Friday, February 28, 2014

Is A $25,000 Surety Bond Appropriate Bail For An Attempted Murderer?

Family members of Shirley Justice were outraged after Marion Superior Court Judge Grant Hawkins yesterday set bail at just $25,000 for her ex-husband, Christopher Justice, a man accused of unloading 13 bullets into her body fired from two guns in front of a day care center in broad daylight over a child custody dispute that left Shirley hospitalized in critical condition. Christopher Justice initially fled the state of Indiana after committing the dastardly crime before family members eventually negotiated his voluntary return to police custody the following day to face charges. Christopher turned himself in to Lexington, Kentucky police where he fled, and he was extradited back to Indianapolis where he was formally charged with attempted murder.

Criminal law is not my area of expertise, but I was stunned to see bond set so low in the case. Justice's preliminary bond had been set at $100,000 before his appearance in court yesterday. Judge Hawkins said that Justice's bond had not actually been lowered to $25,000 according to the Indianapolis Star. "The $100,000 was really to get him here," Hawkins said. "Once Christopher Justice was extradited to Indianapolis, attorneys agreed on a $10,000 bond starting point. Hawkins raised that to $25,000 Thursday," the Star reported. Really?

So the crime Justice is charged with is attempted murder, which has traditionally been classified as a Class A felony and which will now be classified as a Level 1 felony under changes made in the Criminal Code by the legislature last year. According to Marion County's local criminal rules, bond for a Class A major felony is presumptively set at $50,000 surety bond. The bail schedule amount is supposed to double for each of several defined circumstances. One of those circumstances is that the crime involved a deadly weapon or serious bodily injury. Justice used two guns to riddle his ex-wife's body with 13 bullets. Yes, that circumstance is satisfied. The $25,000 amount set by Judge Hawkins is the presumptive bail amount in a case of domestic violence where the defendant has been charged with a Class C felony. According to the local rules, no bond amount can be set higher than $200,000. If Shirley had died and Christopher had faced murder charges, he would not have been eligible for bail. The state law governing bail procedures also sets forth a number of factors a court is to take into account in setting the amount of bail. Among those are the risk of flight, a factor clearly present in Justice's case.

The bail amount got me to thinking about that case up in Hamilton County where August Mendenhall was charged with attempted murder for supposedly trying to kill State Rep. Ed DeLaney, although as I've said before I don't believe that's what happened at all, even though a jury up there found him guilty of the crime. A magistrate in Hamilton County set bail for Mendenhall at $3 million because Mendenhall, a former native of Indiana, didn't have a current Indiana address and was deemed a flight risk. All of Mendenhall's immediate family members lived in Indiana where he had spent all but a short time of his life. Marion County's local rules also allow bail to be doubled if a defendant does not have an Indiana residence. Carmel police apprehended Mendenhall at the scene of the crime so he had no opportunity to flee the crime scene as was the case with Justice. There were no gunshots fired by Mendenhall. DeLaney only suffered minor injuries from a scuffle he had with Mendenhall after DeLaney claimed the gun jammed when Mendenhall attempted to fire it. Can anyone explain to me how it is possible for resulting bail amounts in criminal cases within the same state to vary so dramatically based on the same criminal charge? According to local trial rules, Judge Hawkins couldn't have set bail higher than $200,000, let alone the $3 million bail amount set in Mendenhall's case.

During a press conference with reporters yesterday, members of Shirley Justice's family and her attorneys discussed the case. Shirley's mother told reporters that Christopher had repeatedly threatened to kill her. She said that her daughter was convinced he would do it. Although she had obtained no contact orders against him in the past, none was active at the time he shot her. If Christopher is able to post bond, which is 10% of the $25,000 surety bond amount, or $2,500, he will be subject to house arrest and monitored by an ankle bracelet. Shirley's mother indicated that her daughter, who through no small miracle is lucky to be alive, was disheartened that her ex-husband might be able to post bond and be released from jail pending his trial. Her mother had previously assured her that he would remain locked up. She and her mother are worried that he may attempt to finish the job that he left unfinished. Making matters worse, Christopher's parents currently have temporary custody of the children, raising the possibility that he may have access to the children while she's laid up in a hospital bed struggling to recover from the near-fatal injuries her ex-husband inflicted upon her.

UPDATED: Judge Hawkins provided this additional explanation to WTHR-TV in response to the criticism of Shirley Justice's family for setting the bond so low:
In a statement, Judge Grant Hawkins explained the bond review. He described the case as a "very ugly shooting at a day care and a fellow on the run. You put a high bond on him to primarily get him back here."
Hawkins went on to say all but murder suspects have a right to a bond set by criteria in a matrix guideline.
The defendant's risk level gets first consideration. Judges examine employment, home stability, arrest records and convictions. Christopher Justice had one arrest but no convictions.
"There were instances where there [were] records of abuse that [were] documented. But it didn't go anywhere," confirmed Hart.
Next, the judge looked at the severity of the crime. Attempted murder is one of the most severe and bond can be set anywhere from $10,000 to $100,000 in attempted murder cases . . .
Hawkins says shooting outside a day care scored Justice negative points. While the one-time fugitive got positive points for his surrender and waiver of extradition from Kentucky back to Indiana.
In all cases, Hawkins said, "We have to respect everybody. Sometimes the dynamics obscure other issues." He said he "tried to find the balance."
So he scored him positively in his analysis for fleeing from justice and then later turning himself in and waiving extradition. Okay.

Ozdemir's Soccer Stadium Numbers Generated In Fantasyland According To LSA Fiscal Statement

An LSA analysis of projected tax revenues generated from the proposed $87 million soccer stadium Turkish businessman Ersal Ozdemir is trying to force Indiana taxpayers to finance for his new Indy Eleven professional soccer team, which is yet to play its first game, reveals that the revenue estimates to which he testified at the House Ways & Means Committee were totally fabricated. Ozdemir claimed in his testimony that the new stadium would generate approximately $8 million in new revenues, and he asked state lawmakers to agree to set aside $5 million a year in state revenue tax collections to fund debt service on bonds issued to construct his new stadium. Ozdemir's plan calls for the Capital Improvement Board to assume ownership of the new stadium, which means no property taxes will be paid on a sports venue that will be used entirely for his profit-making purposes, and taxpayers will be left holding the bag on the costs of maintaining and operating the stadium.

The House agreed to pledge up to $2 million for Ozdemir's soccer stadium, or $60 million over a 30-year period, far short of the $5 million a year he requested ($150 million over 30 years), even though the legislature's fiscal statement indicated that tax revenues generated from the stadium would not even approach the $2 million figure. LSA projects that the new soccer stadium would only generate between $416,000 and $862,000 annually in combined income and sales taxes. Ticket sales to soccer games and other events are estimated to generate a paltry sum between $198,000 and $417,000 annually in admissions taxes. Under the legislation passed by the House, the state contribution of $2 million a year would be reduced by the amount of admissions taxes collected annually. That means the Capital Improvement Board (i.e., Marion County taxpayers) would be picking up a multi-million dollar annual shortfall to finance the stadium.

The telling number in the LSA analysis is the total admissions taxes collected last year from Lucas Oil Stadium, Banker's Life Fieldhouse and Victory Field. Ticket sales to Colts, Pacers and Indians games, along with revenues generated from concerts and other events held at those venues, generated $8.3 million. The PSDA in Marion County generated $10.2 million in state income taxes and $3.9 million in sales taxes. I should point out that the PSDA revenues include revenues generated by the J.W. Marriott Place, Marriot Hotel Downtown, Hyatt Regency and Westin Hotels. If the revenue numbers from the hotels were backed out of those figures, the actual revenue collections would be substantially less.

The IBJ has a story on the variance in revenues projected by Ozdemir versus the Legislative Services Agency here. Ozdemir did not respond to the IBJ's request for more information on how he made his calculations. The Indiana House of Representatives passed the public handout to Ozdemir's new soccer team on a vote of 58-35, proving once again that we have the best legislature money can buy. Click here for the roll call vote in the House to see if your lawmaker was among those who think it's your civic duty to finance the soccer team of this mysterious Turkish businessman about whom so little is known, but who suddenly has bucket loads of money to distribute to politicians up and down the state, which leads them to be very generous with your tax dollars towards him.

Gary Airport Consultants Set To Score $2 Million From Privatization Deal

It's one of the main reasons corrupt people in power push for privatization of government assets. There are always the usual suspects who cash in big time from the consulting work that occasions the execution of a privatization agreement. The magical number for the pay day to the consultants for the 40-year privatization deal with Aviation Facilities for the Gary Airport is $2 million, which is about the same amount Indianapolis spent on consultants for its corrupt parking meter privatization deal with ACS.

The Northwest Indiana Times says the law firm of Faegre Baker Daniels is set to be paid $1 million, which is the exact tab paid to Ice Miller for Indy's parking meter deal. A firm owned by the ousted former head of the Indianapolis International Airport Authority, John Clark, could score a $500,000 pay off on top of the hundreds of thousands of dollars he's already been paid by the airport authority to steer contracts to pay-to-play contractors. The authority plans to use TIF funds to pay the fees.
The Gary/Chicago International Airport Authority is considering using its taxpayer-financed Airport Development Zone fund to pay consultants who arranged the 40-year privatization deal signed last month.
Total fees for those consultants could approach $2 million, but Thursday the airport panel deferred action on a resolution to make the payments . . .
The Airport Development Zone fund receives about $4 million per year from a tax increment financing district on the west end of Gary. A slice of property tax collections from both homeowners and businesses go into the fund . . .
The issue of who will pay consultants for the airport's privatization has been a thorny one for the authority because it does not have money in its budget to pay them.
The law firm on the project, Faegre Baker Daniels, has estimated its bill alone at close to $1 million, Cooper said.
The three other advisers on the privatization deal were JClark Aviation, of Atlanta, a firm headed by former Indianapolis CEO John Clark; A.C. Advisory Inc., of Chicago; and Hawthorne Strategy Group, of Chicago.
JClark Aviation stands to win the biggest single paycheck of those three. If the privatization deal is valued at $100 million, the firm will reap a $500,000 payday. At the least, JClark Aviation will be paid $200,000.
A.C. Advisory Inc. is due to get $250,000 for its services and Hawthorne Strategy Group $67,500. The three advisers combined also have a running tab for $60,000 in expenses.
The Airport Authority on Thursday authorized paying JClark Aviation $25,000 for expenses it incurred.
The Northwest Indiana Times notes that the authority has also hired an accounting firm to look into $10.4 million in over payments made to the authority by the Northwest Indiana Regional Development  Authority as a result of over billing by the authority. That over billing was uncovered by a State Board of Accounts audit. The story doesn't indicate who was responsible for the double-billing. The authority's interim director, B.R. Lane, wanted to assure members that there was no indication that the double-billing represented wrong-doing on anyone's part. Yeah, right.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Boondoggle Light Rail Back In Play

The Indiana House of Representatives under the leadership of Republicans prove once again that they are phony fiscal conservatives. The House amended the Senate's mass transit lite proposal, which would have limited the expanded mass transit system under a regional management authority to bus lines only, to restore the light rail component. The proposed light rail line from Noblesville to downtown Indianapolis would cost at least $1.75 billion and would never achieve a ridership level that would come even close to covering its nut, but the pay-to-play contractors pushing the legislation are only interested in an expanded mass transit system if there is massive public construction component that accompanies it for profiteering opportunities. Without a light rail system, there is no major public works project they require for those profit-making opportunities.

The plan still calls for levying a new local income tax on individual taxpayers to help fund the regional mass transit system, a double transit tax for Marion County taxpayers who are already paying tens of millions of dollars in property taxes annually to support IndyGo. The House earlier eliminated a corporate income tax that would require businesses to pay at least 10% of the costs of the system. The latest rendition of SB 176 has 10% of the revenue pie coming from sources other than the income tax and a 25% share that would be paid in the form of rider fares, which is totally speculative since nobody has any idea how many people would actually take advantage of an expanded mass transit system. Hoosiers love their cars, and it is highly unlikely that most suburban workers would give up their car for the bus or a train. Interestingly, the House removed Hendricks County from the proposal despite the fact that getting workers to those low-paying jobs at the warehouses out in Plainfield were supposedly one of the reasons for expanding mass transit to that area.

Bill Making Its Way Through Legislature Would Effectively End Access To Public Records Through Exorbitant Fees

Here's yet another example of the useless job the State House media is doing in protecting the rights of the public. There is a bill making its way through the legislature that would effectively deprive members of the public of the right to obtain access to public records by allowing governmental agencies to charge exorbitant fees to access those records. The South Bend Tribune had a story yesterday discussing the ramifications of HB 1306:
Many public records requests these days in Indiana aren't for budgets, minutes or agendas, but rather for the contents of e-mails between individual public officials or employees.

Those e-mails are public documents, even if a public official uses a private e-mail account, Indiana Public Access Counselor Luke Britt said during an information session held Wednesday at the Greater Elkhart Chamber of Commerce . . .

Indiana law says public access issues should be interpreted liberally in favor of access by the public, although the law allows some records to remain private.

"I'm pro-transparency and also pro-government. These laws are in place so the public knows how the government is operating," Britt said.
Public access is about far more than how government spends public money, Britt said. "It's also important to know how the government operates, the process and how decisions are made," he said.
There's a bill being considered in this session of the General Assembly — House Bill 1306 — that would allow government agencies to charge a fee to members of the public, the media and anyone else for a public records request that takes more than two hours to fulfill. The measure would allow a governmental office to charge the hourly salary of the employee handling the search or $20 per hour, whichever is less.
Britt said he's concerned about the potential for abuse if the measure passes. "If it passes, I hope it doesn't discourage governmental entities from putting information online because (Bill 1306) produces a revenue stream," he said.
You read that correctly. HB 1306 would allow governmental agencies to charge you $20 an hour to search for public records if an agency claims it takes more than 2 hours to search for the documents. Well guess what, every search will trigger at least a $20 fee to discourage members of the public from requesting critical information in our never-ending effort to keep our elected officials honest. An investigative committee of the Indianapolis City-County Council has been trying in vain for the past four months to pry out of the hands of the Ballard administration key records regarding the corrupt, 25-year, $20 million lease for the Regional Operations Center. Imagine the charge for those records if a member of the public had to request them instead of a city council committee.

You need to know who these lawmakers are who are behind this bill. HB 1306 is sponsored in the House by two members of the House Republican leadership team, State Representatives Bill Friend (R-Macy) and Kathy Richardson (R-Noblesville), and State Rep. Christine Hale (D-Indianapolis). The Senate sponsors are State Sen. Travis Holdman (R-Huntington), State Sen. Randy Head (R-Logansport) and State Sen. Jim Arnold (D-LaPorte).

Incredibly, this bill passed the House on an 86-8 vote so it's truly a bipartisan endeavor to block the public from accessing public records. According to the Indiana Law Blog, the Hoosier State Press Association has even supported the legislation. These people are at war with the public. Even the media is unabashedly working against your interests. They want to keep all of their dirty little government secrets out of your reach. It's just more evidence of the arrival of a totalitarian police state no different than the former Soviet Union. You better get used to living under tyrannical rule because it's here, baby.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Tippecanoe County Judge Used Government Computer And E-Mail Account For Re-Election Campaign

The Lafayette Journal-Courier reports on a red-faced judge after colleagues questioned him about using his county-issued computer and e-mail account to send out a campaign letter for his re-election bid. Tippecanoe Superior Court Judge Gregory Donat told the Journal-Courier that he did not send out the campaign letter maliciously or intentionally using taxpayer resources. “I’m sorry. I did it, and I won’t do it again,” Donat said. “I didn’t think about that. I was clearly wrong about doing that. You sometimes get in a hurry.” Donat attributed his actions to a "mental lapse."

The Journal-Courier points out that Donat's "mental lapse" could constitute a crime, noting that it's a Class A misdemeanor for "a government employee [to] knowingly or intentionally use the property of the employee's government employer to ... [a]dvocate the election or defeat of a candidate." Donat's Republican primary opponent, Laura Zemen" told the newspaper that she was "disappointed" by Donat's action but did not intend to "make a big deal out of it. Tippecanoe County Clerk Christa Coffey said she was waiting on direction from her counsel on whether to pursue a formal review of Judge Donat's action as the county's chief elections officer. Because a judge is considered a state employee and not a county employee, Coffey thought any criminal investigation would be referred to the Indiana State Police and not the county sheriff's department. 

UPDATE: The Journal-Courier is reporting that the matter has been referred to the Indiana State Police for investigation.

Ballard's Township Fire Department Grab Bill Fails

The Senate Local Government Committee today voted down on a 4-6 vote Mayor Greg Ballard's legislative plan to seize three township fire departments in Marion County without the consent of the respective township governments. HB 1229 would have forced township fire departments in Decatur, Pike and Wayne townships to merge with the Indianapolis Fire Department at the behest of Mayor Ballard. The city of Indianapolis has gutted its property tax base with expanded TIF areas used to enhance the slush funds controlled by Mayor Ballard and used to pass out to large campaign contributors to fund their private real estate developments. Unable to fund basic city services with the balance of city revenues, Ballard saw the forced consolidation of the township fire departments as a way of expanding IFD's property tax base to short up its funding. Upon the consolidation, Ballard would immediately slash fire services to the affected townships as has occurred elsewhere in the county and divert those new-found revenues to other areas. Ballard's TIF-supported plan to relocate IFD's headquarters and Fire Station 7 from its current location on Mass Ave will cost taxpayers well north of $40 million, all so he could give a prime block of real estate to large campaign contributors to redevelop for their own selfish use.

Lee Hamilton Feigns Surprise That FBI Knew Bin Laden Was Planning Terrorist Attacks In US More Than 8 Years Before 9/11

Osama bin Laden (a.k.a. Tim Osman) with Carter's National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezniski
The Washington Times reports that the FBI had a source working directly in contact with Osama bin Laden as early as 1993 and learned of his plan to fund terrorist attacks in the United States. Supposedly, the FBI source helped thwart a planned terrorist attack on a Los Angeles masonic lodge at the time. The information came to light in 2010 during courtroom testimony in a former FBI agent's discrimination suit against the department.
“It was the only source I know in the bureau where we had a source right in al Qaeda, directly involved,” Edward J. Curran, a former top official in the FBI’s Los Angeles office, told the court in support of a discrimination lawsuit filed against the bureau by his former agent Bassem Youssef.
Mr. Curran gave the testimony in 2010 to an essentially empty courtroom, and thus it escaped notice from the media or terrorism specialists. The Times was recently alerted to the existence of the testimony while working on a broader report about al Qaeda's origins.
Upon learning of the revelation, former 911 commissioners, including Indiana's former U.S. Rep. Lee Hamilton, who were charged with investigating the cause of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, put on their best Captain Renault impersonation:
Members of the Sept. 11 commission, congressional intelligence committees and terrorism analysts told The Times they are floored that the information is just now emerging publicly and that it raises questions about what else Americans might not have been told about the origins of al Qaeda and its early interest in attacking the United States . . .
Former Rep. Lee Hamilton, an Indiana Democrat who co-chaired the 9/11 Commission with former New Jersey Gov. Thomas Kean, said that as far as he can remember, the FBI never told the commission that it had been working a source so close to bin Laden that many years before 9/11.
“I do not recall the FBI advising us of a direct contact with Osama bin Laden,” Mr. Hamilton told The Times in a recent interview.
Exactly how the information was omitted from the various congressional reviews and the 9/11 Commission report is a mystery. FBI officials and staff involved in the review said they couldn’t determine definitely so many years later whether the information was kept from the various investigations or whether it was simply overlooked by staff in the thousands of pages of documents and electronic records made available during the exhaustive reviews of al Qaeda's history. . .
Of course Hamilton and the other 911 commission members knew much more than what bin Laden supposedly had planned back in the early 1990s. After all, bin Laden traveled in and out of the U.S. frequently under the alias, Tim Osman, given to him by the CIA when he first started working for the intelligence agency back in the late 1970s as part of the United States' covert effort to train, arm and fund the rebels seeking to drive the Soviets out of Afghanistan. The CIA paid hundreds of millions of dollars to bin Laden's family to build the terrorist training camps he ran in Afghanistan before he supposedly turned on the U.S. and began plotting terrorist attacks inside our country. Our government worked hand-in-hand with bin Laden and his Saudi family right up to the day of the 9/11 attacks.

Hamilton, who now works as an external adviser to the CIA, along with other 911 commission members, knew their job was to whitewash the CIA's role in funding, plotting and executing the September 11, 2001 attacks with the assistance of the CIA puppet regime in Saudi Arabia as part of a larger goal of establishing a Nazi-styled government in the U.S. 911 was their Reichstag moment to enact the Patriot Act, our own version of the German Enabling Act, which would allow for a full-blown police state with limitless spying and endless wars around the world to perpetually feed the military-industrial complex former President Dwight Eisenhower tried in vain to warn us about in 1960. For the moment, former President George W. Bush's infamous declaration of "Mission Accomplished" remains operative. We can only hope that more Americans learn the real truth and take appropriate action to bring those responsible for these hideous crimes against humanity to justice. So Mr. Hamilton, we're not fooled by your "shocked, shocked" claims on this day, even if your lapdogs in the mainstream media are buying it.

Legislature Eyes Super Tax Abatements For Businesses As A Way Of Shifting More Of The Tax Burden To Individuals

It's Indiana so the goal is to fund as much of the state and local tax burden on the backs of working Hoosiers in order to levy as little taxes on businesses as possible. House and Senate leaders appear to be reaching consensus on a variety of plans that have been floated for cutting taxes on businesses this year, including Gov. Mike Pence's ambitious plan to eliminate the business personal property tax entirely. The AP reports on the latest plan to cut corporate income taxes and offer new super abatements for some businesses from the business personal property tax, presumably those businesses who are stuffing the most money in the politicians' pockets. Because neither the House or Senate plan calls for any replacement tax revenue,  that means that local governments will find other ways of raising taxes on individuals to make up for the loss of revenue.
The House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Tax and Fiscal Policy advanced two separate measures Tuesday that would cut the state's corporate income tax and the state's business equipment tax in certain cases. But a few key differences remain that will keep lawmakers negotiating to reach a compromise before their 2014 session ends next month.
Neither plan will come close to the complete elimination of Indiana's business personal property tax that Republican Gov. Mike Pence originally sought at the beginning of the 2014 session. But House and Senate lawmakers were able to agree on an alternative measure that could save Indiana's heavy manufacturers millions of dollars.
Both proposals include a so-called super abatement, which would allow county leaders to exempt companies from the tax for up to 20 years. Counties can currently exempt businesses from the tax for up to 10 years, and often do so as a means to lure development.
"I think this alternative is not only fiscally responsible but reflects the ability of local government to affect local control," said Senate Tax and Fiscal Policy Chairman Brandt Hershman, R-Buck Creek.
The Senate panel voted 8-4 Tuesday to approve a plan that would cut the corporate income tax from 6.5 percent to 4.9 percent by 2022. It would also allow counties to set "super abatements" and eliminate the equipment tax for small businesses with less than $20,000 worth of equipment.
The House panel approved a similar measure, 11-5, but kept in the so-called local option, which would allow counties to decide whether to eliminate the tax for new businesses and new equipment purchases.
Neither plan includes the "replacement revenue" local leaders have sought as a backfill from the state to cover losses they would take as a result . . .
D.C. Stephenson was right. The Indiana General Assembly is the best legislature money can buy.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Fishers' Taxpayers Contributing $9.5 Million For Private Development

I don't know what it's going to take before the people of this state finally wake up and figure out the large theft of public funds that is taking place up and down this state with the assistance of bond lawyers and financial consultants at big Indianapolis firms who pretty much pull the strings of all of these local officials like puppets. WRTV's Kara Kenney has a story on a new TIF project for Fishers where taxpayers are being required to pony up $9.5 million for a private developer's $28 million plan to demolish the town's 18-year old train station to make way for a mixed used development that will feature apartments, retail space and a parking garage. The $9.5 million is to be used for construction of a parking garage.

The Town of Fishers has awarded the project to Loftus Robinson, a three-year old Indianapolis development firm whose principals are Drew Loftus, Kyle Robinson and Terry Myers. The town's tax increment finance (TIF) allocation area will be tapped to fund the $9.5 million parking garage. Presumably, bonds will be floated by the redevelopment area, which means the actual cost to taxpayers will be considerably more when you add in the interest charges on the long-term debt. The $9.5 million also doesn't include the three acres of prime land the town is donating to the developer's project. There's no indication on the appraised value of the land.

What has irked several candidate for election at Fisher's municipal election this year, its first as a city, is the fact that this project was awarded to Loftus Robinson as a no-bid contract. While the town council put out for bid a project across the street from the train station through a request for proposal process, no RFP process was utilized for the train station project, although it was subject to council approval.
Kenney took her questions to town council vice president Pete Peterson who explained the train station project is part of the town’s master plan.
“I think if you look at the original RFP we talk about a vision for the downtown area,” said Peterson.
“There were six original bidders which absolutely knew there was a phase 2 and what we were going to be looking for there.”
Peterson said the town contemplated putting the phase 2 portion, also known as the train station development, out to bid.
“The town looked at that, that was a possibility,” said Peterson. “There was a group that approached us where we were able to negotiate the best deal for the citizens.  Many times you can put out an RFP and it kind of locks your hands up.”
Peterson points out the mix of apartments, retail and parking will bring in approximately $300,000 in property tax revenue to Fishers’ coffers.
“The negotiated deal was a super deal for the residents,” said Peterson. “It’s going to be a terrific development when it’s done.  They’re going to see a much improved train station.”
Peterson said some of the criticism is suspect.
“Absolutely, it’s politically motivated,” said Peterson. “We’re getting ready to head into the first city election.”
Peterson disputes claims the project was not transparent.
“We’ve had over 20 public meetings on the downtown project, from phase 1 to phase 2, to the amphitheater, there’s been 20 public meetings on the project,” said Peterson.
Kenney questioned town manager Scott Fadness, a candidate for mayor, about a $250 campaign contribution he received from Loftus Robinson and whether that influenced the decision. "With regard to your question about campaign contributions for the mayoral race, my campaign has raised nearly $150,000 and the Loftus Robinson company contributed $250," said Fadness in an email to RTV6. "Any large policy decision and any expenditure over $50,000 must be approved by the Town Council." More telling were the large contributions Fadness reported receiving from various law firms that do business with Fishers, along with a host of civil engineering firms, construction firms and other development interests who've benefitted directly from past decisions made by the Town of Fishers.

On a disappointing note, the Senate Tax and Fiscal Committee gutted a bill that set out to reform Indiana's TIF law. The committee removed a cap HB 1266 would have imposed on the percentage of assessed valuation in a county that could be placed within a TIF district. The cap would have been set at 12% of AV in a county, except for Marion County, where it would have imposed a cap of 10%. There were at least five counties in the state where TIF districts consume more than 12% of the AV. Marion County also easily exceeded the cap HB 1266 would have imposed on it. So when the politicians tell you that there isn't enough money to fund basic government services because of property tax caps, tell them they're full of it. There's not enough money to fund government because the politicians choose to hand out property tax abatements like candy and divert a substantial percentage of property tax revenues into the TIF slush funds so they have plenty of public dollars to hand out to their big campaign contributors.

UPDATE: There' more TIF madness in Indianapolis.  Mayor Greg Ballard is holding hostage a plan to fix up Tarkington Park until he gets approval of a $5.7 million payoff to the politically-connected Browning Investments, whose owner contributes shit loads of money to the politicians, to fund his Whole Foods development project in the booming Broad Ripple Village. The Tarkington Park project would get just $1 million in TIF funds from the same TIF district that extends over a good portion of the city's central north side, in exchange for the deal. The park project would get an additional $3 million in ReBuild Indy funds, the slush fund generated by the extremely corrupt sale of the city's water and sewer utilities, and another $1 million from the Indy Parks foundation. It's a damn auction down here in Indiana. Get the hell out of Chicago and get to Indy right now where our public officials have billions of dollars to hand out as long as you grease the right palms. The best part of it is that you don't have any pesky prosecutors down here to look over your shoulders; they're all in bed with the criminal rackets that control our government here. Even better, the media down here, particularly the Indianapolis Star, will portray you as a great civic leader while you're doling out bribes to everyone instead of conducting the investigative journalism people of their profession are supposed to do.

Tully Backs Public-Financing Of Turkish Businessman's Soccer Stadium: No Big Surprise

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Who would have guessed? The worst excuse for a political columnist in all of America comes out in support of an $87 million publicly-funded soccer stadium for a Turkish businessman about whom little is known other than he's shoveled large piles of campaign dough into the pockets of our state and local politicians. Of course, the taxpayers are not only footing the bill to construct the new stadium, the Capital Improvement Board will be stuck owning the stadium and paying for its upkeep even though not one dime will be paid in property taxes on it. Nonetheless, we're assured that it's a totally swell idea according to Matt Tully:
Not all corporate tax breaks are created equal, and it is important to note that the one being proposed to help finance a stadium for the city’s new professional soccer team, Indy Eleven, is not some sort of wild boondoggle. In fact, it’s a sensible, fair proposal that would greatly help the city while not in any way stealing money from schools, roads or other essential city services.
I make that last point because I’ve heard charges of the opposite from some readers and social media critics who are portraying the stadium as another example of misplaced priorities, or a corporate giveaway that could hurt other city services. That’s simply not the case.
This proposal is significantly different in spirit than, say, slapping a tax on restaurant bills to fund a stadium, or shifting tax burdens from businesses to homeowners so that corporations can get a break. We’ve seen those things happen. And whether or not those initiatives were reasonable ideas, they were without question different than what is being considered for Indy Eleven . . .
“This is a win-win for the state,” said Paul Okeson, a former deputy mayor and now a top aide to Indy Eleven founder Ersal Ozdemir, CEO of Keystone Group construction.
And he is right.
You only have to look at the demand for season tickets to see that this region has suffered from an unmet demand for professional soccer. And you only have to drive around the city or the suburbs on any weekend day to see how soccer has come to dominate the youth recreation sports world. It’s become a great cross-cultural magnet and it is almost guaranteed that the Indy Eleven crowds will be as wonderfully diverse, and young, as anything we’ve seen in Central Indiana. . .
Of course, it’s fair to ask whether the team is prematurely seeking a stadium. Some have suggested it wait until it has played a season or two on IUPUI’s soccer field, just to be safe. But remember, under that cautious thinking Indianapolis never would have built the RCA Dome and lured the Colts to town. The time to act is now.
“We have sold more tickets than any North American Soccer League team,” Okeson said. “We want to capture that momentum.”
The Indy Eleven organization in a short period has shown itself to be a savvy, community friendly operation. The team has been a constant presence at community events and won widespread praise for honoring the Civil War-era 11th Indiana Regiment with its team name.
Its marketing has been top-notch, and it worked hard to sell thousands of season tickets, knowing that would not only build buzz but also help make the case for a stadium. Then it went out and hired Murray Clark, the head of the 60,000-member Indiana Soccer Association and a former Republican state party chairman, to sell the stadium to skeptical Republicans who control the Statehouse.
Will the team get its stadium this year? It’s too early in the match to say yes or no. But it received a boost last week when the House Ways and Means Committee added language to another bill that would help the stadium effort. The most important thing the committee did was keep the issue alive as the legislative session approaches its conclusion.
The stadium may or may not be authorized this year. But even before it has played its first match -- that comes on April 12 -- Indy Eleven has emerged as an important part of the sports landscape. Let’s hope it ultimately gets a stadium that matches its potential.
It is beyond belief how misguided and hostile the news media is in this town to the average man and woman on the street. Whenever someone complains about how bad our city streets and sidewalks are, the run-down condition of city parks, rampant crime in war-torn neighborhoods and inept snow removal efforts by the city, the public is told it's their fault because they're paying too little in taxes. Whenever a big campaign contributor comes up with an idea for spending money on a new sports venue or his private development project, our city leaders open up the public coffers with the full blessing of their shills in the media and shower them with as much money as their heart's desire and tell us such things as it's coming from a different pot, or it's not really being paid for by the taxpayers even when it's a publicly-owned entity paying the mortgage and the bills. This column is nothing but a press release for Indy Eleven and is so filled with misinformation it's not worthy of a response. If Tully isn't on Ersal Ozdemir's gravy train with all of the rest of the politicians performing gymnastic moves for him, he should be. Just remember Tony Rezko. The day of reckoning for some in this corrupt town is coming.

Indianapolis City-County Council Approves Ban The Box

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To no surprise, the Indianapolis City-County Council approved a proposal last night that will bar city-county agencies and any vendor who conducts business with those governmental agencies from including a box on job application forms that asks prospective employees whether they have any prior criminal convictions. There were just two no votes, including Councilors Aaron Freeman (R) and Jason Holliday (R). It's a panacea that makes politicians who support it feel good about themselves, but it has absolutely no impact on the employability of a worker. Passing this same proposal worked wonders for Detroit. You can take it to the bank that the same politicians who expressed gushing support for this proposal will be the first to ask how it could have happened when a city parks worker molests your 7-year old child in a bathroom at a public park, but politicians will be politicians.

What I found totally reprehensible about the discussion on the passage of this proposal was the complete lack of decorum during council proceedings. Proponents of this measure were allowed to stand, wave signs, clap and vocalize their approval or disapproval of a council member's views. We aren't governed by mob rule. There's a reason public demonstrations aren't permitted during these discussions. It seems to me that whenever the chair approves of the actions of public demonstrators, they are allowed to do whatever they want. Let one member of the public stand up and express a view of which the chair disapproves and a police officer is asked to escort the person from the council chambers and threaten them with arrest. Not a single member of the council asked the council president to enforce the rules last night; instead, council members appeared to encourage the breach of protocol to feed their own self-aggrandizement. It's a bit ironic that the council began last night's meeting honoring the late Beurt SerVaas, who would have never permitted such actions to occur during a council meeting while he presided.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Council Makes ROC Investigating Committee Indy Eleven

No, I'm not talking about that Indy Eleven, whose Turkish owner graced the Indianapolis City-County Council tonight with his presence to receive accolades from adoring council members over his efforts to pick taxpayers' wallets for a new $87 million soccer stadium for his professional soccer team, while we can't get adequate funding from this city government to fund basic city services, once again proving that our politicians only care about who's stuffing the most money in their pockets. I'm talking about the Regional Operations Center Investigating Committee where the five Republican members appointed to the 10-member committee have been spending all their time the past few months obstructing the investigation of the awarding of a 25-year, $20 million one-sided lease to a big campaign contributor.

Tonight, the council voted 15-13 to add an eleventh member to the committee, which will give the Democrats a 6-5 majority. Republicans initially feigned an interest in conducting a bipartisan investigation before doing all within their power to ensure that the committee never obtained access to public documents relevant to the ROC lease by blocking efforts to issue subpoenas to city legal and Alex Carroll, the ROC's landlord. What little has been learned to date suggests that criminal laws were broken in order to award this one-sided lease to the politically-connected landlord, which appears to be the impetus behind Republican efforts to obstruct the investigation. Councilor Christine Scales (R) voted with Democrats to add the eleventh committee member, while Councilor Brian Mahern (D) voted with Republicans to oppose the proposal out of spite because he was stripped of his committee appointments after he unsuccessfully attempted to team up with the Republicans on the council to oust Maggie Lewis as the council's president.

State Rep. Eric Turner Thinks Some State Contractors Should Be Allowed To Discriminate Against Employees Based On Religion

State Rep. Eric Turner (R-Cicero) believes that some state contractors should be permitted to discriminate in their hiring decisions and other conditions of employment under an amendment he successfully offered in the House Ways & Means Committee to SB 367, a bill pertaining to property taxation. The Star's Tony Cook provides the following information on today's action:
Some state contractors would be allowed to discriminate against employees based on religion under a provision state lawmakers slipped into an unrelated bill during a House committee meeting today.
The change to Senate Bill 367, a property tax bill, would allow any school, college, or religious institution affiliated with a church to hire employees based on religion, even if they have a contract with the state.
House Ways and Means Committee barely approved the change on a 9-8 vote. The amended version of the bill was then forwarded to the full House on a 12-7 vote.
The contractors exempted from the non-discrimination requirement includes any school, educational or charitable religious institution owned or conducted by or affiliated with a church or religious institution. This goes back to the fundamental question of the constitutionality of public funding of churches and religious institutions. Both the Establishment Clause contained within the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and the Indiana Constitution's Bill of Rights impose restrictions on the use of public funds for religious purposes. The only way around the prohibition is if the funds being provided to churches and religious-affiliated organizations are being used in a manner that does not promote any religious or sectarian purposes. Turner wants to let churches and religious organizations have their cake and eat it too. That's got legal challenge written all over it. If you don't want any strings attached, then don't take the money. That's the price you pay for accepting public funding.

UPDATE: That didn't take long. House Speaker Brian Bosma is sending SB 367 back to committee to remove Turner's amendment.
“There was a lot of confusion about the purpose and intent of the amendment, so I thought it best for it to come out so it wasn’t a distraction,” he said.
Bosma said the measure was intended to address a state contracting issue with Indiana Wesleyan University, but that some people felt it went beyond that purpose.

Councilor Pfisterer's Text Gave Kudos To Colleagues For Blocking ROC Subpoenas

A text message Councilor Marilyn Pfisterer mistakenly sent to another council member and then forwarded to Democratic blogger Jon Easter following last Thursday's meeting of the ROC Investigating Committee showed her exuberance over Republican members' success in blocking for the second consecutive committee meeting the issuance of subpoenas to city legal and the Regional Operations Center's landlord, Alex Carroll, to gain access to public records regarding the ill-fated lease.

For months now, city legal and Carroll's attorney have refused to turn over key documents concerning the 25-year, $20 million one-sided lease that the city entered into with Carroll's business entity. Public Safety Director Troy Riggs ordered city employees to evacuate the building last year after it was deemed unsafe to occupy despite the fact that the city continues to make lease payments of $57,000 a month. Here's what Pfisterer said in her text message:
 "Subpoena motion died in committee.  Will and Jack were 'on it'!  Next meeting on 3/10."  
According to Easter, Pfisterer had intended to send the text message to Councilor Aaron Freeman, who was absent from the meeting, but instead sent it to another councilor mistakenly. "Will and Jack" refers to Councilors Will Gooden and Jack Sandlin, who both spoke out in opposition to the issuance of the subpoenas. They both seemed more interested in launching an investigation of the council's counsel, Fred Biesecker, whose professional integrity Republican members of the committee have shamelessly smeared for partisan advantage.

After you watch Republican council members continue to stonewall the ROC investigation, you quickly discern why it was necessary that they kick Councilor Christine Scales, one of the most thoughtful and hard-working members of the council, out of the caucus. They knew she wouldn't go along with a cover up of criminal activity taking place within the Ballard administration. In fact, members of the Ballard administration unsuccessfully attempted to bribe Scales to go along with an effort to oust City-County Council President Maggie Lewis by offering to return a ladder company to a fire station in her district that was removed originally as a form of retaliation against her. Scales was appalled when Public Safety Director Troy Riggs became a part of the partisan debate by offering to return the ladder company to her district if she would go along with Republican council members in an effort to conspire with at least one disgruntled member of the Democratic caucus to oust Lewis. Scales turned down Riggs' offer, which infuriated Republican council members and Mayor Ballard.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Marion City Officials Unable To Account For $2 Million In TIF Bond Proceeds For Failed Redevelopment Deal With Korean Businessman

The Marion Chronicle-Tribune continues to perform investigative journalism virtually every other major newspaper in Indiana has ceased doing. "Where did the money go?" seems to be a common theme of their reporting of late and for good reason. In 2009, the administration of Mayor Wayne Seybold obtained approval from the town's council to issue up to $2.5 million in tax increment financing ("TIF") bonds to a little-known Korean businessman from Ontario, California, to purchase and redevelop the city's recently-closed YMCA building on Third Street. Five years later, the building sits undeveloped and has been put on the selling block for unpaid taxes. No visible work has been done on the building, and the property generated no bids when it was offered at a tax sale last year. When the Chronicle-Tribune set out to learn what happened with the money through a public records request, it learned that city officials couldn't account for how at least $2 million of the bond proceeds had been spent.

This saga began when Korean businessman Michael An's Global Investment Consulting, a Nevada corporation, approached city officials in 2009 about redeveloping the vacant YMCA building. An's local business representative was Chad Seybold, brother of Mayor Seybold. An's $6 million redevelopment plan included adding a dry-cleaning business, men's clothing store, women's clothing store, spa, hotel and restaurant to the vacant building after renovations. An told city officials that the project would add between 80 to 90 new jobs with an annual payroll of between $1 to $2 million. Anyone who drove by this location, knew a little about Marion's economic situation and turned on his or her brain for a few minutes would quickly conclude it was a half-baked deal that had no realistic chance of success. Unfortunately, no due diligence was performed before proceeding with the investment of public tax dollars in the project.

An was described to local officials as "a Korean-born investor and retired businessman in California." According to Nevada Secretary of State corporation records, An appears to be the sole shareholder of Global Investment Consulting. An individual by the name of Claude Brock, who serves as a registered agent for multiple businesses, is identified as the company's registered agent. A Google Earth view of the business address for Brock shows a high-rise residential building a few blocks off the Las Vegas strip. A business address in Santa Ana, California is also listed, which appears as a small residential house on Google Earth. The Indiana registered address for Global Investment Consulting according to the Secretary of State records is the vacant YMCA building with An listed as the registered agent at that address. That foreign registration occurred the same month that Marion's common council approved the issuance of $2.5 million in TIF bonds for the project. Global Investment Consulting's business address is listed in its Indiana filing as a post office box in Cucamonga, California.

Further research reveals that Global Investment Consulting is listed as one of the few regional centers in Indiana certified for the controversial foreign immigrant immigrant visa program known as EB-5, although it doesn't appear to have operated as a regional center. Under this immigrant visa program, foreign investors can get a green card for investing at least $1 million in a qualified American investment, or $500,000 if the business investment is made in an area that qualifies as a depressed economic area.

The EB-5 program's controversy was raised in a December 15, 2012 investigative series by the Indianapolis Star titled, "The China Letter." The investigative series focused on Monica Liang and her controversial role as a former consultant to Mayor Seybold and the Indiana Economic Development Corporation's former executive director, Mitch Roob. Liang, a Chinese immigrant, had defrauded a Chinese billionaire out of $50,000, which she represented to the billionaire was part of a plan to invest in a building that she owned in downtown Marion that was to be redeveloped as a nursing home for veterans.

According to the Star, Liang had misrepresented to Ao Yuqi, the Chinese billionaire, that Gov. Mitch Daniels, Mayor Seybold and Mitch Roob were shareholders in the company that planned to redevelop her building. Ao had expected to obtain a green card as part of his investment in the project as an EB-5 investor. Liang, who was in her early 40s, later died under bizarre circumstances after going into cardiac arrest while a Chicago attorney, Thomas Gehl, who was advising her on the EB-5 program, was visiting her at her apartment in Carmel a short time after Roob had fired her as a consultant to the IEDC after learning of her misrepresentations and fraud and had stepped down as head of the state agency. Roob denied to the Star that he had a sexual relationship with Liang, who had traveled on trips to China with Gov. Daniels and Mayor Seybold as part of larger trade delegation to Asia. It is unclear what, if any, role Liang may have had in introducing Michael An's investment to Marion city officials, although it would have been consistent with her economic development activities with the city during that time period.

An's Global Investment Consulting entered into a loan agreement with Marion for $2.5 million as part of the redevelopment plan for the YMCA building he acquired in February, 2009 in which the city agreed to take out the $2.5 million bond "for financing the construction of the project to create additional employment opportunities in Marion, Indiana, and to benefit the health, safety, morals and general welfare of the citizens of Marion and the state of Indiana." The bond indenture and related loan agreements were prepared by Barnes & Thornburg's Bruce Donaldson, while London Whitte's Bob Swintz acted as the city's financial adviser on the transaction. First Farmers Bank & Trust, which held a $5 million mortgage on the YMCA building, acted as trustee. Repayment of the bonds were to be paid out of TIF revenues generated by Global Investment Consulting's redevelopment project. Obviously, no revenues have been generated by the now-defunct project to pay debt service on the bond issue. According to the Chronicle-Tribune, the city refinanced the outstanding bond obligation less than two years later  in February, 2011 as part of a new $5.8 million bond issue. Swintz told the Chronicle-Tribune that the refinancing was undertaken to get a lower interest rate. The bonds are not scheduled to be paid off until 2021.

Shockingly, Marion city officials were unable to produce bank statements, receipts, vendor invoices, or check or wire transfer records to account for how more than $2 million in bond proceeds were spent for An's project. Mayor Seybold, who is a Republican candidate for State Treasurer this year, refused to comment on the missing documentation according to the Chronicle-Tribune. Naturally, An was nowhere to be found. The city's development director, Lisa Dominisse, produced just 16 pages of records in response to the newspaper's request. The documents were primarily invoices from business entities tied to the redevelopment project. Half of the 16 pages, according to the newspaper, pertained to expenses related to renovation and construction of the former YMCA building. "Three Global Investment Consulting invoices from 2009 and 2010 list purchases or services like 'roofing' and 'brick work,' but none was accompanied by supporting documents like receipts for the purchases or vendor invoices for the services," the Chronicle-Tribune reported.
Together, the invoices contain 27 line items. Five line items, totaling $98,033, are listed under “Michael An,” the CEO of Global Investment Consulting: “building purchase” ($54,754), “architectural drawings” ($15,000), “attorney fee” ($20,120), “accountant fee” ($6,000) and “water removal cost — basement — new sump pump” ($2,159).
The other 22 line items, totaling more than $1.9 million, are listed under “World Enterprise Group Inc.” with a federal tax identification number next to the company name. These line items include the “roofing” and “brick work” as well as “elevator,” “HVAC” and “plumbing,” for example.
World Enterprise Group was created by An, who is also listed as the company’s president, on May 6, 2010, according to state corporation records.
The city’s record-keeping has repeatedly been cited in annual state audits. Concerns noted in multiple years’ audits include omission of entire city hall departments from annual financial reports, transfer of funds without city council approval and inconsistent bank balance reconciliations.
After Gallaway deferred questions about bond financial records to the bond trustee at the bank, First Farmers Bank & Trust Vice President Tade Powell referred questions to the bank’s general counsel, Stephen Wilson.
Wilson confirmed the bank’s role as trustee, essentially meaning the bank was hired by Marion to hold and disburse the bond proceeds.
“The bond proceeds were deposited into an account held and maintained by the Trust Department of First Farmers Bank & Trust, and these bond proceeds subsequently were disbursed by the Trust Department in payment of (i) the costs of the issuance of these bonds, and (ii) costs of the of renovating the former YMCA building in the City of Marion, including site development,” Wilson said by email.
Wilson did not respond to follow-up questions about the lack of records like bank statements for the account that held the loan proceeds.

The Chronicle-Tribune also detailed bond proceeds paid out to the bond lawyers and financial advisers for the transaction:
• $35,000 went to national law and lobbying firm Barnes & Thornburg, which served as bond counsel;
• $25,000 went to Indianapolis-based financial firm London Witte Group, which served as financial adviser;
• $10,000 Marion-based law firm Kiley Harker Certain, whose partner Thomas R. Hunt served as counsel for Marion’s Economic Development Commission;
• $10,000 went to Marion-based law firm Spitzer Herriman Stephenson Holderead Musser and Conner, whose lawyer Herb Spitzer served as counsel for Marion;
• $2,500 went to First Farmers Bank & Trust Wealth Management, which served as trustee; and
• $25,000 was kept by First Farmers Bank & Trust, which bought the bond.

Advance Indiana uncovered another 200 pages of documents online related to the original bond issue, which can be accessed by clicking here.

The Chronicle-Tribune has blasted Seybold's management of the city's finances at length in recent editorials. A recent editorial accused Seybold of "aggressively spreading untruths about public matters that will affect the city for decades," including a claimed $2 million surplus in the city's budget. According to the editors, the surplus was only made possible because Seybold chose not to pay back the amount due on a $1.7 million loan to the water utility, which was originally scheduled to be repaid  in 2012, and delayed payment of other bills "until next year and beyond." The editors insist that Marion's financial situation has been propped up by piling up more debt to be paid off by future generations. The newspaper attacked Seybold for spending $7,000 in public funds to tout a surplus it claims truly doesn't exist.

One of the running feuds Seybold has with the editors of the Chronicle-Tribune is over the categorization of TIF-related debt. Seybold insists that it's not really city debt because repayment of the debt relies on property tax revenues generated by TIF economic development projects. The developers are the one's repaying the debt he argues; however, when the projects fail as has happened frequently in Marion and elsewhere around the state, the taxpayers are left holding the bag. As the Chronicle-Tribune's editors say, "That is a distinction without a difference." The editors point out that the city has been forced to redirect money generated by other projects within TIF districts to repay all of the projects like An's that failed to pan out.

The Chronicle-Tribune's Karla Bowsher has taken Seybold to task for doling out city contracts to the same people who are backing his campaign for State Treasurer, including Barnes & Thornburg's Bob Grand, who co-chairs his committee with Lake County attorney Dan Dumezich, and Jim Higgins, a partner at London Witte.
London Witte Group has served as financial adviser to the Seybold administration on general matters and particularly on bond transactions since at least 2005, making in the neighborhood of at least $25,000 to $30,000 per transaction, records shows. Barnes & Thornburg has served as bond counsel since at least 2005, making in the neighborhood of $35,000 to $50,000 per transaction.
Seybold pointed out that he has also worked with other firms on such matters during his three terms as mayor, although he has for years regularly used London Witte Group and Barnes & Thornburg for bond transactions.
"You're barking up the wrong tree. I don't make decisions of that kind," Seybold said. I try to hire really good people.
Grand agreed with Seybold s hiring of Barnes & Thornburg. "He did the best thing for the city because be got the best firm for the city, he said. "Our qualifications we could put up against anybody."
Barnes & Thornburg partner Brian Burdick, named on Seybold's campaign letterhead, is general counsel for the Indiana Bond Bank, according to the firm's website.
The Indiana Bond Bank is one of the boards that the state treasurer chairs in addition to his duties as the state's chief investment officer. Of the 13 boards the treasurer sits on, the Indiana Bond Bank may be the busiest, said Ball State University political science professor Ray Scheele, because so many local governments are authorized to raise money via bonds.
The Indiana Bond Bank helps local governments secure various types low-cost financing. According to the 2013 annual report of the current state treasurer, Richard Mourdock, the bond bank issued about $517 million in debt on half of local governments during the 2013 fiscal year . . .
It's unfortunate that you won't see this kind of reporting in the Indianapolis Star. Previously, this blog built on original reporting by the Chronicle-Tribune on how state and Marion city officials invested tens of millions of our tax dollars in a company founded and controlled by a California businessman who defrauded more than 500 investors out of $160 million through a Ponzi scheme remarkably similar to the one perpetrated by Indianapolis businessman Tim Durham. The public in Indianapolis doesn't have a clue about what's happening with the hundreds of millions of dollars that have been borrowed and invested in TIF projects, virtually all of which benefit developers that have contributed heavily to Mayor Greg Ballard's and other local politicians' campaign committees. The City of Indianapolis is paying huge fees to the same bond lawyers and financial advisers upon which the City of Marion is relying. We've demonstrated time and time again that city finances are being dictated by those same players. The Indiana State Treasurer's Office is similarly controlled by these same people and apparently will continue to be if these self-serving people get their way. Meanwhile, the taxpayers always wind up getting stuck with the bill for the bad deals this corrupt bunch of actors concoct on behalf of public officials whose decision-making is obviously blinded by the campaign support they receive from them.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Ballard Hops Last Plane To Phoenix After Reassuring Residents That 8 Homicides Not Random Acts Of Violence

Indianapolis' Mayor Greg Ballard released a statement reassuring the city's residents that eight homicides in the last 24 hours were nothing to get alarmed about because they weren't "random acts of violence." Despite the fact that police have made no arrests in connection with the murders, Ballard wants you to feel better about the killings because he says the "the victims knew their assailants."
"The past few hours have been challenging for the city. Any death under these circumstances is tragic. While no one deserves to be a victim, initial reports indicate these were not random acts of violence. The victims knew their assailants. I have complete faith in the men and women of IMPD and know they will work diligently to identify all suspects and bring them to justice."
Ballard then hopped the last plane to Phoenix, Arizona where he is attending yet another out-of-state junket. His latest excuse for getting out of town is for an advisory board meeting for the U.S. Conference of Mayors. So much for public safety being job one, Greg. Enjoy your trip to Phoenix.

Pence Names Two Utility-Controlled Attorneys To IURC

Leaving no doubt that Gov. Mike Pence is in the back pocket of the utility companies, he announced his latest two appointees to the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission, both attorneys with ties to the utility industry. Ice Miller's Angela Weber, who currently does compliance work for the North American Regulatory Electric Corporation ("NERC") and formerly worked as an administrative law judge for the IURC, as well as performing other consulting work for utility companies in the past, is one of his choices. Weber has the added twist of having something in common with Lee Harvey Oswald. She was a former Russian linguist in the Army. Yep, she's a graduate of Indiana University where the CIA does a lot of its recruiting. The other is Carol Stephan, who currently works as Assistant General Counsel for the IURC. Her husband chaired the committee that nominated IURC members three years ago; he's a vice president at IU. Consumers should be prepared to bend over and take more of the same up the butt that we've been getting for decades under the leadership of the most corrupt public utility commission in the United States. Naming women instead of men to do their dirty work for them doesn't ease the pain of their rusty pole in the least bit.

UPDATE: Here's the Indianapolis Star's tamer description of these two appointees:
Angela Weber is a lawyer at Ice Miller, one Indiana’s largest law firms. Ice Miller’s clients include Indianapolis Power & Light Co., Vectren Corp. and Citizens Energy Group. Those companies often bring regulatory matters, worth millions of dollars, to the commission for approval.
Weber previously worked as an administrative law judge at the IURC, where she assisted commissioners in hearing utility cases and ruling on evidence and testimony. She was also a staff attorney for the Indiana Department of Education and was a deputy prosecutor in the Marion County prosecutor’s office.
Carol Stephan is an assistant general counsel for the IURC, where she advises commissioners on legal matters. She previously served as general counsel for the Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor, a state office that represents utility consumers before the IURC.
Stephan is the wife of William Stephan, a vice president at Indiana University who chaired a committee that nominated candidates for the IURC three years ago.
Note that an earlier version of this post mistook part of Stephan's bio for that of Carol Drake, another finalist for the two vacancies. Apologies for any confusion.

Zimbabwe Deports Mel Reynolds

Former U.S. congressman Mel Reynolds (C) arrives at the Harare Magistrates court, February 20, 2014. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo
Reuters/Philimon Bulawayo Photo
Disgraced former Congressman Mel Reynolds has been ordered deported from Zimbabwe after he was arrested for filming pornographic images of young women and remaining in the country on an expired visa while racking up over $20,000 in unpaid hotel bills. Maybe Obama pal and campaign bundler Elzie Higginbottom can put Reynolds to better use helping him with the lucrative contract he was awarded at the Gary International Airport last year than he had in helping him secure business in Zimbabwe where the U.S. government supposedly still has sanctions in place that bar Americans from doing business in the country. 

World Class City Has Seven Homicides In Past 24 Hours, While Indy Eleven Owner Moves One Step Closer To Publicly-Financed Stadium

UPDATE: Make that 8 homicides in the past 24 hours. See story here.
It was just another typical day in our world class city. Seven people were murdered in Indianapolis during the last 24 hours, including four victims in one house on the city's south side suspected of being used for the distribution of drugs. Indiana has always been a base of operation for international drug trafficking run by our own government's CIA. The explosion in heroin exports from Afghanistan operated under the direct control of our CIA after the U.S. used 9/11 as an excuse for seizing control of the country has had deadly consequences in Indiana and throughout the country but has put large quantities of money in the hands of the CIA's money launderers to purchase our so-called elected representatives.

Meanwhile, work at the nation's worst state legislature lived up to its name. The Turkish businessman who owns Indy Eleven moved one step closer to securing state financing of a new $87 million soccer stadium for his new professional soccer team that has yet to play its first game in Indianapolis. Lobbying efforts are being led by the same law firm that is paid with taxpayer dollars to advise the City of Indianapolis and lobby state lawmakers on behalf of Indy Eleven's owner, Ersal Ozdemir, who succeeded convicted Ponzi schemer Tim Durham as the de facto owner of the Marion County Republican Party. There is absolutely no proof that Ozdemir's scheme for using as yet collected state tax dollars on a speculative sports endeavor will be sufficient to finance the debt on his new stadium. Indy Eleven would have to enjoy greater success than any other professional soccer team in America to generate sufficient revenues to pay for this stadium, but the legislature that could care less about the rights of workers, how much businesses pollute or whether you can find affordable health care is not the least bit concerned. As long as the lobbyists keep the money flowing, filling their bellies with good plenty of food and drinks at St. Elmo's and keep entertaining them at Pacers and Colts games, they're perfectly content to be the best legislature money can buy.

UPDATE: It's almost always drug related. Checking the prison rap sheets of the victims of these latest shootings. The two victims on the northeast side shooting were Michael Whitfield and Lorenzo Clark, Jr. Whitfield did time for drug possession, battery and criminal confinement. Clark had done time for residential entry, battery, criminal recklessness and possession of a handgun without a license.

The four victims found in the house on the city's south side were Hayley Navarra, 21, Kristy Mae Sanchez, 22, Jacob Rodemich, 43, and Walter Burnell, 47. Rodemich had done time for drug possession, forgery and theft. Burnell had done time for dealing cocaine and multiple other drug-related offenses.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

House Speaker Brian Bosma Claims He Was Offered Bribe To Kill HJR-3

During a press availability today, House Speaker Brian Bosma told reporters that he was offered "unlimited campaign contributions" if he would agree to kill HJR-3 in addition to other offers according to WISH-TV's political reporter Jim Shella. He also claimed that another resident of his district was offered a half million dollars in campaign contributions to challenge him in the Republican primary this year. Bosma refused to identify the person offered money to challenge him but told reporters but was looking into the question of where the half-million dollar offer came.

Okay, folks, these are very serious allegations being made by not only the top leader in the House of Representatives but also an attorney, which makes him an officer of the court. He should be called before a grand jury immediately to testify about all facts regarding this allegation. In fact, he had a duty to immediately report the bribe he alleges was offered to him to kill the amendment. It seems unimaginable to me that anyone would offer a bribe to any lawmaker to influence their vote on HJR-3. A vote to publicly fund a stadium for a businessman's professional sports team with public dollars? Yeah, I can buy that. I'm skeptical that someone would offer a bribe to a lawmaker regarding their vote on a hot button social issue like HJR-3, but the only way to get to the bottom of it is to put Bosma under oath and require him to testify. We're waiting, Joe Hogsett.

Republican Council Members Continue To Stonewall ROC Investigation

It is one of the biggest outrages I have witnessed in recent memory. The Republican members appointed to the Regional Operations Center Investigating Committee for the second consecutive committee meeting have blocked the issuance of subpoenas to gain access to critical PUBLIC RECORDS to get to the bottom of why the Ballard administration entered into a 25-year, $20 million lease for an unfit building that only benefits the politically-connected owners of the leased property. Taxpayers continue to pay lease payments for the use of a building it cannot occupy for the intended purposes. Yet city legal and the building's owner refuse to turn over relevant public documents regarding this transaction that were requested nearly four months ago. The file that should have been retained in the Public Safety Director's Office on the ROC project was apparently destroyed around the time Frank Straub left the city in disgrace to accept a new job in Spokane, Washington as that city's police chief.

Make no mistake about it. This is a cover up. There were most likely criminal laws broken in the process of entering into this lease agreement and Republican members of the council have apparently decided to become accessories after the fact to prevent the committee from learning the truth about what happened. Any citizen on the street would be entitled to submit a public records request and have the right to obtain copies of the documents that the ROC committee's counsel has been trying in vain to obtain from city legal and the property owner, Alex Carroll. As a life-long Republican, I am utterly ashamed of every one of these council members. How dare they draw a pay check as a council member while they obstruct the public from learning about corruption in our city-county government. Those of us who care about transparency in government plead with either the Marion Co. Prosecutor's Office or the U.S. Attorney's Office to do their jobs and immediately convene a grand jury and begin investigating why public monies are being pilfered to benefit this politically-connected campaign contributor to the Republicans. The public has a right to know, and those responsible for any wrongdoing need to be brought to justice.

UPDATE: I would post the WCTY video of this meeting, but the Ballard administration is too embarrassed to put it online for obvious reasons.

Here it is. The rats finally uploaded the archive video of this disgraceful meeting to its website.
Watch and weep.

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Indiana Supreme Court Suspends Clark County's Drug Court Program

The AP is reporting that the Indiana Supreme Court has suspended the drug court program in Clark County, which is the subject of a federal lawsuit alleging that offenders have been jailed for longer terms than they were sentenced for their drug-related offenses. The Supreme Court acted through the Indiana Judicial Center. From the report:
"During the suspension, the court may not accept any new participants," said the letter signed by Jane Siegel, executive director of the Judicial Center. "Additionally, the Judicial Center continues to have an interest in the welfare of the current drug court participants and requests that you work with our office to develop a plan for the future supervision of ... these individuals."
The letter was addressed to Clark Circuit Judge Jerry Jacobi, who oversees the program that's designed to help participants overcome substance abuse problems.
At least four participants in the drug court have spent months in jail despite being ordered to serve only days or weeks behind bars. Indiana State Police and a special prosecutor are investigating its operations, and Jacobi fired court director Susan Knoebel and suspended court bailiff Jeremy Snelling indefinitely without pay. Knoebel has said she has been made a scapegoat in the case.
The four people incarcerated longer than ordered are among eight plaintiffs alleging mistreatment by the program in a lawsuit filed against Clark County Tuesday in federal court in New Albany. They are seeking undisclosed financial compensation.
In one case, a woman who was sentenced to 48 hours in jail after she provided a diluted drug screen result ended up spending 154 days behind bars. In another case, a man was ordered to spend 30 days behind bars but served 215 days.
The story indicates that the drug court's attorney is Larry Wilder. That's the same attorney who made national headlines when a picture of him passed out in a neighbor's trash can went viral. Wilder had spent the previous night partying in Louisville with some friends.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Shirley Justice Family Releases Statement On Shooting

A tragedy played out yesterday in an ongoing child custody battle on the city's northeast side when Shirley Justice's ex-husband, Christopher Justice, allegedly confronted her and shot her multiple times in the parking lot of a daycare center where she had dropped their daughter off for the day. Christopher has been on the run since the shooting yesterday morning, which left Shirley in critical condition. Here's the family's statement as reported by WTHR's Steve Jefferson:
"We thank everyone for their prayers and outgoing support in this tragedy. Sadly, we were not surprised Christopher Justice would resort to this level of violence. The catalyst to this six-year abusive situation was a praecipe filed by Shirley, as the judge was out of compliance and this removed him from the case. Any order signed by Judge McCarty was negated, and the order he signed would have given the documented domestic violence abuser, custody of their daughter. Custody has been a battle involving mandated psychiatric testing, which came back that she was more than stable and equipped to be a parent, and bias against a single parent with limited resources. Any other references to her character in court documents are conjecture of Christopher's lawyer and his family. We are outraged that Indiana DCS and Family Court did not use the documented information over the years to avoid this devastation to our family. If anyone sees or hears from Christopher, please contact the police department immediately."
As Jefferson's story reports, there has been a protracted battle between Shirley and Christopher since their divorce was granted on March 13, 2009 nine months after Christopher filed for divorce. The Court granted joint legal custody for their daughter with Shirley having primary physical custody of her upon the conclusion of the original divorce proceeding. Jefferson's report indicates that Shirley had filed protective orders against her ex-husband on several occasions, although no order was in place at the time of the shooting.

The triggering event for the shooting appears to be a series of events that played out the week of February 10, 2014. A child custody modification motion filed by the father was heard by Marion Superior Court #3, which is presided over by Judge Patrick McCarty, on November 8, 2013. After more than three months passed without a ruling from the court, Shirley filed a praecipe pro se to remove the case from the court pursuant to Trial Rule 53.1 for failing to rule in a timely fashion. The so-called "lazy judge rule" generally requires a judge to rule on a pending motion within 30 days, unless one of the exceptions provided under the rule applies. The court has 90 days for matters tried that are taken under advisement by the court and entered as such in the CCS. When a party properly files a praecipe under Trial Rule 53.1, the clerk of the courts is required to notify the state court administrator's office, which determines whether the case should be removed from the court it has been assigned and reassigned to a special judge.

According to the chronological case summary, Judge Patrick McCarty issued an order the same day that Shirley filed her lazy judge motion. His order granted the father sole legal and physical custody of the child and ordered Shirley to begin paying child support in the amount of $127 per week to Christopher, retroactive to November 8, 2013. The draconian order stripped Shirley of any overnight time with her daughter. The order entered on the CCS indicates that when she exercised her severely limited parenting time that she was not to allow any male to be present. Upon investigation of the praecipe Shirley filed on February 10, 2014, the Supreme Court rapidly issued an order on February 13 removing the case from Judge McCarty, effective at 8:20 a.m. on February 10, 2014, the same day that a CCS entry was entered reflecting his order stripping Shirley of physical and joint custody of her daughter. This is how the CCS entry entered on February 14, 2014, reflecting the Supreme Court order reads:

Order Received from the Indiana Supreme Court
accordingly, submission of this case is withdrawn from JUDGE Patrick L. McCarty effective as of the 8.20 a,m. February 10, 2014. This matter will be submitted to the Indiana Supreme Court for appointment of a special Judge or such other action deemed appropriate by the the Court. In accordance with Ind. Trial Rule 53.1(E) you must enter this determination in the Chronological Case Summary of the case and notify, in writing. the judge and all parties of record in the proceeding.
Order Signed:  
Assuming the withdrawal of the case as of 8:20 a.m. on February 10, 2014 preceded the entry of Judge McCarty's order, then the child custody modification order that he signed on February 10, 2014, the same date it was entered on the CCS, would have been dissolved and the matter reassigned to the special judge the Supreme Court names to assume control of the case. This is the operative language of Trial Rule 53.1 which the Supreme Court would have followed to determine the case should be withdrawn from Judge McCarty:
If the Executive Director  determines that a ruling or decision has been delayed beyond the time limitation set forth under Trial Rule 53.1 or 53.2, the Executive Director  shall give written notice of the determination to the judge, the Clerk of the trial court, and the Clerk of the Supreme Court of Indiana that the submission of the case has been withdrawn from the judge. The withdrawal is effective as of the time of the filing of the praecipe. The Clerk of the trial court shall  record this determination in the Chronological Case Summary under the cause and provide notice to all parties in the case. The Executive Director shall submit the case to the Supreme Court of Indiana for appointment of a special judge or such other action deemed appropriate by the Supreme Court.
Once the Supreme Court withdraws a case from a judge, the judge is required to report to the Supreme Court within 10 days explaining "the nature of the matters held in excess of the time limitations." The judge is also permitted to relate to the Supreme Court any "other facts or circumstances" which he deems pertinent to the delay in ruling on the matter. As I interpret the rule, Judge McCarty could not issue a binding order in the case if the Supreme Court determined that the duly-filed praecipe was filed prior to his order being issued. It's a big no-no for a judge to rush to issue an order after the lazy judge motion is tendered to the court until the Supreme Court has decided whether the case should be withdrawn from the court.

One can only surmise that confusion over the impact of the Supreme Court's order led to a confrontation between the father and mother over the operable child custody order. An attorney representing the father, Jennifer Bays Beinart, tells Fox 59 news that she was filing a motion with the court to compel Shirley to turn custody of her daughter over to Christopher when she learned of the tragic shooting. In her interview with Fox59 news, Beinart made no mention of the case being withdrawn from Judge McCarty per the Supreme Court's order or the impact that order may have had on Judge McCarty's earlier ruling stripping Shirley of custody of her daughter. The case is very complicated. Both sides have gone through successive changes in attorneys and have gone without representation at times. It's not clear to me what the default custody arrangement would be once McCarty's order was dissolved.

An arrest warrant for Christopher's arrest on attempted murder charges has been issued. He remains on the run. Steve Jefferson reported that Christopher used two guns to shoot Shirley multiple times before fleeing the scene and returning to his apartment. He was later seen leaving the apartment a short time later with a duffel bag. The Supreme Court has ordered the court's file on the latest motion filed in the case by the father's attorney withheld from the media due to the large volume of media inquiries and the sensitivity of an ongoing investigation it is undertaking in the matter.

UPDATE: The Supreme Court has appointed Judge David Shaheed pursuant to Trial Rule 53.2 as the special judge in this matter per an order released by the court late this afternoon for failing to rule on a matter tried and taken under advisement by the court after the passage of more than 90 days. Hat tip to Indiana Law Blog.

On a personal note, I have a lot more information concerning this matter that I have chosen to refrain from reporting at this time in hopes that it will be handled through the appropriate investigative procedures in due course and dealt with accordingly.

UPDATE II: Fox 59 News reports that Christopher Justice has been apprehended in Lexington, Kentucky tonight and is being returned to Indianapolis where he will face attempted murder charges.

UPDATE III: WTHR releases this statement from the family of Christopher Justice:

"This statement is not purposed to be an explanation of nor a justification for the shooting of Tuesday morning February 18, 2014. Moreover it is a statement of fact. It is now has been the sincere desire and prayer of the loved ones of Christopher Justice that 'No one should perish.' To that end we have continually pleaded in prayer to God for the life of Shirley Justice and Christopher Justice in the same breath and with one voice. Christopher's mother and I expressed, to all family members and extended family, if anyone were to have contact with Christopher to encourage him to turn himself in to the authorities. In fact, that is exactly what occurred. Christopher Justice turned himself in to police at 150 East Main Street, Lexington KY in the company of a relative at about 8:25PM February 19, 2014.
"That same relative also called an officer with the Indianapolis police department to inform them of Christopher's action. Christopher was not hunted down and captured, he gave himself up to the authorities. Not the action of a mad man or a monster. Judging him is the province of the Court not his family. Nor do we attempt to slander anyone.
"Fact, this is about the custody of a child. Although, at least, one reporter used the adjective of draconian to describe the court order of February 10, 2014 which gave Christopher total legal and physical custody of his daughter, that order was not made in a vacuum or without a host of evidence. If that filing was indeed 'late' the deliberation was diligent. After this long fight for the protection of his only child appeared to be for nothing due to a filing date mishap, this tragic event occurred. We continue to pray for all parties affected by the recent events."