Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Ballard Blasts Lawmakers For Approving $25 Million CIB Bailout

If Mayor Greg Ballard had sat down and thought about how he could deliver another middle finger to the grassroots people who elected him mayor in 2007, he couldn't have come up with a better one than this reaction to the approval of a $25 million a year bailout of the corrupt and inefficient Capital Improvement Board. From WRTV:

Ballard said he is frustrated that lawmakers' latest plan would raise only $25 million annually.

Ballard sought an increase of admissions, car rental and hotel taxes to pay for the operation of Lucas Oil Stadium and other Indianapolis sporting venues . . .

"It's problematic. It's disappointing, and frankly, the state's the loser. It's the state sales tax revenue really at stake," Ballard said. "I was very clear we need to get over this three or four-year hump. Then, we could re-look at it. If we can't do it with what they are making available to us, we are going to have to make some serious decisions."

Ballard admitted that he doesn't have a Plan B, and said the city will be forced to work with what it has. The mayor said he's concerned that the city's tourism efforts will suffer.
Apparently, Ballard's handlers forgot to tell him he could end the bad off broadway act he and his useless CIB leaders, along with Gov. Daniels and Republican lawmakers, have been putting on for the past few months to convince the public there would be hell to pay if taxpayers weren't forced to hand over another $15 million a year to the billionaire Simons per their latest greedy demand. Isn't it nice to know that you can work your butt off to beat the downtown elites to return City Hall to the people and in a flash those same corrupt self-dealers can buy off the politicians who told you they were on your side and negate the results of the election?

In other action, the IURC approved a more than 12% emergency water rate increase for the Indianapolis Water Company. The Ballard administration had requested a 17.6% increase, but the Commission decided the water company's revenue demands didn't warrant such a high increase. I suppose the Mayor will be releasing a press statement complaining about the IURC not raising your water rates enough to finance public works projects to reward campaign contributors and to give even higher fees to Veolia, the French-owned company that was given a sweetheart deal to manage the water company.

Tony George Ousted At IMS

A report sports reporter Robin Miller filed last month claiming that Indianapolis Motor Speedway CEO Tony George had been ousted by fellow board members came to fruition today. Despite a denial by George and other family members of his ouster last month, the Directors of the IMS and Hulman & Co. announced today that Curtis Brighton will become the new CEO of IMS and Jeffrey Belskus will take the helm of Hulman & Co. The IBJ quotes from a press released issued today:

“Our board had asked Tony to structure our executive staff to create efficiencies in our business structure and to concentrate his leadership efforts in the Indy Racing League,” Mari Hulman George, IMS chairwoman, said in a statement. The statement did not specify whether he will be the top executive of the IRL.

The statement continued: “(Tony) has decided that with the recent unification of open-wheel racing and the experienced management team IMS has cultivated over the years, now would be the time for him to concentrate on his team ownership of Vision Racing with his family and other personal business interests he and his family share.

“Tony will remain on the board of directors of all of our companies, and he will continue to work with the entire board to advance the interests of all of companies.

“Our family and the entire racing community are grateful to Tony for the leadership and direction he has provided since 1990,” Mrs. George said. “We are pleased that he will continue to be an important part of the Indy Racing League as a team owner and as a member of our Board of Directors, and we wish him every success.”

A Bailout Is A Bailout

While lawmakers have decided to short Mayor Greg Ballard a few million in his quest to bail out the CIB through a series of tax increases, state tax diversions and loans, the fundamentals of what they are proposing to include in the state budget have not changed. It's still a bail out. It still includes tax increases. It still takes money that could otherwise be spent on education or other more deserving areas of state government and gives it to one of the worst run governmental entities in the state. Instead of making the agency more accountable, the plan further politicizes it with political appointees beholden to the billionaire sports team owners. And at the end of the day, it still positions the CIB to carry out its plan to give an additional $15 million a year subsidy to the billionaire Simons for their Indiana Pacers team. The Star's Jon Murray explains the deal lawmakers intend to include in the state budget it votes on later today:

Under the latest rescue proposal, lawmakers agreed to allow an increase this year in the hotel tax only, boosting it to 10 percent from 9 percent.

The other two proposed tax increases could not be enacted until 2013 under the latest version of the bailout. They would raise the auto rental tax to 6 percent from 4 percent and the admissions tax to 10 percent from 6 percent.

All tax increases would be subject to approval by the City-County Council.
The plan, included in the proposed state budget set for a final vote today, would force the CIB to cut spending by a total of $22 million to cover its projected deficit next year.

That's close to the $23 million in cuts that Gov. Mitch Daniels identified when he unveiled his CIB proposal earlier this month.

Ballard is really getting no less than what he would have gotten under the original bailout plan proposed by Sen. Luke Kenley, which passed the Senate. Instead of getting all three tax increases this year, the state will allow the CIB to borrow $9 million over each of the next three years. When you add the hotel tax and the $8 million a year in state tax diversions, the CIB will have at least $20 million a year more to spend than it currently has. Remember, the CIB hiked its current budget by about $20 million from $100 million to a little more than $120 million. The claims that the agency is being forced to make deep budget cuts are all smoke and mirrors. Lawmakers want you to believe this deal is a real slap in Mayor Ballard's face; it's not. It's a slap in the face of taxpayers. Also, those other two tax increases on admissions and car rentals are still included in the plan. The City-County Council will just have to wait until 2013 to raise them. By that point, Democrats will have completely regained control of Indianapolis as planned by the downtown elites, Mayor Greg Ballard will have a cushy new job lined up for him as his reward, those other two taxes will be raised and the state will forgive the debt owed by the CIB. See how it works.

UPDATE: House Republican Leader Brian Bosma led his Republican caucus over the cliff today. All GOP members voted for the budget bill, while only 14 Democrats voted for it. Several Marion Co. Democrats wisely voted against the bill containing the CIB bailout, which the Democrats bashed in debate on today's budget bill. This begins the process of exterminating the Republican Party in Marion County. The downtown elites have decided there can be only one party rule in Indianapolis because it's too much trouble to control things if you have to deal with competing political parties. House GOP Leader Brian Bosma and Gov. Mitch Daniels signed on to the plan and ordered the Marion County Republican delegation, which is obviously devoid of any ideological conscience, to vote for the tax and spend bailout of the most corrupt and inefficient governmental entity in the State of Indiana. All the talk of government reform by the GOP turns out to have been one big fat lie. I'm ashamed to call myself a Republican today. I hope they enjoy their free tickets to Colts and Pacers games and the campaign contributions, even if they don't care about the harm they are doing to taxpayers. Bosma will continue to rake in legal fees for government contract work. Who cares how much damage he does to his own party. As long as he's making money, that's all that counts.

Here's the LSA synopsis of the CIB provisions contained in the state budget:

Provides that the state treasurer shall invest in obligations of the Marion county capital improvement board (CIB) if certain conditions are met. Provides that the investment may not exceed $9 million per year for 2009 through 2011. Provides terms for the CIB obligations issued to the state treasurer. Permits the Marion County city-county council to increase, before September 1, 2009, the innkeeper's tax by not more than 1% (9% to 10%). Permits during January through March 2013 the supplemental auto rental excise tax to be increased by not more than 2% (4% to 6%) and the admissions tax to be increased by not more than 4% (6% to 10%). Deposits the revenue from the county tax increases in a new sports and convention facilities operating fund for the CIB. Restricts the use of the new operating fund to paying usual and customary operating expenses with respect to capital improvements owned, leased, or operated by the CIB. Allows for an addition to the Marion County professional sports development area to include the hotels in an area bounded by Washington, Illinois, and Maryland streets. Provides for state sales taxes and state and local income taxes from the additional area to be captured for the CIB up to $8,000,000 per year. Allows the captured taxes to be deposited in the new sports and convention facilities operating fund for the CIB if: (1) the budget director determines that the innkeepers' tax is imposed at the maximum rate and in effect on January 1 of a year (September 1 for 2009); or (2) the city-county council raises at least $4 million from the innkeeper's tax and the capital improvement board issues obligations to the state treasurer. Reduces the number of appointments to the CIB by the county commissioners from two members to one members. Provides that one member shall be appointed to the CIB jointly by majority vote of a body consisting of one member of the board of county commissioners of each county (other than Marion County) in which a stadium and convention building food and beverage tax is in effect. Provides that the terms of the members of the CIB expire January 15, 2010, and new members must be appointed to serve terms beginning January 15, 2010. Requires the CIB to submit its operating and capital budget for review, approval, or rejection to the city-county council. Requires the CIB to present a long range financial plan to the city-county council before January 1, 2010. Requires the state board of accounts (SBOA) to do a financial and compliance audit annually of the CIB. Requires the CIB to submit the SBOA reports to the city-county council. Requires the city-county council to review the SBOA reports at a public hearing. Requires the city-county council to approve the issuance of revenue and general obligation bonds by the CIB. Removes the Marion County board of commissioners from the review and approval of general obligation bonds and adds a requirement for the mayor's approval. Makes corresponding changes. Authorizes an admissions tax for paid admissions to certain sports and recreational complexes. Provides that the admissions tax rate is 5% of the price of admission. Exempts certain events.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Judge Nelson's Wife Charged With Forgery

Kristina Nelson is a 43-year-old former civilian employee for the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department who is married to Marion Superior Court Judge William Nelson. She faces a charge of forgery, alleging she forged another judge's name, Marion Superior Court Judge Shiela Carlisle, on an order stopping a mortgage company from foreclosing on the Nelsons' home on Geist Reservoir. Kristina Nelson is also a sister-in-law to Judge Carlisle. The charge by police and the Marion Co. Prosecutor's office alleges Kristina falsely claimed her husband had been shot and that she had her jaw wired shut as a result of an attack on the couple. Kristina Nelson says her husband had no knowledge of her forging the document. The Star's Heather Gillers reports on this strange story:

A former IMPD employee who is the wife of a Marion Superior Court judge was arrested Friday on preliminary charges she forged another judge's name to stop foreclosure of their home, according to the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department.

Kristina Nelson, 43, who worked as a civilian public assistance officer for IMPD, told police she had signed Judge Sheila Carlisle's name on a counterfeit document claiming she and her husband had been attacked and ordering Everhome Mortgage to stop the foreclosure until the couple could recover, according to the police report, which was filed Friday.

She told police that her husband, Marion Superior Court Judge William Nelson, knew nothing about the incident. Kristina Nelson is Carlisle’s sister-in-law, the police report said. Carlisle is married to her brother.

Kristina Nelson was released Friday on a $5,000 bond and faces preliminary charges of forgery, according to IMPD and Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi's office. Brizzi's office is seeking the appointment of a special prosecutor to decide on the final charges.

"Given the fact that our deputy prosecutors appear before (William Nelson) Monday through Friday," said Chief of Staff Helen Marchal, "we thought that this would be the best route to go."

Kristina Nelson faxed the document to Everhome Mortgage on June 17, according to police. The document said that the Nelson’s had been the victims of an assault and that William Nelson had been shot and Kristina Nelson had suffered injuries that required her jaw to be wired shut — none of which was true, police said.

Carlisle told police investigators the signature was not hers but that she recognized the address as belonging to her sister-in-law, Kristina Nelson, the police report said.

Supreme Court Majority Gets It Right In Ricci

A 5-4 Supreme Court majority ruled today that the City of New Haven, Connecticut violated white firefighters rights under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act to have promotion rights determined by their qualifications and not their race when the City discarded the results of an objective, race-neutral examination because white firefighters, on balance, scored better on the examination than African-American and Hispanic firefighters. The City contended Title VII's disparate-impact provision compelled it to discard the test results and justified its disparate treatment of successfull test-takers on the basis of their race. Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the majority, established a "strong basis in evidence standard" to determine whether an employer is justified in making a race-based determination to avoid a disparate-impact outcome.

In Ricci v. City of New Haven, Justice Kennedy, joined by Chief Justice Roberts and Associate Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito, found the City had gone to great lengths in preparing its examinations to determine promotions within its police and fire departments. It hired an outside consulting firm that had developed similar exams for other racially-diverse communities like New Haven. Two thirds of the persons who made up a panel of assessors who administered the examination were racial minorities. The record in this case is pretty clear that nobody objected to the examination until the test results were revealed and white test-takers fared better than minority test-takers. The City used the excuse that minority firefighters would have sued the City for discrimination if it promoted based on the test results, but the City similarly faced the threat of litigation from the successful test-takers if it discarded the test results at the time it made that decision. One of the white firefighter plaintiffs, Frank Ricci, suffered from several disabilities, including dyslexia. The evidence showed Ricci spent money and a great deal of studying for the exam. One of the test-takers noted that, if you studied the preparatory materials that were provided to all test-takers, you couldn't help but do well on the exam because the tested material came directly from the study materials.

This case has drawn a lot of attention, in particular, because Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor authored the Second Circuit Court of Appeals' decision affirming the trial court's dismissal of the white firefighters' case. I should point out that there were also Hispanic plaintiffs in this case, notwithstanding the media's characterization of Ricci as the "white firefighers case", who too believed they had been discriminated against by the City of New Haven because the test results rejected by the City would have offered an opportunity for promotion to them. The majority took no shots at Judge Sotomayor's opinion below, noting that this is the first time the Court has articulated a standard for evaluating discriminatory actions taken by employers to avoid disparate-impact treatment. The Court did not consider whether the City of New Haven's action also violated the plaintiffs' rights under the Equal Protection Clause because it could decide the case on statutory grounds.

It seems to me that the majority, unlike the minority, reached a common sense result in this case. The City had established an objective test that employees could rely upon to seek promotions within the fire department. It isn't fair to those who win a right to promotion under the rules adopted by the City to simply be told their test results would be discarded because it didn't allow a sufficient number of minorities to be promoted. Justice Ginsburg, writing for the minority, seemed dismissive of the white and Hispanic firefighters' rights who exceeded on the examination. Although Justice Ginsberg said those firefighters "understandably attract this Court's attention", "they had no vested right to promotion." That cavalier treatment of the successful test-takers accomplishment is disturbing. It is, however, reflective of prevailing liberal dogma supporting race-based employment decisions. The majority opinion reminds us that Title VII protects people of all races from employment discrimination, not just those who happen to come from a minority group.

Justice Kennedy's opinion is consistent with the Justice Department's interpretation of Title VII in a case it pursued last year against the City of Indianapolis for discriminatory promotion practices within the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department. Approximately eight white police officers had been passed over in promotions in order to promote African-American and female officers who scored below and outside the eligible promotion class. The Justice Department contended the denial of promotions to certain eligible white officers amounted to discrimination under Title VII on the basis of race and sex. The City entered into a consent decree with the Justice Department rather than litigate the case. That decree followed nearly 30 years under prior Justice Department consent decrees with the City's police and fire departments requiring it to hire more minorities and women.

CIB Bailout A Problem For Democrats, If Not Republicans

Again, it looks like those of us who want the CIB bailout punted for good from State House budget negotiations will have to rely on the Democrats. "That bailout rankles some lawmakers from other parts of the state, who are reluctant to support a budget that helps Indianapolis but doesn't address needs in their communities," writes the Star's Mary Beth Schneider. "Putting the CIB in the budget makes it three times as difficult," [House Speaker Pat] Bauer said.

Apparently, Republicans from outside Marion County aren't bothered about bailing out the CIB, just the Democrats. Quietly, several Marion Co. GOP lawmakers will tell you they don't like the CIB bailout but refuse to speak out publicly against it. They simply want to use the excuse that they had a choice between an up or down vote on the budget or shut down all of state government.

The Democrats aren't your friend on this issue (if you oppose the bailout) any more than the Republicans are. The Democrats will gladly agree to include the CIB bailout as long as the state budget includes some lousy items Democrats from Lake County or elsewhere insist on being included in the state budget. It comes down to how much bad the Republicans are willing to accept in the state budget to make sure the downtown elites get their annual payoff courtesy of taxpayers.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Nothing Has Really Changed At IMPD

A Star investigative story looking into off-duty work performed by IMPD officers confirms the changes the Ballard administration made in response to the OmniSource scandal were little more than cosmetic. In addition to the 51 officers barred from working at OmniSource, the story reveals that three officers are under investigation for scamming 8 Seconds Saloon by charging it for more off-duty officers than were actually working and another officer was reassigned after officers learned he was reassigning his work to fit his off-duty work at OmniSource. Here are some of the ongoing problems with IMPD's current police on off-duty work which the story discusses:

  • IMPD has little control over the number and types of off-duty jobs the police work to help keep conflicts of interest in check.
  • IMPD has no idea how much police are being paid for their off-duty work, allowing private sector employers to buy influence.
  • IMPD has no system for regulating the amount of hours police work in their off-duty jobs.
  • In some instances, a superior officer in the department is being supervised in his or her off-duty work by a subordinate officer, creating the potential for internal management conflicts.

The Star investigation found that 57%, or approximately 874 officers, work off-duty jobs. Officers have been given permission to work for more than 900 businesses, security companies and special events. Bars and nightclubs represent about 14% of the permits issued to permit officers to work off-duty jobs. The report notes that other cities, such as Columbus, Ohio and Tampa, require all off-duty work requests to be managed by the police department. Other cities also set the pay rates for the officers' off-duty work.

In a separate story, a proposal by City-County Councilor Vernon Brown would allow the City to collect fees from the private businesses and security companies that employ police for off-duty work to help offset the use of police-owned cars, equipment and uniforms for these part-time gigs. I've advocated this idea since Ballard took office as a way of off-setting the high costs of running the police department. A fee of $10 an hour, for example, could easily generate as much as $7 million a year in additional revenues. Despite the significant revenues at stake, the Ballard administration and the FOP oppose the measure. They pretend to believe that police officers will lose their off-duty work if the additional fee is imposed, something that hasn't happened in other major cities that have done it.

Unfortunately, the story in the Star really misses the mark on Brown's proposal. What the story fails to discuss is who owns the private security companies that employ many of IMPD's police officers in their off-duty work and what percentage of the work police do off-duty is performed through these companies as opposed to direct employment of the officers. For example, one of the major security companies is owned by former Marion Co. Sheriff Jack Cottey. The private security companies make a lot of money by marking up the price of the off-duty work of officers. It's the private security companies' profits and not the employment of off-duty officers that will likely suffer if the fees are imposed by the City. The FOP has a tight relationship with these security companies and is trying to protect them more than the integrity of the police department or the amount police are able to earn from part-time work. It's very telling that the Ballard administration would oppose fees for off-duty work that could put a real dent in the City's budget shortfall at the same time it is proposing a parking tax on downtown workers to raise $1.5 million for the financially-troubled CIB.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

More On Rezko University

The Chicago Tribune's investigation into how political clout has dirtied up the admissions process at the University of Illinois continues to roll on. It's bad enough that the school admitted woefully unqualified candidates with political clout to the university, but it turns out that university officials also traded jobs for law school graduates in consideration for admitting unqualified candidates to the law school. The e-mail exchanges the Tribune revealed between university officials discussing the admission of clout-heavy candidates in exchange for finding jobs for five graduating law school students is unbelievable. After the law school admissions dean learned that the governor's office agreed to help find jobs for the five graduating students, the dean replied, "Only very high-paying jobs in law firms that are absolutely indifferent to whether the five have passed their law school classes or the Bar." "Sheesk. It's enough to make one want to be a Republican," Heidi Hurd added. Here's a part of what the Tribune story found:

In one e-mail exchange, University of Illinois Chancellor Richard Herman forced the law school to admit an unqualified applicant backed by then- Gov. Rod Blagojevich while seeking a promise from the governor's go-between that five law school graduates would get jobs. The applicant, a relative of deep-pocketed Blagojevich campaign donor Kerry Peck, appears to have been pushed by Trustee Lawrence Eppley, who often carried the governor's admissions requests.

When Law School Dean Heidi Hurd balked on accepting the applicant in April 2006, Herman replied that the request came "Straight from the G. My apologies. Larry has promised to work on jobs (5). What counts?"

Hurd replied: "Only very high-paying jobs in law firms that are absolutely indifferent to whether the five have passed their law school classes or the Bar."

Hurd's e-mail suggests that students getting the jobs are to be those in the "bottom of the class." Law school rankings depend in part on the job placement rate of graduates.

It wasn't immediately clear if the private sector or government jobs were provided.

Gov. Pat Quinn convened a state commission to investigate the U. of I. admissions process after the Tribune revealed that more than 800 undergraduate applicants in the last five years received special consideration because they were backed by U. of I. trustees, legislators and others in powerful posts.

Commission chairman Abner Mikva, a retired judge, said he intends to call everyone implicated in this e-mail exchange to testify before the panel. He said he learned of the e-mails late Wednesday from President B. Joseph White.

"It just gets thicker and thicker and it's not good," Mikva said of the scandal.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Ballard Can't Find More Fluff In CIB Budget

After briefly studying the costs of operating the CIB, something his administration never bothered doing before asking state lawmakers for a $47 million a year bailout for the corrupt and inefficient government entity, Mayor Greg Ballard is now saying the $13 million in additional cost-saving cuts he agreed with Gov. Mitch Daniels to do a couple of weeks back simply can't be done. Instead, Ballard is going to look for a short-term fix to fill the gap--a $9 million state loan from the State Treasurer. What is interesting is that Senate conservatives told me that they added the state loan option to the CIB bailout plan so that Ballard wouldn't have to rely on tax increases. Instead, Ballard is still asking for the $12 million a year in tax hikes, an additional $8 million a year subsidy from the state (strike $8 million and insert $10 million--that's now how much of an annual state subsidy Ballard is seeking) and new downtown parking fees that will supposedly generate another $1.5 million. The CIB previously announced $12 million in savings, mostly from fake budget cuts. I call them fake because the agency grossly inflated several lines of its current year's budget--20% overall--in anticipation of the need to make reductions to win support for the bailout plan. Under the Ballard bailout plan, the CIB will award an additional $15 million a year subsidy to the billionaire Simons for their struggling Pacers franchise with revenues derived from the tax increases he will ask City-County Councilors to approve if the legislature approves the pending bailout plan during the special session.

UPDATE: It occurred to me after I wrote this latest post that this isn't the first time a downtown parking fee has been proposed. Sen. Luke Kenley included one in his original CIB bailout plan. Remember how Kenley was asked about it and he said the idea came from Ballard's people and Ballard's people claimed it wasn't their idea? The two sides then settled on the excuse that the inclusion of the parking fee increase was a typographical error. I guess even typos become serious ideas when people who are up to no good spend enough time trying to figure out how to screw over working class people to help out their billionaire buddies. Also, House Republican Leader Brian Bosma has a column in today's Star in which he flat out lies and claims the Senate-passed budget contains no tax increases.

Oxley Meltdown Continues

Just months after former State Rep. and 2008 Democratic Lt. Gov. candidate Dennie Oxley faced an arrest in Crawford County for suspected drunk driving following a collision in which he was involved, he had another run-in with Indianapolis police last night at a downtown gas station that is raising all sorts of red flags. Despite reports that police found Oxley at the Downtown Citgo station in what appeared to be a drunken state, Oxley falsely claimed to police he was a state representative in town for the special session when police arrived to assist Oxley's 21-year-old female companion, who was laying unconscious on the ground. Oxley, who is employed by House Speaker Pat Bauer on the House Democratic staff, gave up his seat in the House last year to run for lieutenant governor. An online Star report provides the details:

A former Democratic Indiana state representative was found apparently intoxicated at a gas station early this morning and avoided arrest by falsely telling police he was a lawmaker serving during the special session, which would grant him immunity.

Police found Dennie Oxley, 38, at the Downtown Citgo in the 400 block of East Ohio Street about 1 a.m. today. According to a police report, he smelled heavily of alcohol, his eyes were glassy and bloodshot, and his speech was extremely slurred. He was standing a few feet away from Kristin Dowlut, 21, who was lying face down on the gas station parking lot, apparently unconscious.

When Oxley observed police, he began walking away while an officer asked him to stop. After police detained Oxley, he told them he was a state representative and was currently in special session.

Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi said he would meet with officers Monday to discuss the case and whether criminal charges would be filed. Oxley could face charges of public intoxication and impersonation of a public servant, both misdemeanors.

According to the police report, a witness who works at the gas station told police he saw a taxi cab drop off Oxley and Dowlut and later noticed Dowlut on the ground but didn't know how she got there. The gas station attendant said he went outside to try to help the female and tried to get Oxley to help her, but Oxley responded that he was not going to touch her.

Dowlut was transported to Wishard Memorial Hospital. Police did not arrest Oxley, according to the report, because of immunity during the General Assembly session.

The Indiana Constitution provides lawmakers immunity from arrest during session in all cases except treason, felony, and breach of the peace. Lawmakers can later be charged with the crimes.

When Oxley was arrested in Crawford County in February, the initial reports indicated he had a passenger in his car at the time of his collision; however, later reports claimed he was driving alone. Oxley's car still had legislative license plates at the time of the February collision, even though he was no longer a state representative. The gas station where last night's incident occurred is very close to House Speaker Pat Bauer's downtown condo. Frugal Hoosiers identifies the 21-year-old female compansion of Oxley's as a House Democratic intern.

WRTV's Jack Rinehart says most of the incident was captured by the gas station's surveillance cameras, which doesn't look good for Oxley. He reports:

Much of the incident was captured on gas station surveillance video. When officers arrived, it appeared on the video that Oxley tried to hide behind another car, hoping to avoid detection.

Oxley has not been charged, but because he allegedly gave police incorrect information about being a member of the Legislature, obstruction of justice and public intoxication are two of several charges he could face.

Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi said he has ordered an investigation into the Oxley case and called the allegations serious.

"We want to talk to the police officers and find out what was said," Brizzi said. "We don't have all the facts, so we're going to take some time."
I noticed during Jack Rinehart's interview of Marion Co. Prosecutor Carl Brizzi on WRTV that Brizzi credited Rinehart with bringing the impersonation accusation against Oxley to his office's attention. It should be noted that Dennie Oxley, Sr., his father, took his place in the legislature, which explains why police were easily thrown off by his claim of being a legislator.

Just Call Him King

Howard Co. Republican Chairman Craig Dunn referred to Indianapolis businessman P.E. MacAllister as a "kingmaker" conducting his own "star chamber" primary reports WISH-TV's Jim Shella. Dunn's comments came after MacAllister penned a letter to Republican leaders in the Fifth congressional district that confirms the thought process of the elites who run the show here in Indianapolis that I've lamented about so much on this blog. It seems MacAllister has an elimination plan in the Republican congressional contest against U.S. Rep. Dan Burton that doesn't involve voter participation. Here's a taste of MacAllister's letter, which fellow blogger Scott Fluhr shared over at Hoosier Access:

Some of us in Marion County are watching with interest the contest in our Fifth District, where four men are challenging the continuing tenure of Dan Burton. The issue of whether or not this is a great idea is by now irrelevant since the candidates are already in the fray, each hoping to win the primary. The nature of the field may be interesting, but impact of such a donnybrook has every prospect of doing considerable damage, despite the fact “this is a free country” and anyone who wants to run for anything is allowed to do so. If there is ample reason to challenge the incumbent, perhaps exploring some way of lessening harm done is in order.

I have discussed the race with both the Marion County and the State Republican Chairmen, hoping to minimize the adverse impact, but for reasons of his own, neither thinks it wise for him to exert the authority the party has given him, leaving us with a spectator role in this critical exercise.

I appreciate their position but don’t see it helpful. My memory of the last free for all, harkens back to a sheriff’s race in Marion County an election or so ago, which got very bitter, very expensive, and was productive of zilch for either candidate.

There could be an alternative. Maybe pretty wild, but here’s one idea. Let all four challengers do their best to line up support, but by the end of the year, say by Christmas time, allow a panel of 25 party elders, respected figures, influential people, major donors, judicious folks from the district, determine which of the four is the best candidate. Let’s assume we can get the contenders to agree on this tack, which means the three losers gracefully depart the scene and support the selectee in the spring primary.

A letter has gone out to 21 people here in Marion County and includes figures like Jim Morris, Jerry Semler, Fred Klipsch, Jim Dora, John Mutz, Mike Alley, Yvonne Shaheen, Don Palmer, Al Hubbard, Danny Danielson, Bob Bowen, seeking their participation as ultimate adjudicators and requesting their agreement in principal with the idea.

Tom John reminded me that the sun does not rise and set on Marion County but beams on other counties in the district, and including them in this experiment is essential.

Thus this letter to you, asking for: your reaction; requesting your cooperation as one of the “judges” and helping us in finding other worthies in your jurisdiction. The panel, in other words, is a work in process.

This program has to be impartial; has to include promise of total anonymity so no one knows how we vote. It has to include established candidate criteria…past experience, intellectual capacity, persona (charisma), ability to articulate, fundraising capacity, stance on given issues; nature of community support (who is in his list of donors and advisors), etc.

I cannot assure all will buy in. Two of the contenders have signed on, agreeing to the principle, pending details of how it is handled.

We need to contact the other two, but my point will be that this is one way of determining who represents the district come the primary. The inference is if a losing candidate opts to run against us after his peers have declined support and puts his personal ambition above that of party unity, he needs not call on me next spring for money.

P.E. MacAllister

MacAllister, incidentally, is backing Ice Miller attorney and lobbyist Luke Messer in the 5th congressional race.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

RIP Michael Jackson

The pride of Gary, Indiana, Michael Jackson, is dead at age 50. We grew up admiring the talented musician. Our image of him changed dramatically through the years like his appearance, but our respect for his musical and entertainment abilities never waned. Music producer Quincy Jones says the right words: "He was the consummate entertainer and his contributions and legacy will be felt upon the world forever. I've lost my little brother today, and part of my soul has gone with him."

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Is It Right?

Earlier this year, the Indiana Commission for Higher Education announced a search for a replacement to long-time commissioner Stan Jones. On April 22, prior to the end of the 2009 legislative session, the Commission released to the media a statement saying that a three-month long search had concluded that District 30 State Senator Teresa Lubbers should become the next commissioner. Attorney Jon Costas, Chairman of the Commission, headed up the search committee. Costas is a close ally of Gov. Mitch Daniels, who handpicked Costas as his choice for Attorney General at last year's state GOP convention. Greg Zoeller routed Costas at the convention despite the governor's backing.

At its May 8, 2009 meeting, the Commission formally voted to approve Lubbers as the new Commissioner for Higher Education. Typically, a person appointed to an executive branch position takes office upon his or her appointment. Not Sen. Lubbers. Instead, the Commission announced that Lubbers, who serves as the Assistant Majority Floor Leaders in the Senate, would continue to serve in the Senate until the conclusion of the special session called by the Governor to pass a state budget. Despite the fact that four candidates have announced their bid to replace her, no caucus has been called by the Indiana Republican Party because Lubbers has not resigned her seat.

While the Commission used the excuse of getting the special session out of the way, other political observers, including this one, thinks something else is at play here. It is no secret that party leaders are nudging committeepersons in Lubbers' district to support City-County Councilor Ryan Vaughn to take her place. Under state party rules, the county chairmen in Marion County and Hamilton County can appoint committeepersons to vacancies up to 30 days prior to the caucus, which will not be announced until Lubbers steps down. By holding on to her Senate seat, Lubbers is effectively buying time for party leaders to appoint new committeepersons who will back their choice to replace her.

Beyond party politics, there is a much more important conflict of interest posed by Lubbers' continued service in the Senate. Lubbers first sought the Higher Ed job months ago. As a state senator, she gets a voice and a vote on matters effecting the higher education community, including the very budget she will preside over once she assumes her duties. Ironically, Sen. Lubbers authored legislation this year that would subject former legislators to a one-year cooling off period before they can lobby the legislature. Her bill died in the Senate Rules Committee like many other lobbying reform measures introduced this year. News media reports have documented dozens of legislators, including leaders like Lubbers, who have entered the lobbying ranks almost immediately upon departing the legislature.

In her new job, one of her duties will be to lobby the Indiana General Assembly on matters affecting the Commission's budget and other substantive matters pertaining to higher education. Her legislative contacts no doubt gave her a leg up over other candidates, who have actually held substantive education-related jobs. Except for a brief two-year stint as a school teacher, Lubbers has no education-related work experience outside her legislative service. Lubbers has been able to act officially on these matters throughout the year with her full knowledge she was going to seek and eventually did win appointment to the state's top higher education position. She even sponsored legislation that impacted the Commission this year, which was subsequently signed into law by the Governor. Based on news reports, Lubbers is not shying away from participating in the state budget debate during the special session.

It seems to me that Sen. Lubbers had an obligation first to inform the Senate and the public that she was seeking the Higher Ed post as soon as she applied for the job earlier this year. It's possible she did this, but I can't find any news reports indicating this. News releases on her Senate website make no mention of her being a candidate for the position. Secondly, Lubbers should have refrained from participating in any matters that related to higher education. Finally, Lubbers should have resigned her Senate seat immediately upon the formal approval of her appointment by the Commission. None of these precautions seem to have been taken by Sen. Lubbers to avoid at least the appearance, if not the existence of an obvious conflict of interest.

It is disturbing that nobody in the legislature has raised concerns about Lubbers' handling of this matter. Even more disturbing has been the complete silence of the State House news media. As long as legislators remain free to use their legislative position to trade for jobs in the lobbying and public sector, public skepticism of the honesty and integrity of the legislature will continue to grow and rightfully so.
This is not the first time a question of ethics has been raised pertaining to the Lubbers' household. Her husband, Mark, held a six-figure communications contract with Gov. Mitch Daniels' office earlier in his administration. Mark invested in a start-up company, Strand Analytical Labs, a DNA testing facility, which later received a lucrative state contract from the Indiana State Police. That company was formerly run by former Marion Co. Prosecutor Scott Newman, who now serves as Indianapolis' Public Safety Director. Newman said he placed his holdings in a blind trust upon assuming his new job to avoid conflicts; the company also had a contract with Marion County. Sen. Lubbers actually co-sponsored legislation mandating DNA testing in certain circumstances, which had the potential of benefitting the company in which her husband invested financially.

Wilder Resigns As Council And School Board Attorney

Under fire after being found in a neighbor's trash can by Jeffersonville police following a night on the town, Larry Wilder has resigned as counsel for the Jeffersonville City Council and attorney for the Greater Clark County school district according to the Jeffersonville News and Tribune. On Sunday, Mayor Tom Galligan apologized to Wilder's family for the release of embarrassing photos to the media showing Wilder asleep in his neighbor's trash can. The FOP released a statement criticizing Mayor Galligan for drawing conclusions about the police officers' actions before they received a fair hearing before the police merit commission. Galligan referred to the officers as "renegades" and charged them with violating their oath.

ACLU Sues To Force Terre Haute Federal Prison To Allow Group Muslim Prayers Five Times A Week

If the Guantanamo Bay detention camp that houses suspected terrorists is closed by the Obama administration, one of the federal prisons the government has discussed housing those detainees is the the federal penitentiary in Terre Haute. Well, the ACLU of Indiana has decided it wants to make the prison as accommodating as possible for those detainees should they be transferred there. The civil rights organization has filed a lawsuit on behalf of two Muslim inmates housed there, complaining that prison officials won't allow them to conduct prayer groups as often as they would like.

The lawsuit doesn't claim that prison officials aren't allowing them to pray five times a day as required by their religion because they are already allowed to do that. The lawsuit doesn't complain that prison officials aren't allowing them to pray as a group once a week because they are already allowed to do that. It seems the ACLU believes the thirty Muslim inmates, who are being housed in the facility's restrictive Communications Management Unit ("CMU") at the facility, should be entitled to gather as a group five times a week to pray as required by their religion. The ACLU contends that the denial of group prayer meetings five times a week violates a federal law barring the government from restricting religious activities without showing a compelling need.

The CMU at the Terre prison was established by the Justice Department and houses approximately 40 inmates, 30 of which are Muslim. American-born Taliban soldier John Walker Lindh is serving a 23-year sentence there. The federal Bureau of Prisons established the unit because of criticism it had not been properly monitoring the communications of its inmates. According to Wikipedia, most of the inmates within the CMU are Arab Muslims. The ACLU has accused the prison in the past of racial profiling for housing inmates within the CMU. "The CMU monitors all telephone calls and mail, and requires that all inmate conversations occur in English unless special permission is arranged for conversations in other languages," Wikipedia says.

One of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit is Randall Royer. Royer is a former spokesman for the Muslim American Society who is serving 20 years for his participation in what federal prosecutors called "a Virginia Jihad network." The group used paintball games prior to 9/11 to prepare for holy war against nations deemed hostile to Islam, including the United States.

The ACLU's attorney, Ken Falk, says prison officials let prisoners watch TV and play cards together but they can't worship together as often as they wish. Critics of Falk's view would point out "the increased use of prisons by al-Qaeda and other captured Islamists as focal points for recruitment and indoctrination" as a reason for prison officials to restrict religious activities." Prayer meetings sometimes become a ruse for more sinister purposes.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Senate And House GOP United In Support Of CIB Tax And Spend Bailout Plan

As a Republican, I'm totally ashamed of the Republicans in the Indiana General Assembly. They are united in a state budget deal that will impose $20 million in new taxes and state tax diversions for the corrupt and inefficient Capital Improvement Board. House Republicans plan to concur in the Senate budget, forcing Indianapolis' City-County Council to contemplate a series of tax increases to bail out the CIB, which has been running deficits for more than a decade, so it can give a $15 million a year subsidy to the billionaire Simons who own the Indiana Pacers. Ironically, Republicans criticized a one-year budget plan passed by the House Democrats would lead to tax increases. The Senate Republican-backed plan guarantees tax increases for Marion County residents and a loss of $8 million in funding for other state programs. It rewards the CIB with additional money without accountability for its past, gross mishandling of public expenditures. Well, I guess we'll have to look to House Speaker Pat Bauer, a Democrat, to stop this tax and spend boondoggle. Thanks for nothing, Rep. Brian Bosma. You helped kill the elimination of township government so your law firm could continue billing hundreds of thousands of dollars to township governments in Marion County. And now the anti-tax crusader wants to nickel and dime ordinary taxpayers to reward the state's wealthiest citizens. Just when I think Bosma has reached the height of hypocrisy, he finds another way to outdo himself. What's the point of the Republican Party, anyway, if it cannot stand up to the CIB and the billionaires feeding at its trough?

UPDATE: The Indiana Law Blog has an interesting post on the state budget bill as passed by the Senate. You can view a PDF of the document here. Get this, it allows the City of Westfield to implement its own admissions tax to finance that stupid sports/entertainment complex their Jim Brainard wannabe mayor has proposed. The new CIB appointments to be made by the legislative leaders should prove fruitful to the billionaire sports team owners since the legislative leaders have all been bought off by them with big campaign contributions and free tickets to games. Also, note that the State Treasurer is going to dump $9 million in loans to the corrupt agency, meaning it will get at least a $29 million infusion of tax dollars. The synopsis for the CIB portions reads as follows:

Allows the state treasurer to invest in obligations of the Marion county capital improvement board (CIB). Provides that the investment may not exceed $9 million per year for 2009 through 2011. Provides terms for the capital improvement board obligations issued to the state treasurer. Permits the Marion County city-county council to increase, before September 1, 2009, the innkeeper's tax by not more than 1% (9% to 10%). Permits during January through March 2013 the supplemental auto rental excise tax to be increased by not more than 2% (4% to 6%) and the admissions tax to be increased by not more than 4% (6% to 10%). Deposits the revenue from the county tax increases in a new sports and convention facilities operating fund for the CIB. Restricts the use of the new operating fund to paying usual and customary operating expenses with respect to capital improvements operated by the CIB. Allows for an addition to the Marion County professional sports development area to include the hotels in an area bounded by Washington, Illinois, and Maryland streets. Provides for state sales taxes and state and local income taxes from the additional area to be captured for the CIB up to $8,000,000 per year. Allows the captured taxes to be deposited in the new sports and convention facilities operating fund for the CIB if: (1) the budget director determines that the innkeepers' tax is imposed at the maximum rate and in effect on January 1 of a year (September 1 for 2009); or (2) the Marion County city-county council raises at least $4 million from the innkeeper's tax and the capital improvement board issues obligations to the state treasurer. Reduces the number of appointments to the CIB by the county commissioners from two members to one members. Provides that the president pro tempore of the senate, the speaker of the house of representatives, and the governor shall each make one appointment to the CIB. Provides that the terms of the members of the capital improvement board expire January 15, 2010, and new members must be appointed to serve terms beginning January 15, 2010. Requires the CIB to submit its operating and capital budget for review, approval, or rejection to the Marion County city-county council. Requires the CIB to present a long range financial plan to the city-county council before January 1, 2010. Requires the state board of accounts (SBOA) to do a financial and compliance audit annually of the CIB. Requires the CIB to submit the SBOA reports to the Marion County city-county council. Requires the Marion County city-county council to review the SBOA reports at a public hearing. Requires the city-county council to approve the issuance of revenue and general obligation bonds by the CIB. Removes the Marion County board of commissioners from the review and approval of general obligation bonds and adds a requirement for the mayor's approval.


Washington Township School Superintendent In Line For Hefty Pay Increase

Washington Township Superintendent James Mervilde, who already has a salary and compensation benefit package worth more than a quarter million dollars annually, will see an increase in his annual salary of 7% and a $124,800 boost in his pension benefit, if the township's school board approves a proposed renegotiation of his salary and benefits at its meeting tomorrow night. This comes at a time the school district is expecting little or no additional state funding from the proposed state budget. Moreover, at least half of the school district's middle and elementary schools are failing at least one category of the state ISTEP test.

Dr. Mervilde is currently paid an annual salary of $171,600 under a contract that is set to expire on June 30, 2010. Mervilde exercised his right to renegotiate his current 3-year contract prior to its expiration. He is seeking an increase of 7% in his annual salary through June 30, 2011, taking it to $183,500. The biggest change, however, is in a proposed revision that will require taxpayers to purchase four years of credit time for Mervilde in the state teachers retirement system at a cost of $31,000 per year, or $124,000.

I'm told that this has become a common negotiating strategy for superintendents like Mervilde who are nearing retirement age to ask a school district to purchase credit time for purposes of calculating their retirement benefit. In lieu of a larger salary increase, the additional credit time the school district purchases on the school district official's behalf ensures a much higher retirement benefit for the employee. The school official is not taxed on the credit time purchase, enhancing its value to him or her greatly. These benefits are often not explained to the public to allow them to properly evaluate how much school officials are being paid.

School board member Greg Wright believes the nearly $200,000 salary and benefits increase for Mervilde is too costly. “These are tough economic times for many in our community," Wright said. " Increasing any municipal employee’s employment contract by hundreds of thousands of dollars is simply outrageous.”

UPDATE: If you think this deal is bad, take a look at the deal the Greater Clark County schools gave to Stephen Daeschner, the superintendent who replaced Tony Bennett, Indiana's State Superintendent of Education. Although the school board had a budget of $150,000 for the position, the school board thought the 67-year-old Daeschner was worth $225,000 a year, plus an additional $1,500 a month to sell his home to relocate, family health insurance benefits and more according to the Jeffersonville News and Tribune. The school board's attorney advised the school system it could simply seek private donations to find the money the school hadn't budgeted for the position.

"Larry Wilder, attorney for the school board, said that though details are still being worked out, people should be able to donate to the school corporation directly and anonymously if they want, or to a given foundation that would forward that money on to Greater Clark with their name available publicly, which would allow the donor to use it as a tax write off," the News and Tribune reported. Yes, that's the same Larry Wilder, counsel to the Jeffersonville council, who was found in his neighbor's garbage can last week after a night on the town. Can you imagine the potential conflicts if wealthy parents made specific donations to cover his salary? I suppose that never occurred to Wilder

Monday, June 22, 2009

Hancock County Auditor Resigns

Hancock County Auditor Linda Grass, facing charges she accepted a $54,000 bribe from a relative in consideration for a $238,000 public contract she awarded to him, resigned her job after receiving pressure by a number of Hancock County Republican officials. Grass' replacement will be chosen by Hancock County Republican precinct committeepersons. Have you ever noticed how elected Republican officials almost always resign their office when they are confronted with allegations of wrongdoing, while Democrats almost always defiantly hold on to their job until they are forced from office as a result of a criminal conviction or impeachment?

Girls IHSAA Basketball Finals Moves To Fort Wayne

Indianapolis will not play host to the girls high school basketball finals in 2010. The IHSAA is moving the girls' finals to Fort Wayne's War Memorial Coliseum. "Neither Indianapolis venue used in recent years - Conseco Fieldhouse, which hosted the girls state finals from 2001-2008, nor Lucas Oil Stadium, which hosted in 2009 - was available for use on next year's date," WTHR reports. Fort Wayne beat out competing bids submitted by IU and Ball State University. Indianapolis' financially-struggling CIB must not be cancelling events yet, a threat it has made if taxpayers aren't compelled to pay higher taxes and divert more state revenues to support the facilities leased to the professional sports team owners.

Where's My Nonprofit Job?

Once upon a time, a common refrain you would hear from someone working in the nonprofit world is "the pay isn't so hot but the job is very rewarding." Well, that's not at all true in the Indianapolis nonprofit world. Fellow blogger Paul Ogden has a great run down of the big six-figure salaries area nonprofits heads are pulling down. Many of these jobs are funded largely by government contributions. Here's who they are and what they're earning based on the most recent tax returns the organizations filed that are publicly available:

  • Maxwell Anderson, President, Indianapolis Museum of Art ($394,209)
  • Mark Myles, President, Central Indiana Corporate Partnership ($382,133)
  • Robert Bedell, President, Indiana Convention & Visitors Association ($353,777) (Bedell has retired and subsequently been replaced by Don Welsh, who I'm sure earns a comparable salary)
  • Jeffrey Patchen, President, Indiana Children's Museum ($344,345)
  • Simon Crookall, President, Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra ($250,224)
  • Ron Carpenter, President, Children's Bureau of Indianapolis ($178,298)
  • Greg Charleston, President, Indianapolis Arts Council ($170,391)
  • Tamara Zahn, President, Indianapolis Downtown, Inc. ($198,284)
  • Lloyd Wright, President, Indianapolis Public Broadcasting ($180,451)
  • Danny Dean, President, Indianapolis/Marion Co. Library Foundation ($178,907)
  • Susan Williams, President, Indiana Sports Corporation ($137,719)
  • Cindy Porteous, Executive Director, Indianapolis Parks Foundation ($112,219)

Often, local media will rely on these organization heads for their opinions on taxpayer-financed projects, such as the Capital Improvement Board facilities, funding for the arts, and economic development incentives to some private businesses. If it involves an expenditure of taxpayer money or raising taxes for one of their projects, they're out front advocating for it. The irony is that many of these organization heads' salaries are financed, in part, by our taxpayer money. In the case of the ICVA, IDI, CICP and the Indiana Sports Corporation, for example, most of the funding comes directly or indirectly from government sources. It doesn't seem right that these nonprofits can take money paid by all taxpayers and turn around and use that money to pick winners and losers in the endless game of government spending and taxation for the benefit of a select few. Also, salaries of the government-funded nonprofits heads often exceed salaries persons with comparable responsibilities within government are paid.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Latest Casualty Of War In Iraq Hits Close To Home

WISH-TV's Jennifer McGilvray brings news of the sad loss of Army Spc. Chancellor "Chancy" Keesling, the son of Indianapolis' Gregg and Jannett Keesling. His parents share the tragic ending of his life by suicide on Friday. He had arrived in Iraq for his second tour of duty just two weeks ago. His parents say he was reluctant to return to Iraq but went because of his duty as a soldier. My heart goes out to Gregg and Jannett. I had the pleasure of helping them start their business, Keys To Work, many years ago after Gregg returned to Indiana with his family from Jamaica where he owned and operated a vacation resort. Gregg is one of the most optimistic and determined persons I've had the pleasure of knowing, and he and his wife have done great work in Indianapolis in helping less-privileged people pull themselves up. True to their professional calling, Gregg and Jannett are planning to give all donations made in Chancy's honor to a local homeless woman named Mary Anne.

Tully Hearts Carson

Star political columnist Matt Tully has some glowing things to say about U.S. Rep. Andre Carson in the Sunday edition. In a short period of time, he has grown into "a top-notch lawmaker" Tully opines. Tully offers five reasons why Carson has earned this distinction. The short version:

  • He's a loyal Democrat who almost always votes with his party, while still reaching out to Republicans.
  • He meets with constituents throughout his district.
  • He is in tune with his district.
  • He has assembled a strong congressional staff.
  • He has a certain star quality.

I will give Tully that Carson is a top-notch politician, which doesn't necessarily translate into being a top-notch legislator. It is much too soon to draw that conclusion. Regardless of his performance, Carson will have an easy ride politically, at least through the next election. Unless Republicans split Marion County down the middle in the next redistricting, the likelihood of Carson facing serious opposition any time in the foreseeable future is slim to none regardless of how good or bad he performs. His grandmother's dismal performance during her long tenure in Congress is proof of that. Gerrymandering has its benefit for incumbents.

Jeffersonville Mayor Apologizes To Family Of City Attorney Found In Trash Can

You could see this one coming from a mile away. The City of Jeffersonville's top attorney makes a complete fool of himself, awakened by city police in his neighbor's garbage can after a night on the town with some friends to celebrate one of them passing a real estate license exam. Although city police didn't ticket city attorney Larry Wilder for public intoxication or disorderly conduct, a police officer snapped some priceless photos of Wilder which found their way to the news media and on to the Internet. Today, Jeffersonville Mayor Tom Galligan called a press conference to apologize to Wilder's family, as demanded by Wilder, because at least one, if not more, of the city's police officers "ignored" their oath and "allowed personal or political motivations to interfere with their work." The Jeffersonville News and Tribune's Matt Thacker reports on Galligan's statement to the press:

Jeffersonville Mayor Tom Galligan on Sunday apologized to Larry Wilder’s family for pictures taken of the city council’s attorney passed out in a trash can Wednesday morning.

Galligan said it is still under investigation who took and distributed the photographs, but Jeffersonville Police Chief Tim Deeringer confirmed they were taken by a camera issued by the police department.

“When someone becomes a police officer in the city of Jeffersonville, they take an oath to protect and serve the people of this city,” Galligan said at a press conference on Sunday afternoon. “Earlier this week, one or two officers ignored that oath and allowed their personal or political motivations to interfere with their work.”

Wilder said in an interview with The Evening News on Friday that he wanted the police officer who took the photos to apologize to his children. The apology, instead, came from the mayor.

“I apologize personally — and as mayor — to the children and family of Larry Wilder for the pain that you have endured at the hands of one or two errant officers,” Galligan said.

Galligan said he called the press conference because several citizens approached him with concerns that a similar situation could happen to them if police officers wanted to embarrass them.

He said police officers should treat everyone with “dignity and professionalism” and called the unknown officer who took the photos a “renegade.”

Galligan would not comment whether the police officer(s) involved would be disciplined. When asked if this was a matter for the police merit board to handle, he said, “it’s going to be a matter for the mayor.” However, he did have ominous words for the officer(s) involved.

“We are going to take appropriate action to ensure that no police officer will be comfortable abusing their authority again,” Galligan said.

Galligan said it may be three or four officers involved but that it is more likely one or two. Four officers responded to the call, according to police records.
Galligan hints that the responsible police officers will be disciplined for their actions. Which action is worse: failing to charge Wilder with public intoxication; or taking pictures of Wilder and disseminating them to the news media? Wilder would have automatically faced a disciplinary action before the Indiana Attorney Disciplinary Commission if police had charged him with public intoxication and he had been convicted. The Commission takes abuse of alcohol by members of the bar very seriously. All of us know someone who has tied one on, particularly college students, who upon acting up in public, wound up being arrested, charged with public intoxication and taken to the tank to dry out. In Wilder's case, one of the responding police officers walked him home. Apparently, police didn't check Wilder's blood alcohol level.

For his part, Wilder apologized on Friday. He told Thacker, “I take responsibility for my conduct.” “I’ve made a mistake. I’ve embarrassed myself. I’ve embarrassed my family, and I’ve embarrassed my clients.” Wilder insists he is not a drinker and only recalls having three or four drinks at a Louisville restaurant. “I can’t tell you what happened. I wish I could,” Wilder said, explaining that he cannot remember anything after 11:30 p.m. Tuesday. According to earlier reports, a limousine dropped off Wilder at his home around 5:00 a.m. Wednesday morning. His neighbor discovered him around 7:00 a.m. The city council must still decide what to do about Wilder's continued employment as the council's contracted attorney.

Personally, I think the police could have justified their actions if they had taken the photos of Wilder in anticipation of filing charges against him for public intoxication. If that had happened, I would not see why the photos would not have become public documents accessible by the media. For whatever reason, no charges were made against Wilder and it leaves the appearance, as Mayor Galligan suggests, police were simply trying to embarrass him for personal and political motivations. I think Mayor Galligan and his police department also owe it to the public to explain why no criminal charges were filed against Wilder. If there is important information missing here that would explain the inaction, it is in the public's and Wilder's interest to clear the air.

Just Another Chicago Politician

Surprise, surprise, surprise. Transparency and accountability were key buzzwords during The One's "Yes We Can" rock concert tour last year. As it turns out, it was the same old empty rhetoric Americans have been dealt by politicians of all stripes for too long. Liberal political reporter Michael Isikoff discovers that President Obama's pledge for openness in government has already been closed in commenting on the Administration's decision to block the release of the identity of White House visitors, in this case, coal executives lobbying the President on clean coal technology. "The refusal, approved by White House counsel Greg Craig's office, is the latest in a series of cases in which Obama officials have opted against public disclosure," Isikoff writes.

"It's amusing to watch the Washington political establishment feign shock, now that President Barack Obama's reform administration has used a clay foot to vigorously kick one inspector general and boot another out the door," writes Chicago Tribune political columnist John Kass. Kass continues:

What's the big surprise? What strange, exotic land do they think Obama comes from?

Do they think Obama learned his politics in Narnia, while cavorting with gentle forest creatures, some of which have hooves and serve tea and cakes to journalists and well-mannered English schoolgirls on snowy winter afternoons?

Did Obama learn politics in Camelot, the magical kingdom where federal czars sit at a great round table, all for the good of the simple peasants? Or did he learn politics along that famous highway, you know, the one that's always paved with good intentions?

No. Obama learned his politics in Chicago.

And now all of Washington can learn it, too.

Clinton Calls For Federal Pullback Once Recession Ends

President Bill Clinton asked Democrats to do something history tells us will not happen when he spoke to the Democrat's Jefferson Jackson Day fundraiser at the Marriott Hotel in downtown Indianapolis last night. "[Clinton] called on Democrats to support a pullback of such aggressive federal involvement in the private economy once the recession ends," the Star's Bill McCleery writes. "First we had to build this bridge over troubled waters," Clinton said. "But then we will have to have substantial reduction in the deficit."

I don't recall Democrats calling for a rollback of federal power after the Great Depression from which the U.S. economy only recovered because of World War II, not because of FDR's New Deal and the expansive role of the federal government over our daily lives he brought about. Someone passed along a summary of comments political commentator Dr. Charles Krauthammer made to the Center for the American Experiment recently that suggests Clinton is proposing a path for Obama and the Democrats that at least Obama has no intention of following:

Obama has a ruthless quest for power. He did not come to Washington to make something out of himself, but rather to change everything, including dismantling capitalism. He can't be straightforward on his ambitions, as the public would not go along. He has a heavy hand, and wants to 'level the playing field' with income redistribution and punishment of the achievers of society. He would like to model the USA to Great Britain or Canada.

His three main goals are federal control of energy, public education, and national healthcare. He doesn't care about the auto or financial services industries, but got them as an early bonus. The cap and trade will add costs to everything and stifle growth. Paying for free college education is his goal. Most scary is healthcare program, because if you make it free and add 48,000,000 people to a Medicare-type single-payer system, the costs will go thru the roof. The only way to control costs is with massive rationing of services, like in Canada. God forbid.
Krauthammer added that he believes Obama is a "narcissist" with a huge ego who cannot take criticism well. He views himself not as President of the United States but as ruler of the world Krauthammer opines. Krauthammer warned that the U.S. faces hyper inflation from spending trillions that we don't have, noting that no country has ever spent itself into prosperity.

Hopefully, the country will take the direction suggested by former President Clinton, but I don't see that happening. Krauthammer's assessment of Obama is very chilling to say the least. I also suspect the Clintons will part company with Obama when it becomes politically expedient to do so.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Is IMPD Earning The Public's Respect?

The Star's Jon Murray has a report today suggesting that IMPD is regaining the public's respect allegedly due to its "swift response" to corruption uncovered within the department over the past year. Murray writes:

Some community leaders who had feared escalating corruption say the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department's swift response to the scandal has begun to ease suspicions in the neighborhoods that need police protection most.

Beyond the launch of the department's "integrity plan," announced in July, the community leaders are heartened by improvements in transparency and outreach by IMPD to community organizations.

"They're keeping the leadership in the black community in the loop and informed," said the Rev. Charles Harrison, board president of the Ten Point Coalition, a faith-based group founded to address youth violence.

His assessment of residents' faith in police? "Not where we want it to be, but it's better."

William T. Benjamin, IMPD's deputy chief of investigations, sees the return of polygraph testing as a key confidence builder, both inside and outside the department. The Indianapolis Police Department had used random testing for sensitive positions, but it was dropped in the 2007 merger with the Marion County Sheriff's Department.

"We are policing ourselves," Benjamin said, noting that the officers accused of wrongdoing were just a fraction of the force of 1,600.
I've got one small suggestion for Murray, who generally does an outstanding job with his reporting at the Star. Don't rely on Rev. Harrison for advice on how IMPD is doing. Remember when the ministers shook down the City for money back when Bart Peterson was still mayor, threatening to shut down construction on Lucas Oil Stadium? Mayor Greg Ballard gave Rev. Harrison and those other ministers what Mayor Peterson didn't give them--money. Yeah, Harrison's Ten Point Coalition received a $170,000 "crime prevention grant" from the City earlier this year, one of the $4.5 million the City doled out despite tough budgetary times.

Murray might have spoken to 70-year-old Mary Minton and her 72-year-old ailing husband. This past Thursday, IMPD, the Sheriff's Department and U.S. Marshal's fanned out across the City doing warrant sweeps according to WRTV. Minton says police, looking for someone at another address down the street from her home, barged in and ordered her ailing husband (he's had four strokes) to the floor. "I want them to come in here and tell me that they're sorry," Marye Minton said. "Not on the phone, don't send me a letter. Come in my door, like you sent your men in my house." To be fair, the officers who made the mistake work for Sheriff Frank Anderson and not IMPD.

City Deal To Enrich Tadd Miller Will Hurt CIB Financially

So the City has been over at the State House begging and pleading for a $47 million a year bailout of the Capital Improvement Board. More recently, it announces a deal to invest more than $20 million of taxpayer funds in young Tadd Miller's $65 million plan to redevelop the old Bank One operations center into a mixed use apartment/retail complex. Aside from the fact that the City broke a state law that would require it to pay "fair market value" when it agreed to pay much more than that, $18.5 million, to purchase a parking garage next to Tadd Miller's planned project, there's a bit of another problem. It seems the City will also be shutting down roughly 1,000 parking spaces on the vacant Market Square Arena site. Who gets the revenues from those parking spaces? The CIB. How much will the CIB lose annually? About $750,000. Here's what the IBJ's Cory Schouten is reporting:

The city has agreed to help a developer revitalize the vacant former Bank One operations center in part by acquiring an adjacent parking garage for $18.5 million. City officials say appraisals to support the purchase price count on a shift in parking demand after the city shuts down a gravel parking area where Market Square Arena once stood.

But the closure of the roughly 1,000-space MSA lots would leave the beleaguered CIB, which already is lobbying for a legislative bailout to cope with a $47-million budget deficit, with another revenue hole to fill.

The five-acre parking area, which is owned by the city but operated by CIB, raked in about $730,000 in 2007 and $789,000 in 2008. For comparison, the CIB-owned 2,400-space Virginia Avenue Parking Garage lost $611,000 in 2007 and $597,000 in 2008, thanks to subsidized spaces for the Indiana Pacers, WellPoint Inc. and various city departments.

The plans call for the city to let expire a variance allowing a gravel parking surface at the MSA site. If the city won’t renew the variance beyond August 2010, the CIB would either have to pave the lots or cease the parking operation, said Barney Levengood, the board’s executive director.

Levengood said it’s too early to tell whether the revenue from the lots will be factored into 2010 budget projections for the CIB, whose fate rests with state lawmakers meeting in special session.

Plans to shut the lots should come as no surprise since all previous bids relating to the redevelopment of the MSA site called for closure, said Robert Vane, communications director for Mayor Greg Ballard.

“None of the plans had gravel surface parking with revenues going to the CIB,” Vane said. “The only difference between then and now is that we believe we have been successful in securing development in the area.”

Still, losing the revenue would be another blow for the CIB. It recently has been saddled with the $20-million annual expense of operating Lucas Oil Stadium and has agreed to pick up the $15 million cost of operating Conseco Fieldhouse for the Pacers.
You see how it works? The City shuts down the 1,000-space parking lot to force more people to park in the garage the City is buying, which coincidentally will be operated by Tadd Miller's new development company. So what if it costs the CIB money. City officials have already assumed the state legislature and City-County Councilors are going to screw over taxpayers and make them shell out at least another $20 million a year to bail out the CIB. Not $47 million? Nah, the CIB, which has been running deficits for ten years, just made up that number hoping to get somewhere in between. Remember how it went on a spending spree this past year before publicly seeking a bailout, hiring new workers and handing out big pay raises to its top executives?

Yep, helping Tadd Miller, a big contributor to Republicans and the Ballard campaign committee, will cost you dearly. I put the price tag conservatively at $30 million. Yes, you are spending about $30 million so he can build a $60-$65 million apartment/retail complex. So much for Mayor Ballard's promise to put an end to corporate welfare. That promise was broken just like his pledge to stop operating city government for the benefit of a few big law firms and to end the practice of appointing lobbyists and persons doing business with the City to boards and commissions. City hall is for sale. If you contribute when asked and engage a connected law firm to assist you, who knows how much taxpayers' money you can walk away with. Let your imagination roam freely.