Friday, October 31, 2014

Indianapolis Public Library Embezzler Lied On Job Application To Get Job At Indiana University

Juanita L. Mimms
Call 6's Kara Kenney followed up on a report Advance Indiana exclusively brought to you in which we revealed that a former accountant of the Indianapolis Public Library who pleaded guilty in 1988 to embezzling nearly a half million dollars through a late book return fine-skimming scam later landed a well-paid job in contract procurement at Indiana University's IUPUI campus. That discovery was made by a local fraud examiner, Greg Wright, while doing research for a book on long-term embezzlers. Juanita Mimms, who went by Juanita Hoagland at the time of her conviction, abruptly resigned her more than $55,000 a year job at IU after Advance Indiana's report was first published. Kenney's further investigation has uncovered the fact that Mimms lied on her application in 1998 when she applied for a clerical job with help from a friend of her former husband.

Mimms told Kenney during a telephone interview that she could not recall whether she disclosed her 1988 felony embezzlement conviction. She also told her that her job did not involve handling any money. When Kenney obtained Mimms' personnel records through a public records request, she learned that Mimms had checked "No" next to a question on her job application asking her if she had ever been convicted of a crime. Kenney also learned that Mimms' job as a diversity coordinator assisting minority and female-owned businesses in contracting opportunities with the university required her to maintain expense reports, manage billing and invoice payments and maintaining records for department expenses. Mimms similarly lied to Wright when he first contacted about her past. During a telephone interview with Wright, Mimms lied about her prior employment by the Indianapolis Public Library, her date of birth; she even denied she formerly went by the name Juanita Hoagland, a fact Wright proved by obtaining her 1989 marriage record.

As Advance Indiana previously reported, Mimms only had to repay about $22,000 of the money prosecutors could prove she stole from the library after reaching an agreement with her when she filed for bankruptcy in 2004, at least five years after she started working for IU. Her fraud was uncovered by State Board of Accounts examiners who believe that her fraud had started many years earlier but records no longer existed to prove theft of public funds during those years. Mimms served only about six months of the three-year prison sentence she received under the terms of her plea agreement. According to Kenney, The Public Integrity Coalition, a newly-formed group by the Indiana Attorney General's Office, is looking at a way to connect local governments and school districts to a list of former public employees who have misappropriated public funds to use in making better-informed hiring decisions. The State Board of Accounts recently announced it would no longer audit some local governmental entities, including library districts, because of state budget cuts over the past ten years that have forced it to slash its staff.

Tully Misleads Star Readers About Teach Plus Contract: Column Becomes Excuse To Plug Stand For Children-Backed IPS Board Candidates

Indianapolis Star columnist Matthew Tully cannot be trusted. That's all I can conclude from his latest dribble in his column today. Tully claims the rescinding of a $750,000 Indianapolis Public Schools' contract entered into with an out-of-state company, Teach Plus, was all about "politics or pettiness." Tully, who was not present for the meeting, left out of his column the most pertinent facts. The contract with Teach Plus was not presented to the IPS board for approval until last week. Unbeknownst to the board members present for the meeting who voted to approve it on a 3-2 vote, the administration of Supt. Louis Ferebee had actually implemented the program called for in the contract at the start of the school year, which included additional pay and responsibilities for teachers participating in the program covered by the contract with Teach Plus.

Yes, Dr. Ferebee's administration improperly encumbered school district funds without authorization, a fact that completely escapes Mr. Tully. This comes on the heels of the discovery that the previous administration inflated its tax levy by crying to the public that it faced a $30 million deficit when the school district in actuality had an $8 million surplus. The administration suckered board members into approving larger budgets than were necessary by intentionally overstating expenses and underestimating district revenues. So board members have a duty to the taxpayers to pull back and demand more answers from the administration before giving its approval for new expenditures when the administration is being less than forthcoming to the board. Looking out for taxpayer interests might seem "bizarre" to Tully, but it's expected from the people paying the taxes, whom Tully too often takes for granted.

Another fact Tully intentionally withheld from his readers is the employment of one the board's newest board members, Caitlin Hannon, who is the executive director of Teach Plus' Indianapolis operations. Although the IPS contract represents the organization's largest in the state, Ms. Hannon filled out a conflict of interest form in which she stated she would not be involved in any of the payments made to her organization under the contract. She abstained from a vote on the contract's approval and the decision to rescind it. Despite her public abstention on the matter, it's hard to imagine how the person in charge of Teach Plus' organization in Indiana can wall herself off from her organization's largest contract in the state, but that's what we're told to believe. Teach Plus is bankrolled by the some of the same billionaire and multi-millionaire education profiteers who are financing Stand For Children's six-figure expenditures to purchase the three IPS school board seats up for election next week with candidates bought and paid for by them.

Not surprisingly, Tully uses his column to brandish incumbent board members who voted to rescind the contract at a special meeting called this week, including IPS board president, Annie Roof, Samantha Adair-White and Michael Brown, while offering an endorsement to each of the Stand For Children bankrolled candidates, Mary Ann Sullivan, LaNier Echols and Kelly Bentley. Missing from Tully's column are the conflicts of interest faced by each of these candidates, whose paychecks rely upon financial interests concerned most about how much money spent on public education they can bilk for themselves. It just proves once again that Tully will say whatever his corporate masters tell him to tell you to further their agenda no matter how fictitious it might be. The man continues to extinguish what little journalistic credibility he still possesses.

Speaking of Stand For Children bankrolling these conflicted candidates, I received in the mail the last few days nearly a dozen fliers promoting their candidates, most of which were duplicative and arrived in the mail on the very same day. Obviously, money is no object when it comes to buying this election for their out-of-state corporate interests, and the unscrupulous business doing the direct mail campaign on behalf of the organization is exploiting their deep pockets. It just proves the old adage that there is no honor among thieves.

Fort Wayne Public Television Accountant Admits Guilt In More Than $130,000 Embezzlement Case

Late last month, a federal grand jury indicted Gail Waymire, a former accountant for Fort Wayne's public television station, WFWA,  on twenty counts of wire fraud related to a sophisticated scheme she developed to embezzle more than $130,000 from the nonprofit over a three-year period. Yesterday, she agreed to plead guilty to just one of those charges according to the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette. In exchange for her plea agreement, federal prosecutors will recommend a lower sentence for her. Wire fraud charges carry a maximum sentence of 20 years under federal law.

According to the original indictment, Waymire created phony invoices for a company that she set up in order to transfer money into bank accounts she controlled. She also inflated payroll figures for other employees of the TV station and arranged to have the differences transferred into her account. The Journal-Gazette reported the wire transfer payments ranged in size from $100 to $17,890. WFWA hired Waymire in 2009, and she began stealing from the station in 2010, which continued until her employment was terminated last year.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Election Complaint Filed Against Fort Wayne House Candidate

The Fort Wayne Democratic House candidate accused of residing in Michigan instead of the district in which he is seeking to represent must now defend against a formal complaint filed against him with the Allen Co. Board of Elections. Fort Wayne resident Paul Ensley filed a complaint alleging that District 84 candidate Fred Haigh resides in a home he and his wife own in Quincy, Michigan, not the home at which he's registered to vote in Fort Wayne. Ensley also accused Haigh of failing to include a disclaimer stating who paid for the advertising on some of his signs.

Haigh conceded to the Journal-Gazette that he no longer resides at a home he rented within the district after the home's owner turned down an offer he made to purchase the home. He insists, however, that he has legally resided in Fort Wayne since 1968. Yet he has claimed a homestead exemption since 2008 on his home in Michigan, which he could only claim if that is his principal residence. Haigh says he and his wife started claiming the exemption on the home after they sold their Fort Wayne home and began renting a home. "My wife established her residency in Michigan and holds a Michigan driver’s license," he told the Journal-Gazette. "The Michigan house was supposed to be sold and the closing was scheduled for late August, but the deal fell through, he said." He concedes that he's been traveling back and forth from Michigan since he stopped renting the home in Fort Wayne.

The director of the Allen Co. Election Board, Beth Dlug, told the Journal-Gazette that Ensley's complaint should have been filed with the state's Election Division since Haigh is a state candidate. That's not entirely accurate. The local election board has jurisdiction to determine whether Haigh is legally registered to vote in Fort Wayne. The state's election division has jurisdiction to determine whether Haigh legally resides within District 84. Ensley told the Journal-Gazette he plans to file his complaint with the state's Election Division as well. Haigh conceded that some of his signs lacked the proper disclaimer as alleged in Ensley's complaint. He says he has taken down the signs and replaced them with signs containing the proper disclaimer.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Indianapolis Public Library Gets Approval For Its Latest Tax, Borrow And Spend Plan

Previously, we told you about how the Jackie Nytes-run Indianapolis Public Library had crafted a $59 million capital spending plan to build new library branches all over the county without subjecting the borrowing plan to the referendum process Indiana lawmakers led you to believe you would have available to help protect your property tax bills from increasing unnecessarily when it passed property tax reform legislation in 2008. Ms. Nytes, who was CFO of the library back in the 1990s when your library tax levy skyrocketed because of the Taj Mahal addition to the Central Library, which has turned into a popular hang out for street bums to sleep off their hangovers and a make-shift home/loitering hall for downtown's growing homeless population, assured members of the Municipal Corporations Committee that the massive borrowing and spending plan can be done without raising taxes again.

What her high-paid consultant from Umbaugh & Associates showed us with her fancy chart is that property tax levies that would otherwise decline substantially because of the retirement of old debt will instead remain at least as high as they currently are to pay for the new debt that is replacing the old debt. A little more than $70 million in old debt will be replaced by a similar amount that you will be taxed to pay off for decades to come. The levy rate may remain steady, but that doesn't mean your taxes won't increase unless you're banking on your property values remaining the same and not subject to future assessment increases by your friendly assessor. For the average council member with an IQ of 75, it sounded good enough as they passed her massive debt plan unanimously. By the way, these people from Umbaugh & Associates are the same financial experts who've been providing advice to the City of Carmel for years. Remember how Mayor James Brainard continuously assured the public his financial experts had assured him his beloved Redevelopment Commission was sustainable with existing property tax revenues right up to the point he had to ask the city council to bail it out?

Watch the video above as their slick, high-paid bond lawyer dances around the referendum-avoidance issue while laughing in your faces. He even told the council members the bond fees would be the same whether a single $59 million bond issue is underwritten or it's broken up into multiple bond issues. When he spoke of fees, he was only speaking of the finance fees; he wasn't speaking of the fees his law firm gets to charge anew with each successive bond issue. If you believe a lawyer's fee for a single bond is the same as the fee for serial bond issues, I've got a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you. There was nobody who spoke up at the meeting tonight on behalf of taxpayers; only the usual suspects who get paid to testify bothered to show up. It just reminds me again of how there really is no hope for representative government in this country anymore. Only the voices of the people feeding at the public trough get heard. The rest of us can just go to hell.

Purchase Of McDermott's Million-Dollar Home At Tax Sale Turning Heads

Former Hammond Mayor Tom McDermott, Sr., father of Mayor Tom McDermott, Jr., saw his million dollar home in Crown Point's gated Morningside community auctioned at a tax sale yesterday for delinquent property taxes. While the delinquent taxes amounted to $133,000, which had accumulated over a period of several years, the buyer at the tax sale paid $1.6 million to get the tax deed to the home. County tax records list the home's assessed value at $1,261,000. Local officials tell the Northwest Indiana Times they've never seen a delinquent property sold at such a premium before.
"I don't remember any home being sold for that kind money," [Lake Co. Treasurer John] Petalas said. He has been overseeing such sales since 2006. Former Treasurer Peggy Katona said no such amount was bid in the previous eight years she conducted sales,
McDermott served as Hammond mayor from 1984 to 1992. He is the father of current Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr.
Petalas said the elder McDermott has been unable to pay his full annual property tax bills, which amounted to more than $21,000 this year, for several years.
Petalas said the home hadn't gone up for tax sale until this year because of McDermott filing lengthy appeals of the house's tax assessment, listed in county records at $1,261,000. Petalas said the elder McDermott was put on an installment plan, but didn't complete the payments.
So just who would pay a premium to own the tax deed to McDermott's home? The buyer has been identified as LTNO, LLC. According to the Secretary of State records, LTNO was created on July 18, 2012. Its registered business address is 1000 E. 80th Place, Suite #700, Merrillville, Indiana. According to the Times, that's the same address that is used by Bruce White's Whiteco Industries, which was the developer of the gated Morningside community where McDermott's home is located. Jason Weisler, a Merrillville attorney, is listed as the registered agent at that address. The Indiana Roll of Attorneys identifies Weisler as an attorney at White/Peterman Properties, Inc. Weisler told the Times that he's not affiliated with Whiteco. Hmmm.

McDermott has until September, 2015 to reclaim his property by paying his delinquent tax bill with interest. The overpayment of $1,488,598 would be refunded to LTNO; however, if McDermott doesn't reclaim his property, the overpayment after paying all outstanding taxes, interests, mortgage and other liens of record will be paid to McDermott. Interest on the delinquency is accumulating at the rate of $204 a day according to the Times. Petalas told the Times that "overpayments are normal in tax sales, but not this amount of money." Old-timers will recall that the elder McDermott was a Republican, unlike his son, who was elected as a Democratic mayor. The billionaire Dean White family contributes heavily to the Republican Party and its candidates. McDermott, Sr. spoke admiringly of Dean White in a March 8, 2012 story on his life in the Times:
Former Hammond mayor Thomas McDermott Sr. said White is exceedingly generous.
"Whenever someone has a fundraiser, he's always been No. 1 on the charity hit list," McDermott said. "I know because I'm the one that usually asks."
Indeed, the Dean and Barbara White Foundation supports a wide variety of local causes, such as Boys & Girls Clubs, universities and hospitals, as well as the Indiana State Museum and the Indiana Grantmakers Alliance.
"He is a visionary who sees things most other people don't and has the courage and willingness to back it up with his own investment dollars," McDermott added.
White is described as a humble, good-natured, approachable workaholic who still finds work fun. McDermott said his friend refuses to be lured from his homegrown roots and is not done leaving his footprints on Northwest Indiana . . .
"He still goes into the office every day, telling his staff what he's going to do next. He's just a regular guy who sits in the same seat at the restaurant every morning reading the paper with his cup of coffee.
"You know how he'll be remembered? As a real nice guy that did well -- and never forgot where he came from," McDermott said.

IPS Board Member's Conflict Of Interest Erupts Before Election

The conflict of interest problem faced by board members of the Indianapolis Public Schools whose seats have been or are about to be bought by out-of-state education profiteers has been a topic of conversation on this blog for the past couple of weeks. As costly campaign fliers fill our mailboxes in support of the three Stand For Children-backed candidates, a contract with one of those education profiteers and an IPS board member employed by that contractor has erupted in spectacular fashion just one week before this year's election.

According to the IBJ, the IPS board a week ago approved a $750,000 a year contract with Teach Plus, the employer of IPS board member Caitlin Hannon, who serves as the organization's local executive director, on a 3-2 vote. Hannon, whose seat was bought and paid for by out-of-state education profiteers two years ago, abstained from the vote. Now IPS Board President Annie Roof, who is locked in the at-large race against several candidates, including Stand For Children-backed candidate, Mary Ann Sullivan, is calling a special meeting to reconsider the vote on that contract after she learned IPS had already started using Teach Plus' services before the board had even considered their contract. The IBJ explains roofs rationale for the special meeting:
Roof said the election is not the reason for the meeting. While she voted for the contract last week, she said she was troubled to learn IPS had launched the program before the board formally voted. Approximately two dozen “teacher leaders” have already begun their new assignments, which come with extra pay.
“I’m just trying to make sure everybody is comfortable with the decisions that are being made and we’re all on the same page,” Roof said. “I am not comfortable that there wasn’t a vote on the contract (before it was rolled out in the schools). There’s no election politics in this. We’re just doing our jobs.”
Board member Diane Arnold, who voted in favor of the contract, said the situation probably could have been handled better but thought it would be a mistake to reverse the vote. A no vote from Brown, who often is at odds with Hannon on the board, could make the vote a tie and put the program in jeopardy.
Arnold said she hopes the meeting is just a discussion, but thinks some of her fellow board members want to re-vote.
Naturally, Stand For Children's local paid advocate, Justin Ohlemiller, is sounding the alarm bells at the thought of the board re-considering its contract with Teach Plus. Although Hannon is in charge of Teach Plus' local operations and IPS' contract would be its largest in the state of Indiana, the IBJ says the contract included a conflict of interest form completed by Hannon stating that she would not be involved in payments for the services provided under the contract. Under the program, teachers at three of the school district's most troubled schools are provided additional pay and responsibilities to improve the schools' performance. The Lilly Foundation donated $1 million to the school district for the program.

Just to remind you one more time, unless you want to hand total control of IPS to the out-of-state education profiteers, do not vote for any of the Stand For Children-backed candidates, including Mary Ann Sullivan, Kelly Bentley and LaNier Echols. All three have a conflict of interest in serving on IPS' board because of where they earn their money during their day jobs. Sullivan is an education consultant for hire, Bentley is a consultant for GreatSchools and Echols is dean of students for Carpe Diem charter school, which is run by an out-of-state, for-profit company. Don't believe the lies these out-of-state interests are writing about these three candidates in their massive direct mail effort and advertising blitz on their behalf. These out-of-state interests aren't spending this much money on our school board race out of the goodness of their hearts.

UPDATE: The IPS board voted 4-1 to rescind the vote approving the contract. The board's concern focused on how the program got implemented in August even though their initial vote approving the contract didn't happen until a week ago. Caitlin Hannon, an executive employee of Teach Plus abstained, but she became the subject of a shouting match between two board members as Fox59 News reports. Diane Arnold accused other board members of voting to rescind the contract because of Hannon, which led to an angry rebuke from other members. Board member Sam Odle was absent from the meeting as he often is.

Will The Indiana Court Of Appeals Hear Oral Argument In Charlie White's Appeal?

Former Secretary of State Charlie White's highly unusual and unprecedented prosecution on multiple felonies by a Hamilton Co. special prosecutor for registering to vote and casting a single ballot in one election at the home of his ex-wife while he was in between homes has been pending on appeal before the Indiana Court of Appeals for quite some time. Although it has been nearly two months since the case was fully briefed and his attorney filed a motion for oral argument, the Court of Appeals has yet to action on his motion. A question posed by me recently to the Court's spokesperson, Martin DeAgostino, yielded this response: "There are no deadlines for the court's response to motions, so all we can say in this instance is that the motion is pending. Thank you."

White was forced from office when a Hamilton Co. jury found him guilty of six of seven felony counts in February, 2012 after a special prosecutor brought charges against him arising from his supposed illegal registered voting address. White's criminal trial came after the Indiana Recount Commission unanimously ruled in 2011 that White satisfied residency requirements and had not committed vote fraud by using his ex-wife's home as his voting address, a decision that was later upheld by the Indiana Supreme Court.

It would seem rather odd if the Court of Appeals would deny oral argument for White's case, particularly in light of the public importance of the case. The Court recently granted a motion to hear oral argument in the Good Earth Natural Foods case against the Department of Metropolitan Development over the Whole Foods redevelopment project in Broad Ripple within three weeks of that case being fully briefed, which arguably was far less important than White's case. The Court heard oral argument in that case on October 1 and issued its final opinion on October 28, an opinion not for publication. By comparison, White's case was fully briefed on September 8, just 30 days after Good Earth's case was fully briefed. Court rules do not require that a party be afforded oral argument during an appeal.

Fort Wayne Has Another Legislative Candidate With A Residency Problem

Fred Haigh is seeking the Democratic House seat represented by State Rep. Bob Morris (R-Fort Wayne), but he and his wife own a 5-bedroom, $326,000 lakeside home in Michigan on which they claim a homestead exemption as their principal residence. Haigh tells the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette's Niki Kelly that he is currently commuting between his home in Michigan and Fort Wayne because he and his wife are in between homes. The couple had been renting a home they wanted to buy, but their offer was not accepted. They moved out of that home in September. Haigh says he and his wife have put money down on another house within the district they intend to move into that is within the district. Haigh has owned his Michigan home since 2008.

An election complaint is expected to be filed with the Allen Co. Election Board contesting whether Haigh satisfies the residency requirement. The Indiana Election Division's Trent Deckard gave Haigh an opinion that he can still run and vote in his Fort Wayne district in the November election, making it another one of those cases that drive former Secretary of State Charlie White crazy. White was convicted of six felonies for using his ex-wife's home as his voting residence for a several month period while he was in between homes and forced to give up his office.

Residency issues are nothing new to Fort Wayne residents. For years, former State Rep. Win Moses (D) and his wife lived in a posh home on Indianapolis' north side while claiming a residence at an apartment in the Fort Wayne district he represented for many years as their residence for voting purposes. Moses removed the homestead exemption he had been claiming on his Indianapolis home after a reporter started asking questions about his residence. Yes, Charlie, you really are a class of one in Indiana.

UPDATE: A reader pointed out another residency story Niki Kelly had in the Journal-Gazette where two law partners of a Democratic state senate candidate in Fort Wayne appear to be illegally registered to vote at their law office.
Two law partners of a Democratic Senate candidate could be committing vote fraud by registering and voting from their law firm address.
Candidate Jack Morris said he was unaware of the issue until The Journal Gazette informed him Monday. He faces Republican Liz Brown in the race for the Senate District 15 seat . . .
Timothy Logan has already cast an early ballot, while Marlin R. Benson has not.
Morris acknowledged that neither Logan nor Benson lives in the law firm’s office at 3505 Lake Ave., where they are both registered to vote.
Neither Benson nor Logan returned several calls from The Journal Gazette seeking comment Monday.
Former Secretary of State Charlie White was convicted of felony voter fraud and several other counts for using his ex-wife’s address to register to vote in the 2010 election. He lost his office and is still fighting his convictions . . .
Barry Schust, the Republican member of the Allen County Board of Voter Registration, said county records showed Benson registered at the law firm in 2009 and Logan in 2011.
Morris ran for the same seat in 2010 but lost to incumbent Sen. Tom Wyss, R-Fort Wayne.
It is also unclear whether Logan actually lives in Senate District 15. Morris initially gave a Blossom Road address for Logan, but it was also in Kruse’s district. He later called The Journal Gazette back with a Jefferson Way address that is in the district he is seeking.
Allen County Elections Director Beth Dlug said the Election Board couldn’t look at the situation until a complaint is filed.
She said state law requires people to be registered at their residence, which is where they sleep at night or intend to return . . .
Allen County Republican Party Chairman Steve Shine said all three men – Morris, Logan and Benson – have shown disrespect to the laws they have taken an oath to uphold.
He specifically said Morris is acting too cavalier about the violations, which could be a felony.
“Jack Morris’ response to allegations that two of his law partners registered to vote and voted contrary to Indiana law is both disappointing and non-responsive,” Shine said.
In my precinct where I've worked as an election judge in the past, I noticed a couple of business executives who use their offices as their voting address instead of their personal residences located elsewhere in the city. I knew they were residents of the city so it really didn't bother me whether they voted in my precinct or some other precinct in the city. Yet that was precisely the nail on which the prosecution in Charlie White's case used to hang their hat. I maintain that the Charlie White case was a bastardization of our residency laws to the extreme. I just wish all of the Charlie White haters would admit it publicly.

Star Reports On Gay Candidate's Fight Discrimination With More Discrimination Remarks

The controversial remarks made by District 29 Senate candidate J.D. Ford at a local forum hosted by the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Indianapolis has been widely discussed on local blogs and social media, but the mainstream media has largely ignored them. Ford, an openly gay Democratic candidate seeking to unseat incumbent Sen. Mike Delph (R), suggested business owners which refuse to provide services based upon their religious beliefs should be denied public services like police and fire protection. The Indianapolis Star's Tony Cook picked up on an issue Ford would rather not talk about at this point.
Senate candidate J.D. Ford wanted to make a simple point during a recent political forum: If a business benefits from public services, then it shouldn't be allowed to discriminate against any member of the public.
But that's not quite what Ford said when he responded to a question about whether businesses should be allowed to refuse services to customers for religious reasons.
"I think if that's the case, then those businesses need to hire their own private security," Ford said. "I think those businesses need to have a pail for water to put out their own fire."
Those comments drew sharp criticism from social conservatives, who quickly called attention to a video clip of Ford's comments during an Oct. 21 candidates forum sponsored by the Jewish Community Relations Council.
Delph told the Cook that he "was saddened to hear [Ford] express intolerance for those of us who hold deep religious conviction." Oddly, Cook's story has no response from Ford, who has said elsewhere that his comments were taken out of context. Instead, a spokesman for Indiana Equality Action Fund defended Ford's remarks by claiming that social conservatives had "chopped up" and used "to say something different than was meant." Here's the text of the question posed to Ford by moderator Amos Brown and Ford's response:
Moderator Amos Brown:  "There is talk about the introduction of a 'Religious Freedom Act' in the upcoming session. Under what circumstances should someone (or a business) reasonably be allowed to refuse service to an individual on the basis of 'religious freedom?' For example, if someone claims that their religion prohibits divorce, should that person be able to refuse to do business with or hire someone who is divorced?"
J.D. Ford: "It's interesting, you just heard my opponent, he's always talking about Judeo Christian and pushing it on to you and all of a sudden he's backing away from this particular issue. I think if that's the case, then those businesses need to hire their own private security. I think those businesses need to have a pail for water to put out their own fire. So, those are public resources that we provide to those businesses. So I would not be in support of that."
A federal law like that posed in Brown's question, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1993. It has been construed by courts not to apply to the states.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Health & Hospital Corporation-Owned Nursing Home In Seymour Under Investigation For Neglect

A 43-year old resident of a long-term care facility in Seymour died at Columbus Regional Hospital earlier this month, and Seymour Police and the state's Adult Protective Services are now trying to determine if neglect by his caretakers led to his death. Seymour Crossing is one of nearly 60 long-term care facilities in Indiana, which is owned by the Health & Hospital Corporation of Marion County and operated by American Senior Communities.

Call 6's Kara Kenney quotes state investigators as saying the death of Timothy Lee Johnson on October 11 is considered a criminal matter. The Seymour Police Department is still in the process of interviewing witnesses. According to Police Chief Jon Rohde, his department was notified by hospital officials that Johnson appeared to be the victim of severe neglect. Jerrie Keck, an administrator at Seymour Crossing told Kenney there was no neglect, although she acknowledged an ongoing investigation.

Last January, an elderly female patient at a southside Indianapolis nursing home owned by HHC, Bethany Village, suffered severe burns when a fire inexplicably broke out in her room. She was transferred to the burn unit at Eskenazi Hospital in critical condition. Local news reports ignored the fact that it was one of the many nursing homes acquired by HHC as part of its scheme to leverage enhanced Medicaid reimbursement payments to finance construction of the new, $750 million Eskenazi Hospital in Indianapolis. There were no follow-up news reports on the cause of the fire or whether the facility was being investigated by the state for neglect. Last year, a report by WTHR's Sandra Chapman found that at least half of HHC's nursing homes were ranked below average or much below average. HHC's nursing homes collectively generate about $545 million for the municipal corporation, which is run more like a mega for-profit corporation with the exorbitant salaries it pays to dozens of top executives than a county-owned charitable hospital.

Ballard Gambles $32 Million With Electric Car Fleet Operator With No Track Record

The City of Indianapolis is the guinea pig, so to speak, to determine whether Michael Brylawski's latest electric car venture will be anymore successful than his last. Mayor Greg Ballard announced the City has inked a 7-year, $32 million contract with Brylawski's brand new company company, Vision Fleet, to lease 425 plug-in hybrid and pure electric cars by 2016. Vision Fleet plans to buy cars from local automobile dealers and then lease them back to the City's Department of Public Works. Vision Fleet will be responsible for maintaining and managing the fleet. Supposedly, the deal will save taxpayers money, although we would be remiss if we didn't point out that every taxpayer savings promised by Ballard during his two terms as mayor has turned out to be untrue.
According to a city press release, each gasoline-powered sedan in Indy’s fleet would have cost taxpayers about $9,000 per year over the next decade, including purchase, fuel, maintenance and insurance. The Vision Fleet vehicles will cost about $7,400 per year over that period, saving taxpayers about $1,600 annually per vehicle.
Lotter said the city will pay its annual fees to Vision Fleet through the savings on fuel and other vehicle costs. He said the city's total fleet costs, including payments to Vision Fleet, will be "nominally less" this year, and will decline by 2016. City officials couldn't immediately specify total fleet costs.
So they don't even know what total fleet costs are, but they're sure there's a cost savings in their somewhere. According to the IBJ's report, the administration put out an RFI to find financing for a fleet conversion, and the respondents were traditional vehicle-financing companies. Vision Fleet did not respond to the RFI. I'm not sure why the leasing of these vehicles wasn't publicly bid, but it seems that none of the state's procurement laws apply to this corrupt administration and nobody really gives a damn. DPW says it would have cost $12 to $13 million to buy the cars outright. Really? Who pays for all of the electrical charging stations that will need to be installed? What's the tab for that?

Brylawski's last electric car venture, Bright Automotive, went belly up after he blew through $15 million. He blamed the federal government for not providing his company with a $450 million low-interest loan as the reason for his business' failure. The City of Indianapolis is Vision Fleet's only customer. I repeat, we are the company's first and only customer. It looks like the Boulder, Colorado-based company slapped up a website just in time for today's announcement. I feel for Ballard's successor already. He or she is going to be spending most of their first term figuring out how to undo all of the bad deals this mayor has done that will cost this city dearly for decades to come.

UPDATE: Fellow blogger Pat Andrews mentions these dates that are noteworthy:
  • Vision Fleet Funding and Indy Vision Funding were formally incorporated to do business in Indiana on March 19, 2014. Vision Fleet Funding was originally incorporated on August 6, 2013 in the state of Delaware.
  • The company's contract with DPW was signed by Brylawski and DPW Director Loris Miser on February 8, 2014. The company should not have been allowed to sign a contract with the City until it had been incorporated to do business in this state.
But check this out. The registered business address for Indy Vision Funding is Indy Partnership's offices in Suite #1800 of the Chase Tower. So now we have a government-funded nonprofit acting as agent for an out-of-state company with no track record being awarded a sweetheart deal with the city. I can only guess how many crimes have been committed with this deal, but Ballard need fear not. We don't have either a federal or county prosecutor capable of prosecuting public corruption. Yet another reason for all of your dirty Chicago pols to relocate to Indianapolis where you can steal public dollars all you want with impunity. Andrews also points out that the supposed savings could only be realized by buying more than 100 fewer cars than are in the current fleet of city cars. Once again, the local media just prints press releases for the administration rather than doing actual reporting that seems to be left to volunteer bloggers these days.

Why Billionaire Vulture Capitalists Make Bad Candidates For Public Office

Monday, October 27, 2014

Another Stand For Children-Backed IPS Candidate On Payroll of Education Profiteers

The Indianapolis Star has belatedly ran a rather bland story discussing who is bankrolling the campaigns of candidates for the three unpaid school board positions up for election in this November's election. As I previously reported, the campaigns of three Stand For Children-backed candidates, who are also backed by the Indy Chamber, are getting most of their funding from out-of-state education profiteers who are seizing effective control of schools all over the country to use as profit centers for their businesses. Previously, I discussed at-large IPS board candidate Mary Ann Sullivan's long-term work as an education consultant and District 5 candidate LaNier Echols' job as dean of students at an out-of-state managed charter school, Carpe Diem, both of whose employment raises serious conflict of interest concerns. It turns out that District 3 candidate and former IPS board member Kelly Bentley has a serious conflict of interest as well.

According to the Star's story today, Bentley is employed as a consultant for GreatSchools. This is a nonprofit education organization financed, in part, through generous grants from folks like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Walton Family Foundation. High-tech entrepreneur Bill Jackson is the founder and CEO of Great Schools. The purpose of the organization is to inform parents about their choices in educating their children. To that end, its most important function is evaluating and assigning ratings to schools. At-home learning opportunities are also important to the organization. Its board is largely made up of wealthy high-tech entrepreneurs like Jackson who benefit from e-learning investments. It's not a stretch to conclude that Bentley faces a serious conflict of interest in her paid role as a consultant to GreatSchools rating area schools, including IPS schools. Voters need to take into account the fact that all three of these Stand For Children-backed candidates are trying to serve two masters in assuming roles as board members for IPS.

Sun-Times Exposes Choose Chicago's Cronyism: When Will Indianapolis Media Expose Visit Indy?

Choose Chicago CEO Don Welsh with Emanuel's handpicked GOP candidate for governor, Bruce Rauner
The Chicago Sun-Times Chris Fusco has a story today about how tens of millions in public tax dollars being funneled to the City's nonprofit tourism organization, Choose Chicago, is being wasted on crony consulting contracts and over-paid salaries to its top executives. This should come as no surprise since Chicago's Mayor Rahm Emanuel helped lure away Visit Indy's former CEO, Don Welsh, to run his City's organization. Emanuel's handpicked Republican candidate for governor this year, billionaire venture capitalist Bruce Rauner who funneled $16 million into Emanuel's pockets during his very brief career as an investment banker, chaired Choose Chicago during Welsh's early tenure at Choose Chicago. Choose Chicago has a budget of $28.4 million, $8 million of which comes from the City of Chicago while state taxpayers contribute an ever larger sum. Here's a few items Fusco's story discusses:
  • Don Welsh earned over $491,000 in the most recent year that information was made available from the nonprofit's tax returns. Welsh has contributed $1,500 to Rauner's campaign so far.
  • Five other Choose Chicago employees earned over $200,000 a year, many of whom made large campaign contributions to various campaign committees. One is a former top aide to House Speaker Mike Madigan. 
  • Nine other employees made between $125,000 and $180,000. Choose Chicago refuses to identify these employees.
  • Choose Chicago doubled the number of outside lobbying firms it hires from two to four. One of those firms is owned by Cook Co. Assessor Joe Berrios, who also doubles as the Cook Co. Democratic Party Chairman. Another firm is owned by two former aides to Mayor Richard Daley. It was paid $3,000 a month to introduce Welsh to various political and civic leaders in the Chicago area. Another form owned by William Filan, a former aide to House Speaker Madigan, is paid $48,000 a year.
  • A friend of Mayor Emanuel, Lynn Lockwood, has a $160,000 a year consulting contract.
Gov. Quinn is now telling the Sun-Times that he will support a change in state law to require Choose Chicago to make its records publicly-available since the majority of its funding comes from state and city taxpayers. Rauner, the former chairman who signed off on these crony contracts, made some gratuitous pledge to support "transparency" if he's elected governor.

Here in Indianapolis, city taxpayers are sending $9 million a year to Visit Indy to support its convention and tourism activities. Like Choose Chicago, its officials are grossly overpaid. Only Advance Indiana has bothered to make those figures publicly-available after researching the organization's tax records. Hoops' pay of $477,000 came in just below Welsh's salary. At least eight other employees of the nonprofit organization are earning more than a $100,000 a year.

Leonard Hoops, CEO (Salary-$422,000, Bonus-$55,000)--$477,000
Susan Townsend, Sr. VP, Visitor Experience (Salary-$153,000, Bonus-$28,600)--$181,600
Michelle Travis, Sr. VP, Sales (Salary-$263,000, Bonus-$42,000)--$305,000
James Wallis, Executive VP (Salary-$223,000, Bonus-$42,000)--$265,000
Matthew Carter, VP, Market Intelligence (Salary-$154,000, Bonus-$37,000)--$191,000
Dustin Arnheim, Director, Convention Sales (Salary-$138,000, Bonus-$34,000)--$172,000
Janet Arnold, VP, Partner Relationships (Salary-$173,000, Bonus-$33,000)--$206,000
Christopher Gahl, VP, Marketing/Communications (Salary-$117,000, Bonus-$32,000)--$149,000
Mary Huggard, VP, Tourism Development (Salary-$129,000, Bonus-$21,000--$150,000
After I first published those numbers, I learned from sources within Visit Indy that Hoops and his fellow executives' pay have been increased substantially over those figures. Lower level employees at the nonprofit are furious at how much their bosses are earning. The figures shown on their tax returns don't reflect the lavish perks these top Visit Indy officials also receive as part of their employment package I'm told. Many lower-level employees of the organization are also appalled at how the publicly-financed organization is able to spend our public tax dollars. Essentially, key convention planning decision-makers are bribed through lavish entertainment, travel and gifts to entice them to choose Indianapolis as the host city for their conventions according to sources within the organization. Free tickets and entertainment are also lavished on members of the Indianapolis City-County Council and other local officials so they will continue to be so generous with your tax dollars to the organization. It is time that public officials in Indianapolis demand public accountability by Visit Indy. We want full disclosure of how every penny is being spent, and we want an independent top-to-bottom audit of past expenditures to shed light on where our taxpayer dollars have been spent and to determine if the organization covered up scandals within the organization that should have been made public.

Westfield Mayor Lied: Privately-Built Sports Arena Actually Being Paid With Public Tax Dollars

Westfield Mayor Andy Cook makes comments to the hundreds of people that turned out for the grand opening ceremony for Westfield's Grand Park, which, when finished, will be the country's largest multipurpose youth sports complex, on Saturday, June 21, 2014. The three-day celebration that began on Friday includes live music, a Ferris wheel, food and fireworks, and of course a youth sports tournament. The facility has 31 multi-use soccer/football fields and 26 baseball/softball diamonds throughout 400 acres.
Mayor Andy Cook at Grand Park's opening ceremony (Charles Nye/Star Photo)
Last summer, Westfield Mayor Andy Cook announced that the City's new Grand Park had attracted $20 million in private investment from Holladay Properties, which plans to build an indoor arena containing at least three soccer fields. Four months later, the plan is going before Westfield's city council for approval, and the project has grown to a $25 million project. Oh, and by the way, it's really not a privately-financed project as advertised by Mayor Cook because taxpayers are going to become the tenant and be on the hook to repay all debt payments due on the facility, which means the once privately-funded $20 million project has ballooned into a $53 million publicly-financed project. Mayor Cook now says he never misled anyone about the project, and the city council has fast-tracked the proposal for approval at tonight's council meeting before its residents can absorb what they're being asked to swallow. Here's a snippet of Chris Sikich's story in today's Star:
. . . On Monday, the City Council will consider the result of those ongoing negotiations: a proposal to pay nearly $53 million, with interest, over the next 25 years to lease the arena from that developer, Holladay Properties.
The city would use money collected from sports organizations and businesses that operate in the building. Ultimately, though, general city revenues — taxpayer dollars — would back the loan used to build the arena if those payments run short.
The city also has negotiated an option to buy the building outright after it opens in fall 2015. Cook said it's in the best interest of the city to control the cash flow and scheduling at the arena.
Cook told The Indianapolis Star on Thursday he was factually correct when he made the announcement in June. The facility will be built by a private developer. And revenue generated from the arena, he believes, will more than pay back the construction loan.
Cook believes adding the indoor arena will bring year-round activity to Grand Park that will foster economic development and grow the tax base.
"People should be saying, 'Hey, this is a great deal,' " Cook said. "I know everybody is going to question no matter what we do. There are people who don't support Grand Park at all. I get it."
The mayor's critics say the deal raises more questions about the viability of Grand Park as an economic engine for Westfield — and puts taxpayers on the hook for a sports arena.
"I thought this was a privately funded development," said former Councilman Ron Thomas. "But really, you're more than doubling the cost of the park." . . .
Here's an even bigger question than the public-funding aspect of this proposal. What this project has become is a public-private partnership agreement by any other name pretty much like what the City of Indianapolis is undertaking for its proposed new criminal justice center. The problem is that the City of Westfield never followed the public notice and public bidding requirements through a Request for Proposals ("RFP") process for a "build, operate and transfer agreement" that it is undertaking as is required under state law. If it had, city taxpayers would have known before now that they were on the hook to pay for this arena and would ultimately wind up owning it, and Mayor Cook would not have been able to engage in crony capitalism at its worst by sole-sourcing the project to Holladay Properties. Someone should be filing a lawsuit post-haste seeking to block the project because Mayor Cook's administration violated state law.

Equally as concerning is the ability of a municipal government to once again skirt the referendum process enacted as part of the state's property tax reforms in 2008. Controlled projects costing above a certain dollar threshold are subject to a public referendum process if property taxes can be levied to pay for a project. Here, the City is pledging revenues it says the project will generate from private businesses and sports organizations that operate within the arena; however, if those revenues prove inadequate, which I'm guessing is quite likely in this case, the City will be required to turn to other taxes like property taxes to fulfill its legal obligations under the lease agreement with Holladay Properties. This is just another example of why the state legislature needs to revisit the property reform law it passed in 2008. We have the City of Indianapolis planning to skirt the referendum requirement for at least a half billion dollar project, and the Indianapolis Public Library planning to issue close to $60 million in bonds for construction projects, which it plans to do without seeking property taxpayers approval by breaking it up into multiple bond projects. Now we have a municipality committing $53 million in public funds for a new sports arena, which ultimately puts the city's property taxpayers on the hook to repay. Clearly, our local elected officials cannot be trusted when matters of public finance are concerned.

UPDATE: The council approved the deal tonight on a 6-1 vote. Efforts to delay the vote for two weeks were met with warnings that the entire project could be jeopardized or at least delayed for many months if approval was not given tonight. That's short-hand for rushing the deal through before the public has time to figure out just how badly their corrupt elected officials have screwed them over.

Just saw a copy of the 25-year lease agreement. Holladay Properties is represented by Ice Miller, which is the same law firm that negotiated the privatization of the Lawrence Water Company in direct violation of the Public-Private Agreements Act. A court later ruled that the City of Lawrence had illegally entered into the agreement with cronies of former Mayor Tom Schneider because it failed to follow the RFP process set out in the Act. Here are some other points I would highlight:

  • The lease cannot be terminated by the city. The city is representing to Holladay Properties that it has "irrevocably pledged legally available revenues in order to satisfy its obligations under this Lease." Shades of Indianapolis' ROC lease? Typically, a lease of real estate by a governmental entity must include a provision that its continuance is based on the availability of appropriated funds. Not this lease agreement. The actions of this city council ties the hands of future councils for the next 25 years. This is effectively a purchase agreement as well. The City owns the property and improvements thereon at the end of the 25-year lease regardless of whether it exercises its option to purchase the property sooner. 
  • The City is liable for all claims arising from the use of the property and must indemnify and hold the landlord harmless from any claims arising under the lease.
  • All repairs/maintenance/utility/insurance/landscaping, snow removal, etc. expenses are entirely the City's responsibility.
  • The lease agreement assumes property taxes will be paid on the property and improvements. Yes, the City is responsible for paying the property taxes.
  • The base lease payments start at $1.97 million per year and grow to $2.27 million by the last five years of the lease. The annual lease payments are subject to increases if the interest rate paid by the landlord to finance construction of the project increases. The net increase must offset any higher costs paid by the landlord.
  • The additional rent includes all of the extra expenses for property taxes, repair/maintenance, utilities, management fees, insurance, etc. I suspect the city council members voting to approve this deal have no idea what those additional costs will be. I'm not sure what the management fee could be since the city is totally responsible for the property.
  • All change orders after construction commences that raise the cost of the projects will be paid out of the city's pocket, not the landlord's. 
  • I never heard how much money was paid to Craig Wood's family for the land. I'll bet  anything the amount was grossly inflated.
  • Is the City going to manage the property itself, or is it going to pay an additional management fee to Holladay Properties or some other company to manage it? Property management fees can be substantial. It seems like that would have been openly discussed but apparently was a matter of no concern to clueless members of the city council.
Again, only an extremely corrupt politician who is on the take would have inked this deal the city council approved tonight. The Westfield taxpayers deserve the royal screwing they're going to get as a result of this deal because of their utter failure to hold their public officials' feet to the fire. One particular council member by the name of Chuck Lehman gets the dumbest public official award of the year. The Star's Chris Sikich quotes Lehman as saying, "Taxpayer money could be at risk, but the bigger risk is doing nothing." Also, according to Sikich, J. Murray Clark, Jr. a potential candidate for Indianapolis mayor, testified in support of the deal. Clark represents the Turkish immigrant businessman, Ersal Ozdemir, in his corrupt efforts to get the politicians to finance construction of a new $90 million soccer stadium for his Indy Eleven team in downtown Indianapolis. He promises to return to the State House this next session to secure state financing for the deal. Perhaps by that time he will have bought off enough politicians to get it across the finish line. 

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Your're Now Dangerous And Anti-American If You Disagree On Global Climate Change

Dangerous and anti-American. That's what you are according to a radical, leftist IUPUI professor, Sheila Kennedy, if you share a different view from her and her fellow Global Warming advocates who believe the use of fossil fuels must be outlawed or the Earth's climate will be irreversibly altered to the point it will no longer support human life. Although you can find many credible scientists who argue differing points of view than those shared by her ilk, she believes her views are factually-based and only "know-nothings" like U.S. Rep. Todd Rokita and his base could conceivably have a differing point of view.

My father didn't have any fancy college degrees like Ms. Kennedy, but he was a highly successful farmer who understood weather better than most of the talking Ken and Barbie dolls delivering the weather forecasts on the local television newscasts. The most fundamental thing he understood about weather was that it was cyclical; it wouldn't be Earth if weather patterns were constant. There are short-term weather patterns affecting the Earth's weather only at the margins--the kind that affected his crops yields from year to year, and there are long-term weather patterns that lead to temperature extremes where most of the Earth is covered by ice or submerged in water--the kind he could see in the topography and richness of the land he cultivated caused by the glaciers that once covered our region during earlier ice ages thousands of years ago.

The one thing I've learned from my independent research that is largely supported by science is that cycles of solar activity on our Sun directly impact weather on Earth more than any Earth-originating causes, whether human or otherwise. Emissions from fossil fuels, while significant, have far less impact than the degree of energy output from the Sun impacting Earth. Fossil fuel emissions can't explain why the Earth's magnetic field, which protects us from deadly solar radiation, has been weakening for decades as the magnetic north and south poles have drifted hundreds of miles. Some scientists believe this portends a reversal of the Earth's magnetic poles, something that may occur more frequently than previously thought.

The folks who argue that fossil fuel emissions are causing global warming ignore data that shows the opposite to be true--Earth's average temperatures have actually been declining for some time, likely due to a current solar minimum we are experiencing. Yeah, but what about polar ice melting? What global warming folks won't admit is that most of the melting of ice in the Antarctic is caused by vast subglacial volcanoes that are heating and melting the ice underneath, particularly in the western region where the ice has seen the greatest melting. The so-called Arctic ice death spiral that Al Gore famously predicted would lead to a complete melt-off by now has reversed in recent years with the areas covered by ice and the actual thickness of the ice having recovered dramatically in recent years.

Opponents of fossil fuels are as good at turning a blind eye to the negative environmental impact caused by their favorite green energy sources, such as solar and wind energy, as advocates of fossil fuels. Many of the same toxic chemicals used to manufacture high-tech gadgets are also a byproduct of manufacturing solar array panels, along with the accompanying health risks posed to workers exposed to those toxins. Let's not talk about how much energy is consumed to manufacture solar energy components either because it muddies up the positives a bit as well. Vast solar arrays also impact surrounding wildlife negatively, particularly birds and animals that inhabit the area surrounding solar farms. The lives of birds are cut short when they mistake solar farms for bodies of water and are literally burned alive mid-air from concentrated solar beams. In addition to wreaking havoc on area birds, large wind farms also contribute to warming temperatures near the Earth's surface. As those large turbine blades continue to turn at night when the temperatures normally cool, they cause warmer air aloft to heat up the temperature at the Earth's surface.

It is remarkable that a woman who claims to be an advocate of civil discourse is often the first to castigate people who don't share her views in the most negative terms possible. Ms. Kennedy may not agree with the views of U.S. Rep. Todd Rokita (R-Indiana) and others who share his views, but to suggest he is dangerous and anti-American because he views are different than her's is, well, "dangerous and anti-American." Perhaps Ms. Kennedy has a direct line to God or some other higher power that the rest of us commoners lack which makes her opinions more authoritative than our opinions, but I suspect otherwise.

Houston's Lesbian Mayor Lies About Daughter's Problem Getting A Driver's License

annise parker

There are people in this country who are truly discriminated against because of their sex, race, religion, orientation, etc., but when someone, particularly an elected official, makes up a lie to make themselves out to be a victim of discrimination, that person needs to be called out in the harshest of terms. Houston's controversial lesbian mayor, Annise Parker, has earned the public's indignation. Parker and her spouse, Kathy Hubbard, have an adopted daughter. When her daughter had difficulty getting a driver's license, Mayor Parker took to Twitter to lay blame on the fact that her daughter has two mommies.

Daughter needs drivers test. Has all docs, some in MomA name, some MomK, but w/ birth cert showing both. DPS says can only be from 1 mom!-A
It turns out the difficulty Parker's daughter had in getting a driver's license had nothing to do with the sexual orientation of her parents; rather, the daughter simply failed to present the documents required to establish her residence in Texas like any other driver's license applicant must do. A spokesman for Texas' Department of Public Safety, Tom Vinger, set the record straight.
All individuals applying for their first Texas driver license must provide a variety of documents to prove their identity, Social Security Number, U.S. citizenship or lawful presence status, and Texas residency. In this case, the adult applicant did not initially present sufficient documentation to prove residency. Once she provided the required documentation, she was able to complete the transaction. There is no indication that any delay in the process was related to same-sex marriage.”

Friday, October 24, 2014

More Bid-Rigging In The Ballard Administration

If there's been a fair procurement process that has occurred during the Ballard administration, it would come as a surprise to me. With nobody looking over his shoulder, there is little reason to comply with state and local procurement laws. So it comes as no surprise to read in the Indianapolis Star today that the administration put out for bid a contract for HVAC services and included in that bidding requirement that all bidders possess a license to perform heating and cooling repairs in the City of Indianapolis. There were eight companies which submitted bids, and the company awarded a contract was the only bidder that lacked a license to do business in the City of Indianapolis.

The report says the winning contract went to Continental Contracting Services, a company owned by John Simeone, a part-time reserve officer with the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department. When questioned by an attorney for one of the losing bidders, the Ballard administration defended its decision, noting that Simeone's employees, if not his company, possessed licenses. Yet a city ordinance and the bid specifications required the business to possess a license as well. After one city attorney said it was okay that the business didn't have a license as long as the employees had one, another city attorney, Toae Kim, acknowledged the contractor had to be licensed but said the City would not terminate the contract. Meanwhile, a spokesman for Code Enforcement backtracked to the City's original position that as long as the employees were licensed the law and bid specifications had been satisfied. The bottom line was that the seven losing bidders which paid the annual licensing fee of $247 lost, while the one bidder which didn't pay the City's annual licensing fee won the lucrative contract.

Simeone told the Star that City officials never asked him to license his business after one of the losing bidders complained. Instead, they assured him he was in compliance with the law. Nonetheless, as the Star went to print with its story, Simeone rushed to finally get his company licensed. I distinctly remember seeing a Board of Public Works meeting a few years ago where the Board stood by a decision to disqualify a bid submitted by a well-known local contracting firm because the bid package omitted a single required supplemental form unrelated to the bid proposal with their original bid that was specified to be completed in the bid specifications, even though the bid the firm submitted was the lowest bid.

Some question whether Simeone should be disqualified from doing business with the City since he's a part-time employee. Not surprisingly, there's nothing in the City's useless ethics code that prevents him from having a contract with the City as long as it's not with the same city agency that employs him. I noticed that Simeone includes testimonies from city employees on his company's website, a practice that I thought government employees were not permitted to do for city contractors. John Hazlett, Director of the Office of Sustainability wrote, "We are very lucky to have CCS on contract for this and other projects. You and your company are truly an example of the seemingly lost art of customer service." Sherry Powell, an assistant administrator for DPW wrote, "I just wanted to pass along this e-mail, where the Woodruff Place neighborhood has complimented Continental Contracting Services for a job well done, in regard to street lights in their neighborhood." She added, "I also wanted to tell you how happy we have been with their service and responsiveness.  They have truly been great to work with and we hope that we are able to continue working with them in the future."

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Bag Man In Chicago Red Light Camera Bid-Rigging Scandal Agrees To Plead Guilty

Martin O'Malley (Photo: Al Podgorski/Sun-Times)
The Chicago Sun-Times is reporting that federal prosecutors in Chicago have secured cooperation and a guilty plea from a key player in the scheme Redflex Traffic Systems allegedly engaged to win a lucrative contract to operate the City's red light camera system. Martin O'Malley, a "consultant" hired by Redflex, has told prosecutors he funneled about $2 million worth of goodies to a key city employee, John Bills, to win contracts worth $124 million for Redflex, including a condominium, a boat, golf outings, his children's tuition, his girlfriend's mortgage, Super Bowl tickets and even the attorney's fees to handle his divorce.

Redflex' former CEO, Karen Finlay, has also been charged in the scheme, along with Bills, both of whom maintain their innocence. A former sales executive for Redflex, Aaron Rosenberg, has been an instrumental whistle blower in the case. He claims Redflex doled out bribes to municipal officials as a matter of course to win contracts in more than a dozen states.

Meanwhile, a federal judge in Illinois has agreed to appoint a monitor to review all hiring decisions at the Illinois Department of Transportation after an Inspector General's report uncovered the hiring of dozens of political hacks for made-up "staff assistant" jobs that required little or no work at the state agency but paid quite well.

Is Illinois really that much more corrupt than Indiana? Not hardly. It's just that for some reason the Land of Lincoln has some newspapers which still act as watchdogs for the public and federal prosecutors who make an effort to keep things in check, something sorely missing here in the Hoosier State. I've said it before and it bears repeating. I encourage all of those corrupt pols up in Chicago to come on down and ply your trade here. It's much easier to operate with impunity in our state.

Pacers Executives Get Tour Of Star's New Digs: What Does It Tell Us?

Publisher Karen Ferguson, center, leads a tour for
Jim Morris, Rick Fuson and Karen Ferguson (left to right) touring Star's new offices (Kelly Wilkinson/Star Photo)
Former Indianapolis Star columnist Ruth Holladay asks why the newspaper felt obliged to share with its readers a collection of photos showing the Star's senior management providing a special tour of the newspaper's new digs in Circle Center Mall to the Pacers' senior management, noting that Publisher Karen Ferguson tweeted earlier this month that it only took her 30 seconds to walk from her new office to Banker's Life Fieldhouse where the Pacers play. And? What were they thinking? Or better yet, how did they think us ordinary folks would react?

Gannett inherited a conflict of interest with all matters concerning the Simon-owned Pacers when it purchased the Star because of a prior investment the Pulliam-run newspaper chain had invested in the Simon-owned Circle Center Mall, a debt repayment the newspaper has agreed to defer on several occasions because of some later co-mingled financing of the construction of Banker's Life Fieldhouse by the CIB. The Star, of course, has been very outspoken in using its news and editorial pages to speak in favor of the $200 plus million in public subsidies authorized by the CIB for payment to the Pacers. What, if any, special rent concession the Gannett-owned Star received for services rendered is left to something upon which we can only speculate.

As Holladay explains, the conflict in news coverage of the Pacers is further complicated because of a romantic relationship Holladay says has blossomed between Ms. Ferguson and Pacers Sports & Entertainment's president, Rick Fuson. Holladay writes:
Who really cares if Gannett's Indy Star publisher Karen Ferguson and the Pacers' president Rick Fuson are an item?
Rumors began to float more than a month ago that the former Karen Crotchfelt was going through a divorce -- and (afterthought)  was romantically involved with Fuson, who was named president for the Pacers organization at the end of September. Fuson is also divorced. 
None of my business, really. 
Except in how Pacers' coverage might play out on the Star's sports pages. Or, since sports is big business, elsewhere in the newspaper . . .
Amusement may turn more reflective if conflict of interest issues arise. Others have point out that, in the past, the newspaper has had problems with reporters who may be a bit too close to sources.
And I personally find it off-putting when the newspaper turns itself into a pimp for any sort of merry-making. Better to stick with the basics--report the damn news.
But for now, let sleeping publishers and Pacers' brass lie . . .
Online court records confirm that Ferguson filed for divorce in Hamilton Co. in April. She was represented by the law firm of Bingham Greenebaum Doll, the same law firm that serves as general counsel for the CIB, which, in theory, owns Banker's Life Fieldhouse where the Pacers play for free and get to keep all of the revenues and then some. Ferguson's divorce became final on August 15. Fuson became Pacers Sports & Entertainment president a couple of weeks later when Jim "Rent-A-Civic Leader" Morris was asked to step aside. Ponder it all the next time the Star writes an editorial, publishes a column or news story absent any semblance of objectivity concerning the massive public subsidies for the Pacers while denying its readers any dissenting viewpoints on the matter.

State Senate Candidate Says Business Owners Who Don't Accept Same-Sex Marriages Should Be Denied Police And Fire Protection Services

This video uploaded to YouTube from a recent candidates forum sponsored by the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Indianapolis has a response J.D. Ford, a Democratic candidate in District 29 seeking to unseat incumbent Sen. Mike Delph (R), an opponent of same-sex marriages, gave to a question about businesses which have an issue accepting a recent federal court decision holding that Indiana's Defense of Marriage Law was unconstitutional. The exact wording of the question is unclear since the video clip only includes the response of Ford, an openly gay candidate, to the question. "I think that, if that's the case, then those businesses need to hire their own private security," Ford said. "I think those businesses need to have a pale for water to put out their own fire," he continued. "And so those are public resources that we provide to those businesses." It raises the question of whether Ford is taking his views on same-sex marriage to an extreme that people on his side of the issue often accuse those on Delph's side of the issue of taking. What do you think?

UPDATE: If a conservative Republican candidate had made a comment as troubling as Ford's comments, (think of Richard Mourdock and what God intended comment on pregnancy resulting from rape), does anyone believe it would have long gone viral after being blasted by every major news organization in this state, as well as around the nation?

Long-Time Sun-Times Reporter Quits After Being Placed Under "House Arrest" By Editors For Unflattering Story About Bruce Rauner

Three years ago, the editors of the Chicago Sun-Times announced they would no longer make endorsements in elections. They switched course last week in announcing their endorsement of Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner, the billionaire venture capital who is this close to Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel despite the two being from opposite political parties, in his bid to unseat incumbent Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn. Yesterday, one of the newspaper's senior political reporters announced he was quitting his job after he says he was placed under a form of "house arrest" after he penned an unflattering news story about Rauner's past business dealings.

In a resignation letter to Michael Ferro, chairman of Sun-Times owner Rapports, veteran State House reporter  Dave McKinney claims he was placed on leave from his regular political beat two days after his unflattering story about Rauner's business dealings was published and told by his bosses that he might be permanently exiled from his State House beat. Interestingly, Rapports was part of an investment group that included Rauner in a 2011 purchase of the Sun-Times. Rauner later sold his 10% stake in the Sun-Times to Ferro. McKinney claimed he was offered other jobs at the Sun-Times, all of which he considered demotions.

A representative of Rauner's campaign admitted to the Chicago Tribune that the campaign had complained to the Sun-Times management about McKinney having a conflict of interest in covering his race because of his marriage to a Democratic consultant, Ann Liston, which Rauner's campaign claimed was assisting Quinn's re-election. McKinney insisted in his resignation letter that the campaigns on which his wife was working were all out-of-state races. Here's part of McKinney's resignation letter:
Faced with the Rauner campaign’s ugly attack, Sun-Times Publisher and Editor Jim Kirk immediately told the Rauner campaign that this “assault” on my integrity “border[ed] on defamation” and represented “a low point in the campaign.” In other statements, Kirk called the campaign’s tactic “spurious” and “sexist.”
Yet despite such strong rebukes, two days later, I was yanked from my beat as I reported on a legislative hearing focusing on Gov. Pat Quinn’s botched Neighborhood Recovery Initiative. My reporting for that day was then removed inexplicably from the Sun-Times website.
I was told to go on leave, a kind of house arrest that lasted almost a week. It was pure hell. Kirk told me that his bosses were considering taking me away permanently from the political and Springfield beats. He offered up other potential jobs at the paper, all of which I considered demotions. Because of my unexplained absence from my beat, colleagues started calling, asking if I had been suspended. Or fired.
Through all this, I simply wanted to get back to my beat, but the paper wouldn’t let me. And, Carol [Marin] and I were instructed not to contact you [Michael Ferro, Sun-Times Chairman] or [CEO] Tim Knight about the Rauner campaign’s defamatory allegations.
McKinney has hired former Chicago U.S. Attorney Patrick Collins to determine whether Rauner illegally interfered with his employment relationship with the Sun-Times. McKinney claims that he was told by Sun-Times editor Jim Kirk "that Ferro couldn't understand why the story was even in the paper." Kirk initially defended McKinney's story when the Rauner campaign publicly condemned it, but McKinney believes the decision to remove him from his State House beat was Ferro's decision and not Kirk's.

McKinney's story focused on a lawsuit filed by former executives of a failed outsourcing company started by Rauner's investment group called LeapSource. LeapSource's former executive, Christine Kirk, claimed Rauner had threatened to "bury her" and "bankrupt her" in legal fees if she sued his company. Rauner told one of LeapSource's board members that he would make her "radioactive." Kirk's lawsuit was later dismissed against Rauner's company. In dismissing the suit, the judge said Rauner's company had chosen to play "hardball" and it "would have been preferable to plaintiffs if defendants had comported themselves with an aspirational ideal of good corporate governance practices that go beyond the minimal legal requirements of corporate law."

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Digital Photo Proof Saves Motorist From Erroneous Parking Ticket

So... I guess "Expired Parking Meter" is just Indianapolis City jargon for "you only have 24 minutes left".
UPDATED: Indianapolis resident Timothy Maguire thought he had purchased plenty of time on one of ParkIndy's electronic meters, but when he returned to his car, he discovered a $20 parking ticket. According to the parking meter's electronic records, he still had 24 minutes of unused time. He took digital images of the time left on his metered space, along with the ticket he was issued. After Maguire posted the information online by sharing it with his Facebook friends, Councilor Jason Holliday brought it to the Department of Public Works' attention, along with the assistance of Councilor Zach Adamson, by providing the digital images to ParkIndy, and through their efforts were able to get the ticket voided. Councilor Adamson shared the following reply he received from ParkIndy on Facebook:
Councillor, I’m sorry for the occurrence of this situation and can understand your concerns. I have confirmed that the City suspended the ticket referenced in your provided photos on 10/20. The public adoption of mobile meter payments has steadily risen since ParkIndy deployed the convenience in mid-2011. We are pleased to see continued growth and monitor the service provided by the vendor to ensure positive interactions across the system. 
My team will research this case and see if we can determine what precipitated the issuance of the ticket. I would be happy to stop by your location for a quick meeting. How’s next Wednesday morning or Thursday  afternoon look for you? 
Adam Isen  
ParkIndy, LLC A Xerox Company