Friday, August 05, 2011

Carmel Mayor Creates His Own Gestapo?


Fox 59 News has uncovered a major scandal in Carmel city government that raises serious civil rights concerns. Private investigators have been hired by the city to conduct surveillance of private citizens for undisclosed reasons. The City paid International Investigators, Inc. at least $13,000 to conduct surveillance activities during the past two years. Fox 59 News' Anne Yeager learned from a source that Steven Libman, the Executive Director of Regional Performing Arts Center who abruptly resigned last week after being signed to a new 5-year contract, was the target of the most recent surveillance authorized by the City's attorney. Several city council members are now wanting answers:

Several members of the Carmel City Council are concerned after Fox59 told them the city attorney signed off on at least $13,000 to pay for private investigators.   
According to invoices obtained by Fox59, City Attorney Douglas Haney signed off on thousands of dollars to pay for surveillance.
Members of the council wonder who the private investigators are following.
In 2010, Haney approved more than $5,000 for private investigative work. In the past few weeks, Haney approved $8,000 worth of surveillance. 
The subject of the investigation was blacked out by Haney himself, according to the city treasurer's office.
A source close to City Hall says the private investigators were following Steven Libman, the former Executive Director of the Regional Performing Arts Center.
Insiders won't say why Libman was the target of an investigation, but he suddenly resigned last Friday for "personal reasons."
City leaders want to know more details about why private investigators are being hired and why portions of the invoices are redacted.
"Not knowing the full details on whose name was blocked out, it still raises questions on whether it was a proper use of money, " said Carmel City Councilman Eric Seidensticker. "I would find it very disturbing that a city will follow or use surveillance without proper cause."
Councilman John Accetturo wants Haney to resign.
"I'm appalled at the fact that they are using taxpayer money to hire private investigators to follow people around." said Accetturo. "If there is a criminal act, we have a police department."
But the city attorney says he is completely within the law and not inappropriately using taxpayer money.
"I have a duty to investigate as necessary to ensure that no laws are broken by any city employee or city entity and that public monies contributed by the city to nonprofit entities are properly accounted for an spent. I periodically authorize private investigators to assist me in the performance of my duties as the city's legal officer." said Haney.
Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard released a statement through his communications department.
"The City of Carmel is obligated to protect taxpayers by investigating incidents that have resulted or may result in legal claims against the city and its taxpayers. Unfortunately, cities across America are sued for money damages on a regular basis and the city must investigate the validity of those claims to reduce taxpayer exposure. The mayor appoints the city attorney, but does not run the city attorney's office."
The use of a private investigative firm by a municipal government that already has its own police department raises some very serious civil rights concerns. For those of you who read Dick Cady's book, "Deadline: Indianapolis," you will be very familiar with International Investigators, Inc., also known as "Three Eyes." The private investigation firm based in Indianapolis was once owned by former City-County Council President Beurt SerVaas. The firm has boasted in the past that it employs former FBI and CIA agents as investigators. Cady discussed in his book the reporting he and his colleagues had done while working for the Star exposing corruption in the Indianapolis Police Department. Cady discussed the relationship International Investigators had with former Indianapolis Police Department Chief Winston Churchill, who served under Mayor Richard Lugar back in the late 1960s and early 1970s. According to Cady's sources, Churchill used a federal grant to purchase surveillance equipment that was given to the private firm to spy on political opponents. Here's a sampling of what Cady wrote about in his book:

In February 1971, IPD had purchased some sophisticated electronics equipment, including bugging devices, from Bell & Howell. There were turned over to C. Timothy Wilcox, the president of the Three Eyes. Wilcox apparently violated federal law by taking possession, Rossman said. That wasn't all. Wilcox instructed Rossman to begin visual surveillance of Wise's apartment . . . He said Wilcox was a Republican precinct committeeman and friend of Keith Bulen. Several years earlier, Wilcox had attempted to "bug" the Marion County headquarters of the Democratic Party . . .
Now Mrs. Kelly offered specific information. At campaign headquarters on election night in 1970, private detective Tim Wilcox told her he had broken into the offices of U.S. Sen. Vance Hartke, a Democrat, and had enough to put Hartke in jail," but the Republicans wouldn't let him use the material. During the 1971 election campaign, Wilcox and another man had planted an electronic bug in a room in a downtown building where a meeting of Democrats was held. She had been asked to transcribe the tapes. Buena Chaney, the state Republican chairman at the time, knew about the illegal eavesdropping. Mrs. Kelly also said Wilcox had asked her to help set up Congressman Andy Jacobs, Jr. He wanted to get Jacobs in a situation where he could be blackmailed . . .

Wilcox, who is still the CEO of International Investigators, denied doing anything illegal and only admitted to testing the surveillance equipment at IPD's request. City Councilman John Acceturo thinks the city attorney should resign over this flap, but it seems to me the responsibility rests at Mayor Brainard's desk. I can't imagine that Wilcox would have been hired to investigate Libman or other private citizens without Brainard's consent. Acceturo is right to question why the police didn't investigate any potential wrongdoing the City suspected may have been taking place, or referred it to a law enforcement agency, such as the State Police or the FBI, better equipped to conduct the investigation if it felt its own police department was constrained from conducting a proper investigation. The use of a private investigator, particularly given the history of this firm's involvement during a sad chapter of Indianapolis' police department, raises a lot of troubling concerns.


Paul K. Ogden said...

Yes, it's a major scandal and my guess what was reported today is the tip of the iceberg. Brainard appears to be laying the ground work to make Haney be the fall guy. Haney is a fool if he agrees to take the fall.

Gary R. Welsh said...

Acceturo is wrong to call for Haney's resignation; it's Brainard who should be resigning. I know it sounds like I'm beating a dead horse, but if we had a real federal prosecutor in Indianapolis, he would have been history long ago. Brainard has co-opted all of Indy's big law firms as added protection. Brainard laundered virtually all of his campaign expenditures four years ago through a political consulting firm. Who knows where that money wound up.

Paul K. Ogden said...

Well, I wouldn't hold Haney faultless. If it turns out laws were broken, he can't simply say he was doing what he was told to do. But you're exactly right, the fault would go straight to the Mayor's office. It is extremely unlikely the City's Attorney was acting without being specifically authorized to do so by Brainard.

CircleCityScribe said...

...and what about The Gestraubo of Indianapolis?

-Wasn't the Deputy Chief of Police's office bugged?

I've heard of a "Special Investigations Unit" that works for Frank Straub....and what duties, or, should I say, "activities" does Frank Straub's "Homeland Security" office perform??????

Why are real police officers being used to report directly to non-law enforcement officers such as Coons or Straub, instead of a police chain-of-command that goes to the Chief?

-Can it be so that they may access the law enforcement data bases to keep a likely "enemies list" stocked with info that private investigators are not allowed to have?

Gary R. Welsh said...

That's a great question, Indy4U2C. It has been raised before on this blog, but the local news media hasn't seemed interested in digging into it deeper.

Septly said...

I don't have any dog in the game, though I will admit that I don't care so much for Brainard.

Nonetheless, I will say that the headline used in this blog is very offensive. When Brainard rounds up several millions people, places them in concentration camps for hard labor, and then murders 12 million of them, THEN you can use terms like "Gestapo," "Nazi," etc. to refer to him and his administration. Outside such circumstances, all of us should agree to drop the creepy and inappropriate Nazi references, regardless of our political persuasions or point of views! Okay? Good.

Second, if you can cite a specific law or case that says that a municipality is prohibited from using private investigators to investigate suspected wrong-doing, then I would love to see the specific citation. The issue is not that private investigators were hired, that in and of itself, can be perfectly legal, as the City Attorney noted. Rather the issue is what was the PURPOSE of the investigation, and was it appropriate to investigate the individuals who were investigated, and was the investigation carried out lawfully. If there was a legitimate purpose, and the investigation was done according to the rules, then no crime was committed, whether private investigators were used or not.

I enjoy reading the Advance Indiana blog, as it presents a different, and I think important point of view. I do not always agree with everyone posted on this site, but I still appreciate being informed by it. However, I have to see this particular story was handled very poorly.

Gary R. Welsh said...

A municipality has a police department to investigate criminal wrongdoing. In this case, you have a municipality hiring a private investigator to investigate a person employed by a nonprofit organization, not the city of Carmel, for some undisclosed reason. The concern is that the city is using private investigators in order to circumvent substantive and procedural due processes that govern police investigations. This is what Nixon did with his so-called White House plumbers. The use of the word "Gestapo" is descriptive of a secret police force. If you read Dick Cady's book, you will see that is exactly how Three Eyes was being used by a corrupt police department to pursue activities that would never be deemed acceptable practices by a police department. The Clinton White House reportedly made use of an extremely corrupt LA private investigator, Anthony Pellicano, to subvert the investigations of the Clintons by intimidating witnesses with information Pellicano would dig up on them. Private individuals hire PIs to catch cheating spouses or help find missing relatives. It begs the question of what information Brainard was seeking to learn about Libman and other persons he has used PIs to investigate in the past.

Septly said...

Gary, your response did not directly address the two points I brought up.

First, please cite the law or laws that prohibit a municipality from hiring a licensed private investigator to carry on a lawful investigation. I will save you the trouble, as there are none, and the practice is not, in and of itself, illegal or unethical. As I am sure you are well aware, the issues are whether the purpose and procedures of the investigation were appropriate, not whether private investigators were used. Public employees can break laws just as easily as private parties, and municipal police departments in several cases have carried out unlawful investigations. Also, when a private party is hired by a municipality, then they stand in the shoes of the government, and they are subject to similar restrictions as the regular police department would be. Again, the issues are whether the purpose of the investigation was appropriate and whether the private investigators followed the law, not whether private investigators were used.

Second, the hiring of private investigators does not in and of itself demonstrate any evidence of an abusive "secret police force," especially in the sense that you are insinuating. No one was carried away from their home during the night. No one was tortured. No one was murdered. No one was thrown in prison without evidence of a crime. So, drop the use of the word "Gestapo." If the city administration inappropriately investigated individuals, whether it was done by the city police force or private parties, then the matter should be investigated and prosecuted, as appropriate. However, there is no need to use melodramatic and distasteful reference to Nazi Germany.

LA Sunset said...

Can't blame Brainard for being corrupt and having the opportunity to keep breaking laws and successfully covering his tracks. The people of Carmel keep re-electing him. Each time they do so, they give their consent for him to do whatever the hell he wants, consequences and laws be damned.

He reminds me of long time mayor of Lawrence, Tom Schneider. At first he did a lot of good things for the city, he revitalized the community by converting the old fort into a nice area for retail and offices. But like most politicians who are in power too long, they become corrupted. They will begin to feel entitled and empowered to do whatever they want, with little regard for the law or any reasnable sense of a code of ethics.

A political machine at any level is a dangerous thing.

Gary R. Welsh said...

How can I know what laws they broke if everything they did for the money they were paid is a big secret? A municipality has a police department to conduct lawful investigations. It has no lawful reason for hiring private investigators to investigate private individuals in my judgment except to do that which it could not do legally through the use of its police powers. The city won't reveal who they were investigating, why they were investigating that person or how they carried out their investigation. The only thing we know was that the private investigtors were hired and money was paid to them. The reporter had to learn from a confidential source that Libman was one of the persons being investigated. If Brainard won't make available the reports they prepared detailing their purposes and methods, the work they performed that led in this instance to a nonprofit administrator quitting his job, we'll never know. Police are constitutionally and statutorily limited in their power to investigate. Citizens should be alarmed to learn their government is employing secret police that operate outside the normal constraints to investigate them.

Gary R. Welsh said...

I should add that Brainard did something that was without precedent in his re-election campaign four years ago as I've written about before. More than 90% of his 2007 campaign expenditures were made payable to one campaign consultant. Presumably, the money paid to the consultant went for legitimate campaign expenditures but we have no way of knowing how that money was spent without the normal itemization of expenses on campaign finance reports. No other campaign in Indiana history had so brazenly sought to circumvent Indiana's campaign finance law, except for Ft. Wayne mayoral candidate Matt Kelty, who hid money supporters had contributed to his campaign by reporting them as a loan from himself. There should have been an investigation of Brainard just like there was of Kelty, who was convicted of felony campaign finance violations. Hell, the media down here wouldn't even report on Brainard's campaign finance practices. He clearly was circumventing the reporting requirements of the law by laundering expenditures through his campaign consultant so people couldn't see where the money was going.