|Ersal Ozdemir (Indianapolis Star Photo)
Even though the City pleads poverty when it comes to spending money maintaining neighborhood streets and sidewalks, parks and other basic city services, Ballard's chief of staff Jason Dudich tells the IBJ there's no problem finding city dollars to pay for the new stadium, which wants to ensure the Carroll Stadium makeover is "no humdrum makeover." "We're still committed to helping out," Dudich said. The mayor's office isn't saying just how much the City is willing to chip in to enrich Ozdemir's Indy Eleven professional soccer franchise. The City is defending the use of money on a facility owned by Indiana University, noting the City already agreed to provide tens of millions of dollars from TIF funds to renovate the university's Natatorium facility, which sits just to the west of Carroll Stadium on the university's campus. "The mayor wants a multi-purpose facility," Dudich said. "This investment not only helps Indy Eleven, it also helps a bunch of other organizations." I suspect there are some others who would disagree with that assessment since a new facility is likely to draw business away from other publicly-financed facilities which the City is already hard-pressed to maintain due to its sweetheart deals with billionaire professional sports team owners.
The IBJ says the mayor's staff is working closely with Ballard's former chief of staff, Paul Okeson, who was hired away by Ozdemir in a high-paid, six-figure job several years back in consideration for all of the public tax dollars Ballard steered towards the shadowy businessman the public knows little about. A short time after Okeson started working for Ozedemir, Ballard announced that the first funds to be spent from his corrupt privatization deal of the City's parking meter assets, which was brokered by the law firm which employed then City-County Council President Ryan Vaughn, would go to Ozdemir. The City gave Keystone Construction $6.5 million to build a new parking garage and commercial space in Broad Ripple, which he owns entirely and retains all of the revenues generated from parking and commercial leases. According to Ozdemir's former business partner, Keystone Construction inflated the construction costs on the project substantially by charging a multi-million dollar development fee he paid to himself.
Ozdemir's rise to political power has been meteoric. A construction company he previously owned went bankrupt a little more than a decade ago and his Carmel home was placed in foreclosure, while he was sued for failing to perform on several construction projects, including public library projects. Virtually overnight, Ozdemir appeared to be swimming in cash, becoming one of the largest campaign contributors to various Republican politicians and assuming the role as finance chairman for the Greater Indianapolis Republican Finance Committee after disgraced Ponzi schemer Tim Durham was forced to step down from that role. The Marion Co. GOP moved its headquarters into a building owned by Ozdemir which houses corporate offices for Keystone Construction and the Indy Eleven. Both Mayor Ballard and Carmel's Mayor Jim Brainard have lavished public dollars on sweetheart development projects awarded to Ozdemir's construction and real estate development companies. Nobody seems to care much about claims made in separate lawsuits pending in Hamilton and Hendricks County where his former business partner, Jason Ellis, has accused Ozdemir of defrauding him out of his ownership interest in his business and accused Ozdemir of inflating subcontractor bills and billing his construction company for costs associated with building a multi-million dollar mansion he built for himself in a gated Carmel community next to IBJ publisher Mickey Maurer.
As a result of Advance Indiana's exclusive reporting, it was revealed that Ozdemir had placed House Speaker Brian Bosma and another member of his House leadership team, State Rep. Greg Steuerwald (R-Avon), who chairs the House Ethics Committee and serves as Assistant Caucus Leader, on his payroll. The House rammed through the House approval of a public financing deal for a new stadium for the Indy Eleven last year before the minor league soccer team had even played its first game. Neither Bosma nor Steuerwald, both of whom are attorneys, disclosed the fact they were doing legal work for Ozdemir. Bosma was hired to perform trademark work for the Indy Eleven, while Steuerwald had been employed by Ozdemir for several years to represent his interests in the ongoing litigation with his former business partner in Hendricks County. Both belatedly acknowledged their relationship with Ozdemir and abstained from voting on the legislation this year but only after Advance Indiana blew their cover.
One doesn't have to study too closely the recent indictment federal prosecutors brought against New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) on bribery and honest services fraud charges, or any number of cases federal prosecutors in Chicago have brought against multiple public officials to wonder why no prosecutions are being brought in Indiana. One of the serious problems in Indiana in getting federal public corruption cases pursued lies in the U.S. Attorney's Office, which are occupied by political appointees signed off on by the senior senator whose party controls the White House prior to their presidential appointment. Indiana's senators, Democrat and Republican alike, only choose political hacks to fill that role in the Southern District of Indiana, unlike the Northern District where we've seen some tough prosecutors appointed willing to take on public corruption cases regardless of political party.
Most recently, whistle blowers complain that former U.S. Attorney Joe Hogsett, who is now running for Indianapolis mayor, killed multiple public corruption cases during his tenure, some believe in exchange for a deal he made with the Republican Party under which Mayor Ballard agreed not to seek re-election, and the Republican Party would throw the mayor's race to him. This seems quite plausible considering the rampant corruption in Ballard's administration and that of former Marion Co. Prosecutor Carl Brizzi, which Hogsett swept completely under the rug. Similarly, one of Hogsett's predecessors, now U.S. Rep. Susan Brooks, stunned local FBI investigators years earlier when she tossed in the waste basket a major corruption case in Lawrence where former Mayor Tom Schneider illegally entered into a deal with political cronies that allowed them to walk off with control of the city's water utility company, along with millions of dollars in cash and assets. Schneider's successor had to spend a tremendous amount of taxpayer money in legal expenses trying to unwind Schneider's corrupt deal. The law firm Lawrence fought was Ice Miller, the same law firm which is lobbying on behalf of Ozdemir for this corrupt stadium funding deal. Brooks, herself a former Ice Miller attorney, was later rewarded with a high-paid job at Ivy Tech following her tenure as U.S. Attorney, while her husband's law firm made off well from work steered to it by Republican power brokers, including the redrawing of Indianapolis' city-county council districts. Those same powers lined up to back Susan's successful bid to represent Indiana's Fifth District in 2012. Not surprisingly, Brooks quickly rose to the inner circle of House Speaker Boehner's extremely corrupt leadership team in Washington.
Folks, this is the sort of thing you should be reading about on the front page of the Indianapolis Star. Sadly, the newspaper is more interested in faux news stories manufactured by its disingenuous reporters and editorial staff. The taxpayers of this state and city are literally being raped by political insiders who care only about lining their own pockets at the public's expense. I can't keep count of the numerous e-mails and phone calls I receive from citizens complaining that they were turned away by reporters at The Star and our local TV stations when they have attempted to blow the whistle on all of the public corruption taking place. It really is depressing. I'm more than happy to use this blog as a venue for airing what should be reported by the mainstream media no matter how many enemies I make in the process. I frankly don't give a damn what they think about me.
UPDATE (4-6-15): Sen. Brandt Hershman contacted me this morning to clarify the purpose behind his amendment. He explained to me that folks at IU working on the proposal had mentioned their interest in having the option of relocating the track and field component of the existing Carroll Stadium to a different site, which would allow fan seating closer to the soccer field. There are apparently also renderings that would shift the playing field from running east-west to a north-south configuration. Hershman's main concern is that it remain a state-owned facility with minimal state investment, and that he's not in any way trying to dictate, what the city and/or the CIB wind up contributing to the facility or what their ongoing role in maintaining it will be; rather, that's for IU and city officials to work out. I told Hershman I thought this undermined the city's argument that it wanted a multi-use facility if the track and field component was being removed entirely. If multi-use means hosting concerts at the venue, then why is the state-owned White River Park working with Dave Lucas to build a new outdoor venue at the old GM Stamping Plant site, which would be yet another facility competing for downtown concerts? The bottom line is that we won't wind up with a renovated Carroll Stadium; Carroll Stadium will no longer exist and we'll wind up with the new stadium envisioned by Ozdemir, plus a new track and field facility built at a separate location.