Monday, July 21, 2014

Judge Orders Ballard Administration To Turn Over Concealed ROC Documents

After months of stonewalling by city officials, Marion Co. Circuit Court Judge Louis Rosenberg has finally issued an order compelling the Ballard administration to produce public documents related to the one-sided lease agreement the City entered into with a campaign contributor of Mayor Greg Ballard for the Regional Operations Center at the site of the former Eastgate Consumer Mall to a special council committee investigating the lease deal. According to WISH-TV, the order signed by Judge Rosenberg compels city attorneys to produce documents related to the cost of sites other than the former Eastgate Mall property; documents related to the city’s obligation to provide security during the 2012 Super Bowl; and documents related to expenses incurred with the ROC. Judge Rosenberg also asked city attorneys to review other documents requested by the ROC Investigating Committee.

The controversial lease was executed by former Public Safety Director Frank Straub, who bypassed normal approval processes for such leases through the corporation counsel's office. Straub rushed approval of the lease agreement through the City-County Council with the assistance of the Mayor's Office, which claimed the ROC had to be up and operational prior to the Super Bowl the City hosted in February, 2012. The form of the lease lacked standard provisions contained in typical government leases and included other unusual terms that favored the landlord over the tenant.

Straub had rejected a preferred site identified by the former head of the emergency management services near the Indianapolis airport that would have required little work and would have cost the City much less than the $18 million, 25-year lease Straub executed for the ill-suited Eastgate Consumer Mall site. Straub then fired the former EMS director and absorbed the functions of his agency into his department under the department's homeland security division led by former Perry Township Trustee Gary Coons, a political hack with no prior experience in homeland security. Straub relied on Councilors Ben Hunter (R) and Mary Moriarty-Adams (D) in whose district the ROC center resides and both of whom received campaign contributions from the building's owner to usher approval of the lease agreement through the council with little discussion. During public testimony, city officials lied to council members about the ability of the City to get out of the lease if it found the site unworkable. Councilor Hunter was highly critical of council members who initially sought to slow down the approval process to allow more time for their questions about the deal to be answered. Despite his conflict of interest, he is sitting as a member of the council's investigating committee where he has engaged in obstructionist tactics and sought to discredit the investigation at every step of the way.

Before Straub left his job to start a new job as Spokane's Chief of Police after being asked to step down, he and his staff allegedly destroyed almost all documents in the public safety director's office regarding the controversial lease agreement and wiped computer hard drives clean of any information that could be accessed by his successor, Troy Riggs. That's a criminal violation under Indiana law. Yet Marion Co. Prosecutor Terry Curry announced that his office would not be pursuing any criminal charges in the case after a dubious Indiana State Police investigation concluded that no laws had been broken despite the undisputed fact that it was a criminal act to destroy those public documents. The ROC Investigating Committee was able to obtain some of the missing documents from the building's owner, Alex Carroll. The ROC Investigating Committee also learned that Straub had ordered WCTY not to videotape any of the Public Safety Board's hearings for nearly a one-year period while discussions concerning the ROC lease occurred. Shortly after the council began investigating the lease, city officials entered into a settlement agreement with the landlord which relieved it of any liability and locked the City into the lease for its full term despite numerous problems with the property that forced city employees to evacuate it for nearly eight months due to unsafe conditions while the landlord made necessary repairs to it.


Anonymous said...

This won't be good, unless Ballard pulls a Lois Lerner.

Anonymous said...

Not a single mention of this in either the Star or IBJ. Not surprised though.

Anonymous said...

I fully expect Ballard to contact Lois Lerner for advice on how to handle this court order.

Anonymous said...

I said this before, and I'll say it again, this investigation ain't goin NO where, too many hands in the cookie jar!