Sunday, June 02, 2013

Former Mayoral Candidate Calls On Ballard And Lewis To Disclose Gifts And Conflicts

A former state senator and Democratic mayoral candidate, Louis Mahern, pens a column in the latest edition of the Indianapolis Business Journal calling on Mayor Greg Ballard and City-County Council President Maggie Lewis to provide complete disclosure of their gifts they accept and conflicts of interest. Mahern focuses on the value of the gifts Ballard has accepted since becoming mayor and the conflict in which Lewis' role as executive director of a city-funded nonprofit organization places her in carrying out her official duties.

Mahern make the first attempt to quantify the value of the free tickets Ballard receives for Colts and Pacers games. Mahern notes a typical suite like the one controlled by Mayor Ballard at Lucas Oil Stadium costs $110,000 and comes with 20 tickets for 10 games, or a per-ticket cost of $550. Ballard gets 30 free tickets to use for every Colts game played at LOS. Ballard also gets 20 free tickets to every Pacers game played at Banker's Life Fieldhouse, 12 free tickets to concerts and other events and four courtside seats courtesy of the Indiana Pacers. By Mahern's estimate, Ballard has received "nearly $1 million in free sports tickets." "Shouldn't he have to report somewhere that he received those tickets as well as their value," Mahern asks.

Mahern omitted one gift Ballard did report on his most recent filing. That was a Super Bowl ring he received in October, 2012 from the Colts. Ballard placed the value of the ring at $400. Genuine Super Bowl rings made of gold and diamonds cost about $5,000 a piece. Unless he was given a fake Super Bowl ring, its value could not have possibly been only $400. Nobody in the local media in this town has bothered to ask Ballard about the gift despite the obvious discrepancy in the reported value of his gift.

But that's not all. Ballard received free membership to Highland and Woodstock country clubs worth $5,000 to $7,000 per year. Although Ballard discloses those free memberships on his statement of economic interest, he doesn't disclose their value Mahern notes. Ballard also receives a free membership from the Columbia Club not mentioned by Mahern, which is worth about $150 a month. Mahern adds, "Ballard has gone on multiple foreign trips that in aggregate cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and have been funded by a secretive group of private donors that most likely includes individuals and organization with business ties to the city." "These gifts appear nowhere on his filing."

As City-County Council President, Lewis receives $11,000 a year in free tickets to Colts games at Lucas Oil Stadium courtesy of the Capital Improvement Board, which has its own suite. "She also has access to free Pacers tickets and free tickets to any event at Bankers Life, including the concerts and performances like Disney on Ice and Paul McCartney," Mahern notes. "Nowhere on her economic interest filings are these gifts divulged," Mahern adds. While the council has the right to make a number of appointments to key boards, such as the CIB, IndyGo, library and the Health & Hospital Corporation, Mahern notes the council appoints its own president to the CIB. "Apparently, the prospect of waived library late fees, a free bus pass or gratis appendectomy doesn't hold the charms of luxuriating with complimentary food and beverage or getting down at Bakers Life," Mahern opines.

Mahern raised concerns about Lewis' independence in voting on tax increases, budgets and Pacer bailouts when she serves as executive director of Dove House, which has received nearly $400,000 in grants from the city over the past several years. "None of this is reported on her economic interest filing," Mahern writes. "Is it any wonder she agreed so quickly to the mayor's $30 million budget cuts," he asks

Mahern's son, Brian Mahern, who serves on the council, introduced a proposal that would require greater disclosure of gifts City-County Council members receive. His proposal went over like a fart in church went he first presented it to the council's Ethics Committee. Members worried that new reporting requirements would impose too much of a burden on council members, providing a trap for the unwary. Mahern withdrew his original proposal but plans to reintroduce a new version later.


Flogger said...

I am not an accountant or a tax expert by any means. It would seem to me a "gift" might be reportable income.

Would the value of the Country Club membership or tickets received for a sporting event be reportable Income???

Gary R. Welsh said...

It would be a reportable, taxable gift for you or I, if it exceeded the excludable amount, which is currently $13,000. It's why people who win a bunch of prizes on game shows often have to sell part of their prize winnings to pay the taxes.