Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Paul Okeson Must Resign From CIB

Former chief of staff to Mayor Greg Ballard and recent appointee by the mayor to the CIB, Paul Okeson, must resign his position immediately. Upon joining the board, Okeson took responsibility for negotiating with the Simons over their recent demand that the CIB pick up $15 million in operating costs for Conseco Fieldhouse or the team would consider breaking its lease and moving the team to another city. Every public comment Okeson has made to date indicates, even before the release of this week's dubious study on the economic impact of losing the Pacers, that he fully supported the idea of finding the money for this additional subsidy. That alone demonstrates his abdication of his fiduciary role to the taxpayers of Marion County to warrant his removal from the CIB. Even more troubling is the unmistakable conflict of interest he has in his dealings with any matters before the CIB.

After leaving the Ballard administration last year, Okeson began work as an executive at Keystone Construction, a major city contractor and big campaign contributor to Ballard's campaign committee. While Okeson was still on the city's payroll as the mayor's top administrative employee, the City began a Request for Information process to solicit proposals from businesses for the operation of the CIB's facilities as a cost-saving measure. Okeson played a key role last year in helping work out the agreement to bail out the CIB, as well as the privatization move. Soon after joining Keystone, his firm joined CB Richard Ellis and John Bales' Venture Real Estate in submitting a proposal to take over management of the CIB's facilities. Strangely, Pacers Sports & Entertainment, which currently operates Conseco Fieldhouse rent free and complains that it can't afford to continue paying its operating expenses, also tendered a proposal in response to the RFI. This means Okeson is negotiating a lease with the Pacers at the same time his firm is competing with them to take over management of the CIB's facilities. Oddly, the Pacers aren't screaming foul and Okeson has made it clear he supports the $15 million subsidy the Pacers are now demanding. Isn't there something really smelly about that?

Mayor Ballard began his administration by appointing Bob Grand as president of the CIB. The Star criticized the appointment after this blog first disclosed that Grand's law firm, Barnes & Thornburg, served as counsel for the Pacers and Simon Property Group. Under pressure from the Star editorial board, Ballard and Grand agreed to wall him off from any discussions before the CIB pertaining to the Pacers. Another board member, Doug Brown, recently joined Bose McKinney law firm as a lobbyist. Bose McKinney represents the Indianapolis Colts. New board member John Dora, Jr. owns a hotel across the street from Lucas Oil Stadium. New board president Ann Lathrop works for Crowe Horwath, a giant accounting firm with potentially many clients who pose a conflict of interest for her, none of which she has bothered to disclose to date. Another deputy mayor for Ballard recently joined the Baker & Daniels law firm. We now learn that the City has been quietly paying the firm for the past year to work on the sale of the utilities to Citizens Energy. Why is the Star so silent on these conflicts of interest? As much as I hate to say it, unless major players in the media like the Star take on our public officials, they are reluctant to act in the face of indefensible conflicts of interest. We deserve transparency and accountability from our public officials and we aren't getting it from this administration.


Downtown Indy said...

They are so busy scratching each others' backs that nobody's going to pressure anyone to resign no matter how conflicted they appear to be.

Jon said...

The oxymoron phrase for the 21st Century; ethics in politics. As Lord Acton stated in 1887; "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men."
And lately we get a daily dose of corrupt politicians whose only skill is becoming even more corrupt and adept at fleecing taxpayers.

Marycatherine Barton said...

Many have raised the question, what does it take to get the STAR to cover an issue, such as these costly conflicts of interest in Ballard's administration, including his appointees. Organized protests outside its offices?