot of friends -- and they're going to try to protect them," Turner said. "My client is credible. He is a victim, and they've got to treat him like a victim."

Leerkamp also answered Sen. Mike Delph's criticism that she should have brought felony charges in the case. She told the Star's reporters that she had spent a day responding to e-mails and phone calls criticizing her decision. "She also said she was disappointed that Delph did not seek an explanation from her before posting his comment," the Star reported. "I had no agenda one way or the other on the outcome of the case," she said Saturday.

The reporters apparently never questioned Leerkamp about the similarities in this case to the one involving the swimmer a decade ago. There is no mention of the case in their interview reported in today's Star. I also learned some more information over the weekend that has troubled me in this case. I hadn't heard an explanation for why the four seniors, John Scott Laskowski, Brandon Hoge, Robert Kitzinger and Oscar Falodun, were riding on a freshman bus on the night the sexual assault allegedly occurred. A Carmelite informs me that when the bus made a stop at a rest area on the trip home from Terre Haute, the team's head basketball coach became very upset at how the four were acting and told them that if they wanted a ride home they would have to ride on the freshman bus. That account has not been confirmed by those who investigated the case, and I haven't heard any other news reports on that question. Also, I raised a concern about the size of the bus, whether the smaller or larger-sized bus had been used. According to the documents released to the media on Friday, there were 51 students on the bus, which means it had to be a larger-sized bus.

UPDATE: The Star's Robert Annis says reference to the 1998 case was supposed to be included in the story that ran Saturday. He wasn't sure why it wasn't. He said that he believed earlier stories mentioned it. I've been following it closely, and I didn't see any mention of the old case; however, sometimes the Star the newspaper's online editions vary from the print edition.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Carmel High School Cover-Up: It's Happened Before

History has a way of repeating itself up in Carmel. A little more than a decade ago, a student at Carmel High School claimed he was sexually assaulted by members of the school's swim team. The victim reported it to the team's swim coach, who did nothing. It was later learned that school officials violated state law by failing to report the sexual assault to the Department of Children Services. Marion Co. Prosecutor Leerkamp investigates but brings no charges in the case. The swim coach who failed to report the incident to the state's child welfare agency after learning of the incident gets off with a slap on the wrist. Sound familiar?

I have a pretty good memory, and I recalled the incident being reported in the news media when I was working in Carmel at the time. A fellow co-worker's son was a young swimmer at the school's middle school at the time and was very concerned about what she had heard had happened. Carmel's swim team has had a national reputation. A story in the Star the same year talked about the high school swim team having the U.S. Title in its sights. What I haven't been able to understand is why nobody in the local news media has a memory of this incident and has not reported on it. This morning, I decided to dig into the Star's online archive after the newspaper reported that a public records request dating back to 1999, the year the swim team assault occurred, had failed to turn up any relevant documents according to the school's attorney. Sure enough, there it was in black and white. And boy was that case's handling very similar to this one.

An archived story dated January 12, 2002 by Terry Horne reported on a federal lawsuit being filed against Carmel High School in which a former student and member of the school's swim team claimed that he had been sexually assaulted and battered in 1999. According to the lawsuit, the boy was 15 at the time the assault occurred. One of victims in the current case was 14 in the latest reported sexual assault by several Carmel High School basketball seniors that took place earlier this year. The victim was removed from the school and living in Tennessee at the time his lawsuit was filed. In the latest case, the parents of the victim removed him from the school. There were multiple incidents of the victim being attacked in 1999 just as the current victim claims. The incidents took place in the school's locker room and the shower area. The latest incidents occurred on the team's bus and the locker room. The Star's archived report provides no specific details on what took place during the sexual assaults. My recollection of what I heard at the time was that they involved anal penetration of the victim, just like what the current victim's parents said happened to him.

Are the similarities a little too much for comfort? Well, it gets worse. The victim says the sexual assaults were carried out by three teammates on the swim team and were witnessed by as many as ten other team members. After he reported it to the team's swim coach at the time, Tony Young, the coach did nothing. State law mandated at the time and to this date that school officials notify the state's child welfare agency whenever such incidents are reported to them. The victim suffered severe emotional trauma from the sexual assaults and sought treatment. A social worker at St. Vincent, who treated hm, reported what had happened to him to the Department of Children Services on May 28, 1999.

The Star reporter asked Hamilton Co. Prosecutor Sonia Leerkamp about the allegations made by the student at the time they became known publicly. Leerkamp said her office investigated and presented the evidence to a grand jury. The grand jury returned no indictments and she brought no charges on her own against the team players. "They felt there was insufficient evidence," Leerkamp told the Star reporter about the claims made by the victim. "She said the student who was assaulted had a learning disability that might have prompted the students to be mean [to him]."

Similarly, Leerkamp sent the current case against the basketball players to a grand jury. She claimed the grand jurors found insufficient evidence to bring sex-related charges against the basketball players and refused to provide any details of the allegations made by the victims, claiming reporters shouldn't put much stock in "rumor and innuendo." The parents of the victim said in a press conference earlier this week that they were speaking out publicly because of rumors of evidence she presented to the grand jury that suggested their son consented to having his anus penetrated. Unlike the 1999 case, Leerkamp has faced a torrent of media coverage and was unable to shove the case under the rug. She brought only battery and criminal recklessness charges against the four accused basketball players, crimes that are classified as misdemeanors and typically don't result in jail time if the defendants have no prior criminal records. The victim in the current case doesn't have "a learning disability" as Leerkamp describes it, but he is African-American. In the overwhelmingly white city of Carmel, some might argue that's an automatic disability.

It's unclear what disciplinary action, if any, was taken against the perpetrators in the 1999 case. The news story doesn't say whether they were also juveniles like the victim or adults. Although Leerkamp had closely guarded the identity of the perpetrators in the latest case up until they were formally charged, claiming they were juveniles, they were in fact all 18 or older. One of the charged in the current case, John Scott Laskowski, was actually 19 at the time the victim claimed the sexual assaults occurred. Coach Young was the only person charged in the 1999 incidents. Leerkamp charged him for failing to report the charges, a misdemeanor. Young did not serve time for the crime, and Leerkamp agreed to a diversion program that allowed his criminal charge to be removed from his record after he completed his probation. He only performed community service as part of his sentencing. You won't believe how Leerkamp explained his community service. "He took the whole situation very much to heart," Leerkamp told the Star. "His community service was trying to educate and raise awareness of school personnel of reporting requirements," she said. A lot of good that did, eh?

The Star's archives provide no information on the outcome of the victim's lawsuit. If I learn more, I will update you. The federal courts' PACER system has no record of the case any longer. I don't understand how the school's attorney could not have disclosed records of this case, particularly when a federal lawsuit had been filed against the school and a former coach criminally charged at the time. A tort claim lawsuit filed by the victim's attorney in the current case complains of "a lengthy history of sexual abuse and bullying by students" at Carmel High School. As to documents the school has released in this latest case, it redacted names of students and other information some experts think violates the state's open records law according to the Star's Robert Annis. "The lack of information coming from Carmel police and Hamilton County Prosecutor Sonia Leerkamp . . . . . has 'created an aura of mystery that's led to suspicions and concerns," Annis writes quoting Steven Key, an attorney for the Hoosier State Press Association. As to the 1999 case, the school's attorney's explanation makes a weak attempt at covering it.
"In a letter, school attorney [David] Day said Carmel Clay Schools 'does not categorize records in this manner, so this request would require research, not retrieval, and we do not believe CCS is required to do research in response to a request' under public records laws," Annis reports. Yeah, whatever.

Finally, can someone explain to me why the Star's reporters don't bother to look at their own archived stories? I realize they have a high turnover in staff as a result of Gannett's ownership, there have been many staff cuts and Dennis Ryerson has done a less than fabulous job managing the newspaper, but you would think they could take the time to perform a computer search that takes just a few minutes. Hell, I have to pay to access their archived stories, and I don't get paid to do my volunteer work.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Vaughn Once Registered As Venture Real Estate's Lobbyist

City-County Council President Ryan Vaughn makes a living as a full-time lobbyist for Barnes & Thornburg when he is not attending to his council duties. Advance Indiana has learned from a search of the Department of Administration's website for lobbying registration that Vaughn was registered in 2008 to lobby on behalf of John Bales' Venture Real Estate Services. This is the same firm that got a no-bid contract from the State of Indiana and the City of Indianapolis to broker real estate deals for the respective governmental entities. A quick check of the state's lobbyist registration database for executive branch agencies today shows that Vaughn's registration information for Venture Real Estate in 2008 has been scrubbed. When you attempt to access the registration information, the database returns a "No Results Found" reply. This comes in the wake of the FBI asking for documents related to the lease Venture Real Estate Services negotiated on behalf of the state for an office building owned by a company in Elkhart, Indiana for the Department of Children Services in which Marion Co. Prosecutor Carl Brizzi is a partner and co-owner with Paul Page. The Elkhart lease occurred during the same year Vaughn was once shown as a registered lobbyist for Venture Real Estate Services. Vaughn formerly worked for Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi. The state's lobbying database still lists current registrations for Barnes & Thornburg's Brian Burdick. In the past, both Joe Loftus and Robert Grand have been registered to lobby state government agencies on behalf of Bales' firm. Vaughn has insisted in the past that his lobbying activities in no way intersect with his City-County Council duties despite the fact that both Grand and Loftus, as well as other lawyers at the firm, do extensive legal work for the City and various county agencies. Is the missing lobbying registration information for Vaughn just a coincidence?

Democratic Councilors To Be Punished For Vote On Utility Transfer?

Apparently some Marion Co. Democrats are not at all happy with Jackie Nytes and Mary Moriarty Adams  for voting for Mayor Greg Ballard's plan to borrow and spend hundreds of millions of dollars for streets and sidewalks ala former East Chicago Mayor Robert Pastrick and his sidewalks-for-votes scheme and call it a cost-savings way of managing our public utilities. According to the Indianapolis Times blog, the pair may be stripped of their committee assignments, a move that would cut the double-dippers annual pay by a few thousand dollars. Both Nytes and Adams have government-funded jobs when they aren't working on council matters. Nytes is executive director of the Mapleton-Fall Creek Community Development Corporation, which receives its funding from government grants. Last year, she traded her vote in favor of Mayor Greg Ballard's tax, spend and borrow bail out plan for the CIB for a $1 million grant for her CDC. As I've stated before, I will file a Little Hatch Act complaint against her if she seeks re-election next year, along with other councilors who may be violating that Act prohibiting persons whose jobs are funded in whole or in part with federal funds to run for partisan offices. She may also have a primary opponent with the party's backing if she runs again according to the Indianapolis Times blog. Adams works for the Marion County Assessors Office. In all, about a third of our councilors have a government-funded job.

Some of the usual suspects are trying to cast the votes of Adams and Nytes as principled votes. They put the good of the people above party politics so goes their meme. Don't believe it for a minute. Nytes' CDC is cash-rich with that grant money she got thanks to her votes, and Adams is not happy about the trouncing her boss took in the prosecutor's race over the party-backed candidate in the primary. Don't even get me started on Nytes' role in the Central Library white elephant or the contracts her husband's printing business got during the last administration during her oversight of the city's budget. This city administration is the most corrupt in modern Indianapolis history. If we had a real U.S. Attorney in this town like they do in Chicago, half of the people he hired would be answering questions before a federal grand jury right now. The corruption of our county prosecutor is only the tip of the iceberg. It reaches deep into the Mayor's office. If we had a decent newspaper in this town, an investigator's stories would be making headlines regularly in it instead of glowing editorials talking about how visionary our mayor is for offering up a smoke and mirrors, borrow and spend scheme to win votes for his re-election next year from which generations of Indianapolis taxpayers will suffer the consequences.

Hit And Run, DWI Former Deputy Prosecutor Gets Her Job Back

It must be hard to find people to work in Marion Co. Prosecutor Carl Brizzi's Office these days. Gillian DePrez, a former deputy prosecutor in his office, last year was arrested and charged after she struck another vehicle and left the scene of the accident. IMPD discovered she was also driving while under the influence. Her blood alcohol content was .15 above the .08 level at which drivers are considered drunk in Indiana. Brizzi passed the case off to a special prosecutor, Barry Brown, who allowed her to plead guilty to reckless driving and receive 24 hours of community service and 90 days of nonreporting probation. If you talk to other people charged in this county as she was charged, you will find that the prosecutor's office always tells them that it doesn't plead down DWI charges, let alone DWIs accompanied under circumstances where the driver left the scene of the accident, although strangely she wasn't even charged for that crime. Now we learn that she not only got special treatment by the special prosecutor, but she is also getting her job back in the prosecutor's office that she resigned last July after her initial arrest. And then they wonder why people have no confidence in our criminal justice system.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Daniels' Hypocrisy On Special Elections

Gov. Mitch Daniels doesn't want counties in the Third District to incur the cost of a special election to fill the vacancy created by the resignation of U.S. Rep. Mark Souder so he is contemplating holding it on the same day as the November general election this fall. I might buy his argument if he hadn't gone along with Marion Co. taxpayers having to absorb $1 million in costs to hold a special election for the Wishard referendum last November contained in a bill he signed into law last year. The HHC CEO Matt Gutwein claimed the referendum had to be held last November instead of this year's May primary because of the deadline for issuing Build America bonds or the county would lose out on the opportunity to issue cheaper Build America bonds. Now we're hearing this same argument in May of this year for quickly approving Mayor Greg Ballard's backdoor tax increase contained in the proposed transfer of the utilities to Citizens Energy. I guess someone wasn't telling the truth again, Matt. A special election could be held in August for the Third District congressional race instead of waiting another three months, allowing time for the respective parties to pick their candidate at caucus elections. Some are suggesting the delay until November is intended to lessen the party's chance of losing the Republican seat to the Democratic candidate. Republicans have fared poorly in special elections to date this year despite the low approval ratings of President Obama and the Democrats in Congress.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

What About The Size Of The Bus?

An observant reader points out that the size of the bus the Carmel basketball team used when a freshman member of the team was allegedly sexually assaulted by several members of the senior team was not the traditional size of school buses. The reader informs me the smaller bus the freshman team used when traveling to and from Terre Haute is similar in size to the buses shown at the left. We're told three coaches were on the bus at the time the sexual assault is alleged to have occurred but were not aware of what was taking place. Nobody has explained why the seniors were riding on the freshman bus that night. We're also told by Hamilton Co. Prosecutor Sonia Leerkamp that the video tape recorded that night by the on-board video camera was too dark and grainy to show what had transpired and had been sealed with other grand jury documents. It just doesn't add up. What happened to the second victim on the bus? His parents feared retribution because of the mother's employment relationship with the school and decided not to press a criminal case according to a Fox 59 News' update tonight. Things are really stinking in the criminal justice system up there in Hamilton County. And people were worried about David Wyser making it into the prosecutor's office. Supposedly Laskowski had his sights set on playing basketball for IU and Hoge and Kitzinger planned to play at Depauw. Hopefully, those plans are nixed for good by the respective colleges. Maybe Leerkamp will get that judgeship she's always wanted, or maybe not.

UPDATE: Sen. Mike Delph becomes the first elected official in Hamilton Co. to speak out about the charges brought in this case. On his Facebook site last night, Delph wrote, "As a lifetime Carmel resident and a graduate of Carmel High School, I am very troubled by the misdemeanor charges filed against the accused." "This should not be swept under a rug." Delph continued, "Felony charges should be filed and a jury should render judgment after both sides present their evidence." "No one is above the law!," he said.

UPDATE II: Leerkamp denies the team used the smaller bus on the trip. Others say the smaller bus is used by the team. If she would have simply disclosed the video tape she doesn't want the public to see, it could help clear up the matter. Let the public decide whether it is "too dark and grainy." The smaller buses hold up to 30 children and 20 adults. Leerkamp's reaction to the victim's parents was that she wanted them to come and talk to her if they had new information in the case. Hasn't she already talked to the victim and his parents after all this time?

UPDATE III: Newly-released documents from the school indicate that 51 students were on the bus on the night of the alleged attack, which means it had to be the larger-sized bus. I've also heard from one Carmelite about a possible reason the four seniors were riding on the freshman bus. According to this person's account, the four players had been acting up and the team's head coach became upset with them. When the buses stopped at a rest area on the return drive from Terre Haute, the coach is said to have told the four that if they wanted a ride home, they would have to ride on the freshman bus.

Pence Ratted Out Souder To Ethics Committee

U.S. Rep. Mike Pence, the number three leader in the House Republican caucus, learned from U.S. Rep. Mark Souder last Thursday that he was having an affair after approaching Souder based on an inquiry made by a member of the news media. According to Pence's account, however, Souder did not inform him until Sunday evening that he was having an affair with a member of his staff. Pence immediately informed the House Ethics Committee of Souder's transgression reports the Washington Post. Pence says he told Souder on Sunday evening that he thought he should resign immediately after learning that he had an affair with a staff member. Souder announced his resignation after Pence notified the House Ethics Committee. There apparently is an effort among some Republicans in the Third District to blame the disclosure to the media on State Senator Marlin Stutzman, who has told reporters he is considering entering the special election race to replace Souder, along with a bevy of other candidates. Other accounts suggest the affair was peddled by the campaign of Bob Thomas during his recent primary bid against Souder.

It Was A Sexual Assault Parents Claim


The parents of one of the victims is saying several former Carmel High School basketball players sexually assaulted their son not on once, twice but on several occasions. Their son complained to a coach, but the parents said he did nothing about it. The parents say they are now speaking out because testimony leaking out of the grand jury proceedings conducted by Hamilton Co. Prosecutor Sonia Leerkamp indicated that their son wanted what he got. Leerkamp has only brought battery and criminal recklessness charges against the basketball players in the case based on the grand jury's conclusions. When questioned by reporters about the type of claims made by this victim's attorney, Leerkamp told them not to believe "rumor and innuendo." Their attorney insists felony, and not misdemeanor, charges should have been brought in this case. I wondered whether the female prosecutors handling this case would have viewed the case differently if the victims had been girls instead of a 14-year-old boy. In this case, it seems this victim was also black in a very white school where many of the students come from wealthy families.

Professional Sports Teams Do Not Have A Net Positive Economic Impact

Ted Bulthaup's recent success in obtaining economic disaster credits for his former Hollywood Bar & Filmworks business in downtown Indianapolis demonstrates exactly what every objective, economic study has shown--there is no positive economic impact from professional sports teams. Bulthaup reminds us of the study performed by the respected and local Kelly School of Business at IU on the impact of building the Lucas Oil Stadium for Jim Irsay, financed entirely with public tax dollars. As Bulthaup observed, city leaders deep-sixed the study it had originally requested to make its case after learning its findings. The City later got Coopers & Lybrand to do a study showing a big positive economic impact at a cost of $100,000, which was badly flawed.

A 2004 study by the University of Illinois and the University of Maryland, like the Kelly School of Business study, found a net negative economic impact from sports stadiums and arenas. “Our conclusion, and that of nearly all academic economists studying this issue, is that professional sports generally have little, if any, positive effect on a city’s economy,” Brad Humphreys and Dennis Coates wrote in a report by the Cato Institute in Washington, D.C. The study looked at the economic impact professional sports facilities had on 37 cities across America. There were continuing negative patterns of business activity that the study found in all of the cities, including:
  • a statistically significant negative impact on the retail and services sectors of the local economy, including an average net loss of 1,924 jobs;
  • an increase in wages in the hotels and other lodgings sector (about $10 per worker year), but a reduction in wages in bars and restaurants (about $162 per worker per year).
As a long-time downtown resident, I can attest to the negative economic impact. I enjoy shopping at Circle Centre Mall and eating out at our many, fine downtown restaurants. But if I know there is a Colts or Pacers game going on, I avoid the downtown area like the plague as do many others. Most of the people who attend sporting events drive in, park and leave without frequenting downtown businesses. Those who do frequent them typically create a rush before the game, but the businesses become ghost towns while the events are taking place. A smaller rush occurs after the games end, but it's not significant. If you ask any downtown business whether they would prefer expanding convention business versus investing in sports teams, you would get 9 out of 10 of them to choose the convention business. Conventions take place year round, create a captive audience lasting days and increase foot traffic downtown tremendously.

Humphreys noted that studies which show the opposite of his tend to ignore what economists call the "substitution effect." As he points out, as spending for sports events increases, other spending declines. “If the stadium simply displaces dollar-for-dollar spending that would have occurred otherwise, there are no net benefits generated.” People have so much in discretionary money they spend for sports and entertainment. They don't stop spending that money in the community if the sports team goes away; they just spend it elsewhere.

Bulthaup's business was the victim of what economists call "crowding out," which results when congestion caused by a game discourages local residents from going near the playing venue. Bulthaup's customers couldn't justify paying higher event parking fees to come into his establishment when games were taking place downtown at Conseco Fieldhouse.

A third problem with professional sport team investments by local taxpayers is "leakage." Much of the spending that occurs as a result of the presence of a professional sports team does not stay in the local economy. Studies show that only 29% of NBA players live in the metropolitan area where their team is located. I suspect the percentage is even smaller for Indiana Pacers players. Professional sports teams are just as likely to reduce taxable sales in a given metropolitan area as producing an increase. The studies note that when strikes or lockouts have happened in the past, the affected communities saw no decrease in taxable sales.

As I previously blogged, that $30,000 the City paid to produce a claim that the Pacers contribute $55 million in economic activity to the economy that would be lost is simply not credible according to every single objective study conducted in the past to determine the economic impact of professional sports teams and the facilities that are built at considerable cost with local tax dollars. It's pretty much a waste of time to point out the facts as opposed to the propaganda our media so easily buys into that is fed to them by the sports teams, the CIB, ICVA, IDI and other elected officials and civic leaders. The media enjoys an economic benefit from the presence of the sports teams that few residents or businesses receive. That's why they ignore the facts.

Carmel Teen Victim's Attorney Says Felony Charges Warranted

One of the victim's attorneys of an alleged sexual assault "touching in a rude or insolent manner", or hazing if your prefer, by several former members of the Carmel High School basketball team is speaking out about the mere misdemeanor charges Hamilton Co. Prosecutor Sonia Leerkamp announced on Monday. "But based on what my client told me, there was criminal conduct that took place that would support felony charges," Robert Turner told the Star. When questioned by reporters about the more lurid details missing from the indictment on Monday, Leerkamp cautioned reporters not to put stock in the rumor and innuendo associated with the case. On the other side of the coin, I'm hearing that there is "rumor and innuendo" being spread by friends of the accused that no sexual assault "touching in a rude or insolent manner" took place because, in the case of at least one of the victims, he was gay and wanted it, or so the story goes. From the beginning, Leerkamp, the Carmel police and Carmel school officials have seemed far more concerned about protecting the accused than the victims in this case. While the rest of the world may not have known the victims, their identity was known to most students who attend the school. Their lives are permanently scarred and the accused don't seem the least bit bothered by what has transpired.

Did anyone catch the surveillance video of them while they were in lock up on local television news stations last night? It showed John Laskowski and one of the others charged acting seemingly relaxed practicing their golf swings, doing high kicks and squats and otherwise carrying on as if they hadn't a care in the world. A psychology expert interviewed by one of the news stations after reviewing the video tape found their behavior under the circumstances disturbing. I was surprised the sheriff's department released the surveillance video tape to the news media. Somebody is probably getting their butt kicked good for doing so as I write. 

Some people have brought to my attention that a pornographic website, which supposedly shows real videos of hazing of college guys trying to get into a fraternity, is representative of the mind set of some of our esteemed male youth on the notion of rite of passage. I'm not going to link to it so nobody mistakenly links to it and gets in trouble for violating their computer use policy at work, but if you google the words "haze him", you won't have any problem locating it.

UPDATE: One of the victim's attorneys, Robert Turner, confirms to reporters that his client's pants were pulled down and he was anally penetrated by one of the accused while the others held him down. From his comments, it appeared that this took place on more than one occasion. Here's what he had to say:

Attorney Robert Turner said the four seniors, then teammates of the victim on the high school basketball team, held the victim down, pulled down his pants and proceeded with some form of "anal penetration." Turner said the attacks occurred on a team bus Jan. 22 and earlier in a high school locker room. He declined to say how many times the attacks occurred.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Oh, Did I Mention She Is Also A Champion Pole Dancer?

Well, not only is the new Miss USA a member of a terrorist-supporting family, it turns out she is also a champion pole dancer. It's now official. The Miss USA pageant has gone completely Paris Hilton. Thanks for thoroughly discrediting the pageant with your vanity and masogynism, Donald Trump. Incidentally, Rima Fakih is not the first Arab American chosen as Miss USA as widely misreported in the mainstream media. That honor belongs to Julie Hayek, a Lebanese-American. She doesn't count because she's a Christian. I'm surprised that I haven't heard outrage from our mainstream media about Jay Leno's joke the other night about how Fakih hopes to be removed from the "no fly" list after winning the competition.

More On Former Downtown Business Gets Disaster Relief Caused By Pacers

Well, this doesn't fit the propaganda spread by Don Welsh, Tamara Zahn, Mayor Greg Ballard and all of the other wallet snatchers who thinks it's part of your civic duty as Indianapolis taxpayers to give billions of dollars in subsidies to the billionaire sports team owners. Give credit to Norm Cox for bucking the tide and doing a story based on facts rather than fiction when it comes to the latest request by the Simons to fork over $15 million a year in additional subsidies to their losing Indiana Pacers basketball team. Cox picks up on a blog post I ran the other day discussing former Hollywood Bar & Filmworks' owner Ted Bulthaup's successful effort to get disaster credit relief from the IRS as a result of the catastrophic economic loss his business occasioned by the Pacers moving nearby to the newly-constructed Conseco Fieldhouse. Cox reports:

A former downtown Indianapolis business owner successfully lobbied the IRS for disaster relief funds, citing the plight of the Indiana Pacers.

Four years ago, Ted Bulthaup was forced to close Hollywood Bar and Filmworks, a downtown restaurant and movie fixture, after financial difficulties, 6News' Norman Cox reported.

Bulthaup had long blamed Conseco Filedhouse for eating up parking in the area and making it more difficult for patrons to find his venue.
After looking at the law governing victims of disasters like Hurricane Katrina, he said he decided he was a disaster victim too, and filed for relief.

"It's not specifically the Katrina Act, but it is an IRS code that allows for relief from disasters," he said. "I filed for it, based on the fact that the Capital Improvement Board and the Conseco Fieldhouse, in particular, were a disaster for downtown."

Bulthaup said he convinced the IRS to refund a portion of his federal taxes for the period he had competed against the fieldhouse, a figure that he will only say went well into five figures.
Not surprisingly, the Simons' stooge on the CIB and former mayoral chief of staff Paul Okeson says downtown businesses are not hurt by the Pacers, notwithstanding the ruling by the IRS in favor of Bulthaup. John Livengood, who is supposedly paid to lobby for downtown restaurants, also seemed less than enthused about the ruling. Bulthaup left town and opened another similar restaurant/movie theater in Woodridge, Illinois that is enjoying more success than his Indianapolis venture. Don't expect Jim Shella to do a story like this for WISH-TV. He wouldn't want to stop getting free tickets to sporting events.

Shella Shows His Bias Once Again

A few weeks back before a bevy of Capitol Hill reporters, U.S. Rep. Andre Carson accused tea party protesters outside the Capitol Building of calling him and other black congressmen niggers as they walked through the sea of protestors without any proof despite the presence of dozens of TV cameras and audio recorders. Caught up in all of the media attention, Carson escalated his claims and smeared the tea party protesters as not only being racists but calling them terrorists, even suggesting they were a greater danger to internal security than Islamic terrorists. As I predicted, nobody in the local news media reported what made its way around conservative blogs throughout the nation and merited a story in the Washington Times.

Now, Jim Shella takes quick notice of something a supporter of Carson's opponent, Marvin Scott, did that he believes suggests intolerance towards people of Muslim faith. Scott didn't even know about the comments made in a letter and Facebook site until Shella brought them to his attention. Jim Shella proves once again why you can't give any credibility to him as a political reporter as he once again plays the role of chief enabler and promoter of the Carsons. He immediately seized on a posting about the incident on Terry Burns blog, Indianapolis Times, as an excuse for reporting on the incident. Burns is a paid operative for the Marion County Democratic Party. This is the same Jim Shella who smeared protesters at a State House rally who espoused political views with which he doesn't agree. This is the same Jim Shella who covered up the fact that former U.S. Rep. Julia Carson was dying of cancer, a fact that if it had been made known to voters prior to the 2006 election, may have led them to vote for her Republican opponent, Eric Dickerson. Similarly, he ran a story smearing Dickerson after a blog posting on the Indiana Democratic Party's communication director's blog. He also ran a smear story on Jon Elrod during the 2007 special election to aid Carson's victory in that race. And WISH-TV executives wonder why they keep sinking in the ratings? Try hiring a credible political reporter if you want to be taken seriously as a news station.

Souder Resigning Over Affair With Female Staffer

WIBC is reporting that U.S. Rep. Mark Souder, who just won re-nomination in the May Republican primary, will be resigning his seat in Congress after revelations of an affair he carried on with a female staffer have surfaced. More to come.

FOX News broke this story. It says Souder is resigning his seat to avoid a House Ethics Committee investigation. Fox News reports:

Eight-term Rep. Mark Souder will announce his resignation Tuesday after it came to light that he was conducting an affair with a female aide who worked in his district office, Fox News has learned.

Multiple senior House sources indicated that the extent of the affair with the 45-year-old staffer would have landed Souder before the House Ethics Committee.

Elected as a family values conservative as part of the Republican revolution in 1994, Souder survived a tough re-election challenge in 2008 and survived a contested primary two weeks ago.

Souder was absent from Washington most of last week, missing multiple votes and only voting on Thursday. While the rumors had been flying, Souder claimed that he was at home tending to his ill wife.

All the way through his election, Souder tried to knock down the affair story, calling it revenge politics at play. But the backroom chatter in Indiana and among the GOP on Capitol Hill became too much to survive. Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels was informed as late as Monday night that Souder would give up his post.

Souder's resignation would make him the second lawmaker to step down in less than two months. In March, former Rep. Eric Massa, D-N.Y., resigned amid allegations that he sexually harassed male staffers. Massa's case is now before the House Ethics Committee.
Gov. Daniels will be required to call for a special election to fill his unexpired term. This will likely set off a mad scramble within both parties to fill this seat and his spot on the Republican ticket this November. Stay tuned. I'm expecting Marlin Stutzman, who ran a strong race in the U.S. Senate primary, and who has strong name recognition and popularity in northeastern Indiana to enter the race shortly. This is one affair that I don't care to learn the details about. Geesh, this must have been one desparate person.

UPDATE: It looks like automobile dealer Bob Thomas may be planning to enter the race. He just put out a statement saying he would release a statement on Souder's resignation on Thursday and be available for interviews on Monday. He lost to Souder in the primary. One negative campaign mailer put out by the Souder campaign badly damaged Thomas' chances when it disclosed a palatial mansion where Thomas actually lives in Carmel outside the Third District; he only rents a modest apartment in Ft. Wayne where he claims his residency for voting purposes.

It looks like the female part-time staffer is also a Christian radio broadcaster in Ft. Wayne. That's how Souder first met her during regular appearances on her talk show.

Democrats Release Statement On Vaughn's Conflict Of Interest

The Marion County Democrats issued a statement laying out their case as to why City-County Council President Ryan Vaughn should recuse himself of any participation in the transfer of the water utility because his law firm is being paid to represent the interests of Veolia. His fellow Republican councilors should all be holding their heads in shame for continuing to allow him to serve as their leader and allowing his law firm to dictate public policy to the mayor and this Republican-led council to the detriment of the public. It's one of the many reasons I will be doing everything I can to make sure this Republican council goes down in flames in next year's election. The Mayor and the Republicans on this council have broken every single campaign promise they made, leaving me totally ashamed as a life-long Republican that I had ever held any belief that they would do a better job running our city government than the Democrats. Here is the Democrats' press release, which also cites the city ordinance this council adopted:

Today, Democratic Party Chairman Ed Treacy outlined what he called a "clear conflict" of interest for Councillor Ryan Vaughn on the transfer of the water and sewer utilities.

"Councillor Vaughn has a readily apparent conflict and, for the good of Indianapolis' residents' trust in government, he must recuse himself for any and all votes on the transfer of the water utility," Treacy said.

Vaughn works as an attorney and lobbyist at a law firm that counts among their clients Veolia Water. The firm does litigation work for the French company currently operating the water utility. And, Treacy has learned, the firm is doing public affairs work related to the water and sewer transfer deal. Councillor Vaughn works in the public affairs division.

The Revised Code of the Consolidated City and County of Indianapolis-Marion County outlines an "actual conflict of interest:"

Sec. 151-1122. Conflicts of interest, voting.

(a) Voting. This section establishes standards for determining when a councillor is disqualified from acting or may be permitted to abstain from acting in conflict of interest situations.

(b) Actual conflicts of interest.

(1) Defined. A councillor has an actual conflict of interest whenever the outcome of a vote on a matter before the council would either:

a. Confer a direct material pecuniary benefit with a value in excess of one thousand dollars ($1,000.00) which would be received (i) by the councillor, the councillor's spouse or councillor's dependent children or (ii) by any business in which the councillor, the councillor's spouse or councillor's dependent children have an interest that is required to be disclosed under section 151-1123, which benefit would be materially different from the benefits conferred generally on the public or the councillor's constituents, or

b. Affect a private personal interest by either conferring any preference or causing any detriment to the councillor, the councillor's business, or councillor's family which would be different from that which would apply to the public or the councillor's constituents generally.

A councillor, who is also an employee of the city or county or other agency whose budget is subject to approval by the city-county council, shall not be deemed to have an actual conflict of interest either (i) with respect to votes on budgets or revenue proposals, unless the proposal pertains primarily to such employee or the employee's supervisor, or (ii) with respect to votes on proposals setting the compensation of councillors.

(2) Disclosure of actual conflicts. As soon as it becomes apparent that a councillor has an actual conflict of interest with respect to a matter before the council, the councillor shall immediately disclose the conflict and thereafter not participate in the debate.

(3) Disqualification from voting. A councillor with an actual conflict of interest shall be disqualified from voting on the matter.

(c) Appearance of a conflict of interest.

(1) Voluntary abstention. Whenever a personal relationship, business interest, or civic involvement of a councillor (other than those relationships inherent in the political process and in advocating constituent concerns) is such that it might appear to limit the councillor's objectivity on the merits of the councillor's vote, the councillor may request to abstain from voting on such matter. The abstention shall be allowed , unless the abstention prevents the council from deciding the matter, in which circumstances the council by a majority vote of those voting may require the councillor to vote. A vote under such circumstances shall not be grounds for ethical complaints against such councillor.

(2) Debate and disclosure. The appearance of a conflict of interest shall not disqualify a councillor from debate on the matter if the nature of the perceived conflict of interest is disclosed as soon as it becomes apparent to the councillor.

(G.O. 45, 2009, § 1) (Emphasis Added)