Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Miller's Popper Business Closed

A blog report out of New York suggests Joe Miller's Great Lakes Products, the world's largest manufacturer of poppers, has been closed following news he committed suicide last week. This Is FYF blog in a post headlined, "Rush to the store because your bottle of poppers just became a collector's item," reported on hearing from a video store owner that Miller's business had shuttered its doors. The blog checked several websites at which brands of Miller's poppers were sold, including its most popular brand, RUSH, and found all of them shuttered, including Pac West Distributing, which distributes the amyl nitrate inhalants manufactured by Miller's Great Lakes Products based in Indianapolis. Was the business recently raided by federal investigators? We can only guess.

As usual, the Indianapolis news media remains mum on the death of one of the City's wealthiest businessmen and perhaps the largest single contributor to Democratic candidates in the state of Indiana behind the billionaire Simon family. Although it is illegal to market amyl nitrates for human consumption without a prescription, Miller's company for decades cleverly marketed its products as video head cleaner and room deodorizers with a wink and a nod. Combining poppers with erectile dysfunction drugs like Viagra, Cialis and Levitra can have deadly consequences. The recreational drug inhalant also weakens the body's immune system, increases the likelihood of contracting HIV/AIDS and is a likely cause of Kaposi's sarcoma, a disease often associated with gay men suffering from HIV/AIDS.

The more I ponder this story the more I can't stop thinking about the complete double standard in the local news media's coverage of Miller versus their coverage of alleged Ponzi scheme operator Tim Durham. In reality, from a purely business-motivated end of the equation, there is far more intrigue and titillating details to the Miller story to draw viewers and readers than there ever was to the Durham story. Durham must be sitting out in his L.A. mansion wondering if he would have been better off to take the lower public profile path Miller chose than the much higher public profile he chose to take.

Former IU Law School Dean Makes Plea On Behalf Of Professor Henry Karlson

William Harvey, a retired law professor and former dean of the IU School of Law-Indianapolis, is making a plea on behalf of Henry Karlson, a fellow retired law professor. Professor Karlson is gravely ill with myelodysplastic syndrome (MSD), an aggressive pre-leukemia disease. Professor Harvey is seeking potential bone marrow donors to help Professor Karlson in his battle. Harvey explains in a plea issued to members of the Indianapolis Bar Association:

My specific request is this: Join the Be The Match bone marrow registry. Thousands of patients with leukemia and other life-threatening diseases depend on the Be The Match Registry® (formerly known as the National Marrow Donor Program) to find a match to save their life.

The Indiana Blood Center is the Donor Center/Recruitment Group for the state of Indiana. IBC registers potential volunteer bone marrow donors into a large database that is searched daily by patients in desperate need of a bone marrow transplant. Be The Match is a national registry, which means you must be willing to help anyone who needs a lifesaving bone marrow transplant. However, if that time comes, certain options are available to you then.

Most patients are unable to find matches within their own families and therefore concentrate their search in this national registry. In 2009, more than 12,000 searches were conducted through the Be The Match Registry for a matching donor.

Because Human Leukocyte Antigen (HLA) typing is inherited, patients are most likely to match someone of their same race or ethnicity. The more uncommon a person's HLA type, the more difficult it is to find a match. The Indiana Blood Center and the Be The Match Registry are working together to expand the Registry to improve all patients' chances of finding a donor.

This is not a blood donation or an invasive procedure. It is a Leukocyte Antigen (HLA) test. It is simple. It is fast. It is critical.

Joining the national registry is easily done. All it takes is some paperwork and a simple Do-It-Yourself Buccal/Cheek swab. If you go to the Indiana Blood Center at 3450 No. Meridian Street, Indianapolis, Indiana 46208 please contact Melissa Levy at 317-916-5110 to set a time for your visit, or ask that an information/registration packet be sent to you.

There is an alternative to calling her at that phone number. You can make contact through mlevy@indianablood.org You can join "at your office" because an information/registration packet will be mailed directly to you. The test is easily conducted. Simply follow the enclosed instructions and, when completed, return the registration packet to the Indiana Blood Center in the package enclosed for that purpose.
Please make sure to mention Professor Henry C. Karlson's name when you request a packet!

The total cost to add members to this lifesaving registry is $100. As a non-profit organization it relies on public support to offset the cost of enrolling and typing new members. It does not require that donors cover the entire cost of joining the Be The Match registry, but it is imperative that they have your help to raise the necessary funds so more registry members can be added and save more lives. The Indiana Blood Center asks that each person who participates in the registry drive help reach the fundraising goal of $52 per donor. All fundraising donations are tax deductible and 100% of each contribution is dedicated to adding more members to the national registry.
If you want to join for one particular person, that can occur. The Indiana Blood Center has a lab for that and its number is 317-916-5237. I think the cost for private testing for one individual is much more than $52.

Unfortunately, there are disqualifications. One of the most common is age. Donors must be between the ages of 18 - 60 years old in order to register with Be The Match. I am well above 60 years of age-well above 70 for that matter.

However, I know a group of outstanding attorneys in the Indianapolis Legal Aid Society (easily, the finest organization of its kind in the United States). I shall happily contribute sufficient money so each one can choose to become a registrant without cost.

For Professor Henry C. Karlson, this is the time, this is the day, and this is the hour of need-of desperate need.

I plea-no, I beg that you assist him.

Professor Karlson and his family are dear friends. Please help out if you can and keep him in your prayers.

Democrats Take Aim At Ballard

Like a pod of sharks circling their prey, Democrats on the Indianapolis City-County Council can taste the blood seeping from the Ballard administration and are going in for the kill. Minority Leader Joanne Sanders and Brian Mahern are introducing a resolution calling for the establishment of an independent legislative investigative committee armed with subpoena powers to investigate IMPD's handling of the investigation of Officer David Bisard's fatal DUI crash that killed motorcyclist Eric Wells and left two other motorcyclists seriously injured. The committee would be comprised of six members, with three from each political party, and be chaired by a councilor appointed by CCC President Ryan Vaughn. Fox59 News' Russ McQuaid reports:

City-County Council Democrats are calling for a City-County Council investigation of the IMPD Officer Bisard Investigation. They want to know what the commanders at the scene knew and when they knew it.

They also want to know what Chief Paul Ciesielski and Public Safety Director Frank Straub were doing August 6th, instead of going to the scene of the fatal crash involving Officer Bisard.
Sanders and Mahern told reporters today they hope to have bipartisan support for the council-led investigation. The Ballard administration will likely oppose the move, and the Republican-led council has pretty much been a rubber stamp council for Ballard with no independent voices in the caucus. Democrats are probably hoping Republicans will fall into line and vote against the investigation on party lines. It should be another feather in their cap in their effort to regain control of the council in next year's municipal election. Ballard insisted on having control of the police department when he ran for mayor, and the council granted him his wish. IMPD has been plagued with problems since he took the reins in 2007.

UPDATE: CCC President Ryan Vaughn tells the Star he opposes the legislative investigative committee proposed by the Democratic councilors. "It's overreaching, and it's micromanaging," Vaughn said. "Facts (about) how the investigation was conducted are all relevant and will be part of any criminal prosecution. We don't want to interfere in a pending case."

50-Year Parking Lease Agreement A Win-Win For Denison Parking

While most of the focus to date on Mayor Greg Ballard's extremely corrupt decision to award a 50-year lease for the City's parking meters and parking garages to his taxpayer-paid legal adviser's client, ACS, a partner in the deal with ACS, Denison Parking, stands to come out a big winner in the deal as well. Denison Parking currently owns and/or operates many of the parking garages and lots in downtown Indianapolis. Under the terms of the 50-year lease, parking rates for metered spots will double from 75 cents an hour for 2-hour parking to $1.50. It also extends the hours for metered rates an additional three hours during the week from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. (to 10:00 p.m. in Broad Ripple) and allows for weekend parking charges as well. According to the IBJ's Cory Schouten, the deal could net ACS and its partners as much as $1.2 billion. Just what does the deal mean for Denison Parking?

To the extent it costs considerably more to park in metered parking spots, Denison Parking will more easily be able to justify increased rates for parking in its garages and lots, which means more profit for the company. Another provision of the 50-year parking lease deal ignored by the media is a provision that allows for a 50-cent increase in metered parking rates for each hour of parking in excess of two hours. Currently, many people park downtown for several hours at a time. Some downtown workers actually park on the street and feed the meters throughout their work shift. This is true of many of the workers at businesses along Massachusetts Avenue. A worker can park for $6 dollars during an 8-hour shift if he or she wants to feed a meter. An all-day parking spot in a parking garage will cost that same worker about $8. The higher rates for parking in excess of 2 hours will likely succeed in deterring workers from taking up on-street parking spaces that should be available to business patrons. That could force more people to park in the parking garages and lots, which means more money and profits for Denison Parking.

A common complaint you hear from people who frequent the downtown area is the number of bagged meters on any given day due to construction work, utility work, special events or convenience. Under the terms of the 50-year lease with the City, taxpayers will be required to reimburse ACS and its partners for revenues it loses when the City bags parking meters or otherwise prohibits parking in certain areas. The more bagged meters, the more revenues that are generated for Denison's parking garages and lots, at the same time ACS and Denison will be getting reimbursed for the lost on-street parking revenues. So as you can see, the 50-year lease deal is a win-win for Denison Parking.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Cell Phone Records Don't Lie

Russ McQuaid is still on the game-changing development in the Bisard fatal DUI crash, and the ramifications for the Ballard administration could not be more profound. I'm talking about McQuaid's exclusive report this past weekend detailing how Public Safety Director Frank Straub and IMPD Chief Paul Ciesielski were too consumed with salvaging Straub's deteriorating public image to pay any attention to the seriousness of David Bisard crashing his police cruiser into a pair of motorcyclists, killing one and leaving two others seriously injured. Cell phone records obtained by McQuaid confirm Assistant Chief Darryl Pierce had numerous cell phone conversations with Ciesielski while he and Deputy Chief Ron Hicks were at the crash scene. Pierce called Ciesielski a total of 8 times before the Chief summoned him and Hicks to leave the crash scene and come to IMPD headquarters to discuss a planned press conference to boost Straub's public image. Ciesielski acknowledged to McQuaid he had spoken to Pierce several times and understood it was a very serious matter.

Ciesielski and Straub were in a meeting discussing how to convey to the public there was no rift between IMPD's leadership and Straub when the two learned of the crash from Pierce. After summoning Pierce and Hicks to return to IMPD headquarters for a 1:00 meeting, the two were asked to stand behind Ciesielski at a 3:00 press conference as a show of unity and support for Straub, although both men declined to speak in support of Straub. Later, Straub and Ciesielski announced the demotion of the two men, along with Commander John Conley, who was also at the accident, for failing to communicate the seriousness of the Bisard situation to him and Straub, and for failing to take charge of the investigation at the accident scene. Straub and Ciesielski also removed Lt. George Crooks as head of the Fatal Alcohol Crash Team even though he was told not to go the accident scene. Investigators botched the collection of vital blood alcohol evidence which led the prosecutor's office to announce it was dismissing alcohol-related charges against Bisard even though those test results showed he was intoxicated by more than double the legal limit.

Pierce and Hicks have hired an attorney, Robert Turner, who is a former Public Safety Director under Mayor Bart Peterson, to challenge their demotions. Turner told McQuaid he's going to press Mayor Greg Ballard to review the two men's demotions. Ballard already told McQuaid over the weekend he was surprised to learn his two top public safety leaders were focused on Straub's public images problems rather than the Bisard investigation. It's not clear if Ballard is ready to throw the two men under the bus just yet, but politically, he may have no choice as this botched investigation threatens to single-handedly bring down his administration. He said Public Safety is Job One when he ran for mayor. He asked for and got control of the police department. Now he must step forward and show some leadership. The IPSE blog has a good analysis of the situation with which he is now confronted and what it means for his political future.

What's The Truth Behind CIB's New Budget Numbers

The IBJ's Scott Olson had a story last week discussing a proposed $10 million increase in the CIB's proposed budget for 2011 over the current year's 2010 budget. That happens to match the amount of the first of three $10 million installments over the next years the CIB is giving to the Indiana Pacers because billionaire Herb Simon claims the franchise is losing so much money he can no longer afford to operate the team here withou additional public support. The CIB's President Ann Lathrop insists the $10 million in higher spending for next year is not the only reason the CIB plans to spend $73.1 million next year. A point I would make is that the first $10 million installment to the Pacers has already been paid out of the 2010 budget, and when the City-County Council approved the current year's budget for the CIB, it insisted there was no money in this year's budget to give to the Pacers. The CIB did, however, get approval from the City-County Council to raise the hotel tax in order to get an extra subsidy from state income and sales tax revenues from an expanded downtown sports area district, and it got approval to borrow $27 million from the state in three, $9 million annual installments. The CIB took elected to take that first installment late last year, even though Lathrop stated at the time the CIB didn't need the money. If we don't borrow it, she said, the CIB would lose the right to access those borrowed funds.

According to Olson's story, Lathrop attributed another $5 million in higher budget costs to improvements to Conseco Fieldhouse and other CIB facilities. "Instead, she pointed to $3.5 million in other improvements to the Fieldhouse, which is operated by the CIB, as well as $1.5 million earmarked for renovations and repairs to other buildings it owns," he writes. I'm sorry, Mr. Olson, but the CIB does not operate the Fieldhouse. Under the terms of a long-term lease, the Pacers are responsible for operating and maintenance expenses on the Fieldhouse because it gets to keep all of the revenues generated from it, including both game and non-game events; the CIB is not responsible for operating the Fieldhouse. The Pacers have also been allowed to keep parking revenues that are supposed to belong to the CIB. As part of the 3-year, $33.5 million give-away to the Pacers approved by the CIB earlier this summer, the CIB agreed to pick up $3.5 million in improvements to the Fieldhouse it otherwise was not legally obligated to cover. It seems the Pacers are dissatisfied with its current 10-year-old scoreboard above center court and wants to replace it with a brand new digital scoreboard.

Olson also notes the expanded convention center is expected to cost another $1 million in higher utility costs. Nonetheless, Lathrop tells Olson the CIB will balance its budget through "a combination of cuts and anticipated increases in revenue from hospitality and food and beverage taxes." Personnel costs are supposedly going to decline $3 million due to budget cuts. I've previously noted the CIB eked out most of its personnel cost reductions by significantly reducing the amount of temporary staffing it has been employing in the past. Of course, the only reason the CIB can really afford to spend an additional $10 million next year is because it is borrowing another $9 million from the state. How it plans to repay the full $27 million loan to the state is any body's guess at this point.

Perhaps the most important point Olson makes in his report is buried near the end of the story. "In addition, the Indianapolis Convention & Visitors Association is slated to receive $8 million from the CIB next year," Olson writes. "Unlike previous years, that the money will not come from CIB revenue but from downtown-development funds."The CIB typically funds about 70 percent of the ICVA’s budget." What are those "downtown-development funds"? And does that mean the CIB's budget is actually increasing by $18 million instead of the $10 million advertised by the CIB? Pat Andrews at Had Enough Indy asks that latter question. The Indianapolis Times blog builds on the point Pat makes with a discussion of how those funds come from a downtown tax increment financing (TIF) district. Yes, that would be property tax revenues. The blog explains the importance of this change in funding:

Is it coincidence that the $8 million in taxpayer money earmarked from the ICVA just about equals the amount of money for the coming year that the city has promised to pony up to bail out the Indiana Pacers?

If you remember, it was Mayor Greg Ballard who insisted that not a dime of taxpayer money would be used to bail out the Pacers and its billionaire owner.

While I have no doubt that the mayor will continue to insist that no taxpayer money is being used to help the Pacers, I think it would be safe to assume that the only reason the CIB is spending $8 million in your tax money on the ICVA is because of its obligations to the Pacers.

The CIB has funded the ICVA for years, but the the CIB has never had access to TIF funds, and has always funded the ICVA with a portion of its own revenues. There's only one reason that the CIB is now using TIF proceeds to fund the ICVA -- because it's short the $10 million it gave the Pacers.

The CIB, Mayor Ballard and administration officials will vehemently deny using property taxes to fund the Pacers, but the point here is that if those million of dollars hadn't gone to the Pacers, the CIB wouldn't need access to your tax dollars to fund the ICVA.

The mayor promised not to use tax dollars to bailout out the Pacers, so like any screwed sidewalk shill he's playing a shell game with your tax dollars.

The Indianapolis Times is absolutely correct in its assertion that the CIB's budget is nothing more than a shell game, just like it always has been. There is always more to its numbers than meets the eye. Yes, Greg Ballard lied again. The CIB didn't have the money in this year's budget to give to the Pacers so it tapped a property tax revenue-related fund to provide funding to the ICVA for the first time so it could afford to give away money to the Pacers, and it still had to borrow more funds from the state even with those additional property tax revenues. Our property tax dollars are being used to give money to billionaire Herb Simons' Indiana Pacers and support the CIB notwithstanding Ballard's assertions to the contrary. That's a fact you won't read in the mainstream news media reports.

UPDATE: Don't miss this story if you're a property taxpayer. It looks like the library board and IndyGo may file appeals to allow them to hike property tax levies next year to meet budget shortfalls. Although the boards are comprised of persons appointed by the mayor and the council, watch for politicians to distance themselves from the actions of those boards if property tax increases do occur.

UPDATE II: The rubber stamp members of the CIB approved the budget without asking any serious questions. Of course this is how it goes. They are part of the corrupt organized crime ring that runs this town, and they're all making money at your expense and laughing all the way to the bank. And to David Shane, you have proven yourself to be a totally worthless member of the CIB. I should have known better than to expect more from you.

UPDATE III: Here's some more details on the CIB's proposed budget. The CIB is passing out grant money to the Arts Council and the Indiana Sports Corporation. The Arts Council will get $300,000, while the ISC will get $150,000. The grant to Black Expo is being restored, notwithstanding the harmful economic impact this organization's summer celebration is increasingly having on downtown businesses. There is also a $150,000 cultural tourism matching grant in the budget. The CIB will spend $100,000 more on the Colts game day expenses next year. The CIB plans to spend $800,000 to pave that gravel parking lot at the site of the former Market Square Arena it has had a variance to operate for a number of years. No sinking fund is being established to repay the state loan. The CIB is relying heavily on the inter-local agreement for downtown development dollars (TIF revenues) as a permanent way of funding the ICVA as noted in the story above. It's budgeting at its worst when you consider how much other vital city budgets are being cut to deal with an anticipated revenue shortfall next year. We're going to wind up spending nearly 10% of what we spend on all other city services on the CIB's budget. The CIB's budget in 2011 will actually be 25% higher than it was in 2009, jumping from $84.7 million to $104.4 million. Absolutely incredible.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Teen's Life Tragically Ended At Today's MotoGP Race

The life of 13-year-old Peter Lenz tragically came to an end today during a warm-up event for younger competitive motorcylists at today's running of the MotoGP motorcycle race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Lenz was struck by another young motorcyclist after he spilled his bike in the fourth turn of the track. According to WTHR, Lenz had already won nine national championships, countless awards and more than 100 wins during his short career. His father posted the following message on Facebook after the tragic loss of his son's life:

"Peter passed away early this morning when he was apparently struck by another rider. He passed doing what he loved and had his go fast face on as he pulled onto the track. The world lost one of its brightest lights today. God Bless Peter and the other rider involved. #45 is on another road we can only hope to reach. Miss you kiddo. - Dad"
A number of riders complained after Saturday's qualifications for today's MotoGP race that track conditions were bad and led to a number of crashes. WTHR reported on the competitor's complaints:

"Seventy percent of this track needs to be resurfaced - not just that; it really needs to be ripped up, smoothed out again and resurfaced. The curves on this joint, we don't need all those draining points in there. You may as well be riding around the streets and I'm sure that except for around here a lot of streets would be a lot smoother than this joint. So it's not much of a race track," said Casey Stoner.

"The conditions of the track are quite difficult for everyone. It's so bumpy, the track, compared to a normal track, especially to the last track in Bruno. The conditions don't give you the best confidence," said Jorge Lorenzo.
Spain's Dani Pedrosa won today's MotoGP race at the Speedway. News reports indicated attendance at this year's event like other events held this year at the IMS were down considerably over previous years.

Star Posts Online Story On Joe Miller's Death And Then Yanks It

Joe Miller shown with former President Bill Clinton at a fundraiser held in the home of former Indiana Democratic Party Chairman Joe Andrew
The Indianapolis Star briefly posted an online story yesterday entitled, "Advocate for gays may have killed self," which mentioned the suspected suicide death of Joe Miller before the publication removed the story. Miller owned Great Lakes Products, the world's largest manufacturer of poppers based in Indianapolis. Poppers are a recreational drug inhalant made from a liquid form of amyl and butyl nitrates that are marketed online in small bottles costing $12 to $14 to the gay community. The drug was/is often illegally distributed for sale in many gay bars, adult bookstores and night clubs across the country and around the world. Inexplicably, the Star removed the online story and ran no story in today's Sunday Star. A cached version of the online story since taken down read:
An Indianapolis man who championed the rights and health of gay Hoosiers was found dead in his Downtown home Thursday, police said.

The death of Joseph F. Miller is being investigated as a possible suicide, according to an Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department report. Miller, 59, was a wealthy businessman who supported issues relevant to the gay community and helped underwrite the Damien Center's HIV testing and prevention efforts.

Miller helped found Indiana Stonewall Democrats, a political caucus of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered Democrats.

Former Gov. Joe Kernan said he and his wife, Maggie, had known Joe Miller since 1996, when Kernan came to Indianapolis as lieutenant governor.

"He was a dear friend to both of us, and we're very sad," Kernan said Friday, a day after Miller's death. Miller, he said, "was generous to his community, to Indianapolis, and in many ways that people are not aware of."

Police found his body in his home in the 400 block of West Michigan Street about 9:45 a.m. Thursday, according to a report.

An autopsy was done Friday. Officials are awaiting toxicology test results, Chief Deputy Coroner Alfarena Ballew said.
Do you think someone told Dennis Ryerson how Miller made his money, causing him to rethink the statement, "a man who championed the rights and health of gay Hoosiers?" I would agree with the first part of that sentence, but I don't know how you could claim someone who got rich manufacturing and selling poppers to gay men could possibly give a damn about their health.

Miller donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to Democratic candidates, including the late U.S. Rep. Julia Carson, former Indianapolis Mayor Bart Petesson, U.S. Rep. Baron Hill and the Indiana Stonewall Democrats. Miller was a close friend of former Indiana Democratic Party Chairman Joe Andrew, who helped Miller gain direct notice of former President Bill Clinton. Miller also made generous donations to many gay causes, including Indianapolis' Damien Center. A testing center for HIV/AIDS at the Center is named in his honor.

Former Indianapolis Star columnist and fellow blogger Ruth Holladay first broke news of Miller's rumored suicide last Thursday. The mainstream news media has been noticeably silent about Miller's death, despite his stature in the community. Miller is believed to have made hundreds of millions of dollars from his popper business, in addition to other businesses he owned. He once boasted that his company was the largest single advertiser in gay publications. After various research studies and news reports back in the 1980s linked poppers to the spread of HIV/AIDS among gay men, most gay publications stopped running advertisements for the product. Early in the HIV/AIDS crisis, some researchers believed poppers were the cause of the disease because so many of the victims shared a common use of the drug. Other studies have shown a causal link between the use of poppers and Kaposi's sarcoma, a disease often associated with persons infected with HIV/AIDS. Poppers are also believed to cause cell mutations and leads to suppressed immune systems in users. Physicians sometime prescribe nitrates in pill form for treatment of certain heart conditions, but it is illegal to market nitrates for recreational use by humans without a prescription.

After laws were enacted to crack down on their use as an inhalant recreational drug, Miller and other manufacturers became creative in their marketing efforts and claimed the product was being sold as a room deodorizer and video head cleaner, although it was no secret that those who purchased it did so for use as a recreational drug during sex. Many gay men began dropping dead from sudden deaths years later when Viagra first hit the market. The interaction of the two drugs for sexual encounters causes a deadly drop in blood pressure. An Atlanta gay activist died in June of this year after combining the prescription drug Levitra with poppers.

Miller was honored, along with U.S. Rep. Andre Carson,  by the Indiana Stonewall Democrats just last year at an event in the home of Indianapolis City-County Councilor Jackie Nytes. Controversial radio talk show host Abdul Hakim Shabazz covered the event on behalf of Bilerico, a nationally-recognized gay blog which promoted the event honoring Miller. Former Secretary of State Joe Hogsett, who has been nominated by President Barack Obama to serve as the next U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Indiana in Indianapolis, served as a co-host for the event.

UPDATE: A reader of the Star paper edition (yeah, there still are a few) says it appeared in the Saturday paper. I didn't see it in the Sunday early edition that comes out on Saturday. There are different versions that come out each day. The online version of the story certainly disappeared before it would typically be archived.

More Damaging Details Emerge On Straub And Ciesieslski

A new report by Fox59 News' Russ McQuaid on the initial reaction of Public Safety Director Frank Straub and IMPD Chief Paul Ciesielski to the fatal alcohol crash of Officer David Bisard that left one dead and two others seriously injured is very damaging to the two men and has shaken Mayor Greg Ballard's confidence in his leadership team. While two other high ranking police officers in the department, Darryl Pierce and Ron Ricks, went to the scene of the accident, Straub and Ciesielski were huddled in Straub's office focused on damage control concerning Straub's reputation. Straub had come under fire for a reorganization plan within the department and for blabbing his mouth about details of the investigation into a shooting at a birthday party that left two dead and six people shot. The FOP had just voted down a new contract based largely on disenchantment with Straub's leadership. Chief Ciesielski acknowledged when he emerged from Straub's office that morning he hadn't even bothered to watch noon TV news reports on the Bisard crash. Instead, he relied on briefings he received from Pierce and Hicks. He then scheduled an afternoon press conference to defend Straub and requested Pierce and Hicks via text messages to join him for the conference, although both men declined to say anything at the press conference in Straub's defense.

What is particularly disturbing is McQuaid's report that Ciesielski summoned Pierce and Hicks to come back to IMPD headquarters from the crash scene for a 1:00 meeting to discuss the image problem for Straub and growing concerns there was a rift between the Chief and Straub. Both Hicks and Pierce claim they told Ciesielski about the seriousness of the Bisard crash, but he asked for no additional information about it. Instead, he remained focused on how he could help out Straub with his image.

McQuaid caught up with Mayor Ballard to question him about Director Straub's and Chief Ciesielski's activities that day and he appeared surprised by what he heard from McQuaid. "If true, it's disturbing, obviously," said the mayor. "That is something that is going to have to be looked into. The timing of that, if it is…is extremely disturbing to me. We're going to have to take a serious look at that." When pressed on whether the two men still had his support, Ballard answered, "Right now they do have my support." But he added,  "We have to look at the facts as they evolve. We have to see what this is going to turn out to be."

McQuaid's report raises serious doubts about the reasons Straub and Ciesielski gave for demoting Pierce, Hicks and Commander John Conley, who was also at the Bisard crash scene. They were criticized by the two for failing to communicate the gravity of the situation to them about the Bisard crash and taking charge of the investigation of the crash, while the two admittedly were busy working on Straub's public image and preparing a press conference to defend Straub. "Members of my leadership team failed me," Ciesielski said at the announcement of the demotion. Lt. George Crooks was removed as head of the Fatal Alcohol Crash Team (FACT) even though he had been told not to go to the Bisard crash scene and had played no role in the crash investigation. McQuaid says that Straub later told at least three audiences he would reinstate Crooks and apologize to him personally, but he later denied the account and says he will not reinstate Crooks or apologize to him.

I've also learned of more damaging information about Straub's potential role in a confrontation that took place between Deputy Chief Wiliam Benjamin and Indiana State Police Office Wayne Billings. I'm told by a well-placed source that Billings came to Benjamin's office at IMPD headquarters dressed in blue jeans and a baggy shirt to confront him about text messages he claimed he had received from Benjamin concerning an adulterous affair he was allegedly having with a female clerk of court employee. The text messages purportedly asked Billings to come to Benjamin's office. During the brief encounter, Billings accused Benjamin of having an affair with the female clerk in question and claimed he had been disciplined by Ciesielski for the affair. I'm told Billings did not identify himself to Benjamin when he confronted him about the text messages, which Benjamin denied sending to Billings. After the heated exchange, Billings attempted to leave the office without identifying himself. When other officers stepped in to detain Billings, he reached for his sidearm, at which point another IMPD officer quickly disarmed him. The source tells me no IMPD officer drew a gun on Billings.

IMPD officers later discovered Billings had carried a digital recorder in his pocket and recorded the entire confrontation between him and Benjamin. Some IMPD officers believe Straub desired to get rid of Benjamin and was attempting to set him up. At least one elected official has indicated to police sources Straub told him he planned to get rid of Benjamin. Both the Indiana State Police and IMPD are investigating the incident. I'm told Straub has also asked the FBI to investigate the matter. Billings has been placed on administrative duty by ISP pending the outcome of the investigation.

These latest incidents only further raise doubts in the minds of IMPD's rank-and-file officers as to credibility and trust worthiness of the leadership at the top. It is becoming all the more apparent that others are being scape-goated for the mistakes and bad judgment made at the top. This latest news seems to have even raised concern on Ballard's part about the leadership of Straub and Ciesielski.

Straub's efforts to promote his own public image at the expense of IMPD is readily apparent in a feature story today in the Star about the problems at IMPD, "It's Gotten Out of Control", by Heather Gillers and John Touhy.  Straub, naturally, is portrayed as the crusading outsider who is working overtime to clean up the mess at IMPD he inherited. Discussing the troubling number of problem officers in recent years, Straub says, "Whether the number is 27 or 40 or five, the chief and I are committed to thoroughly investigating all allegations of misconduct, excessive force or corruption." I wonder if that it includes his and the chief's dereliction of duty with respect to the Bisard investigation while they were focused on the more pressing issue of Straub's public image? I'm also disappointed in the lack of attention in this feature story on the OmniSource investigation, a massive public corruption case involving dozens of police officers that was covered up by the Ballard administration in order to protect a valued client of Barnes & Thornburg, the law firm that for all practical purposes calls all of the shots in the Ballard administration while making lots of money for the firm and its clients at our expense. The handling of that case proved to me that this administration puts protecting the interest of Ballard's political cronies ahead of the general public, which was being systematically victimized by metal thiefs for the benefit of scrap metal dealers. That major corruption scandal within IMPD was only briefly mentioned in the story and resulted in no firings within the department.

The Star story does give some more favorable coverage of a plan actually prepared by Straub but credited to Councilors Ben Hunter, a former IMPD officer, and CCC President Ryan Vaughn, who has used his position on the council to personally aid the clients of Barnes & Thornburg. The Star writes, "In cosultation with Straub, City-County Council members Ryan Vaughn and Ben Hunter unveiled a 10-point reform plan Wednesday that includes mandatory annual performance evaluations, a college degree requirement for promotion and some college for entry into the force." I actually think a number of the ideas they propose are very good; however, I fear that taxpayers will wind up paying college expense requirements incurred by police officers that will allow them to be promoted. I would also point out that both Vaughn and Hunter oppose reforms in police moonlighting policies that should have become abundantly obvious after the OmniSource scandal. The fact is that many police officers become conflicted by their dualing roles for the public and their private security service clients and taxpayers continue to foot the bill for police officers' use of taxpayer-owned property for the benefit of private security firms.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Shabazz Claims His Call For Police Beatings Was Taken Out Of Context

The Star's Robert King becomes the first member of the mainstream media to call attention to controversial radio talk show host Abdul Hakim Shabazz' past advocacy for police beatings to help bring crime under control in Indianapolis. I first posted about it two years ago and reminded readers of his comments when Mayor Greg Ballard and Public Safety Director Frank Straub announced Shabazz was being appointed to a newly-formed public safety advisory board, even though Shabazz admits he is an Illinois resident and not a resident of the city. King writes in a story discussing Democratic calls for the firing of Straub about Shabazz' controversial statements:

Brian Mahern, a City-County Council Democrat, called for the resignation of Public Safety Director Frank Straub -- the third time he had issued such a call. This time, he and fellow Democrats Melina Kennedy, a 2011 mayoral contender, and Maggie Lewis, a fellow council member, pointed to fresh reasons.

They said Straub should not have commented about Bisard's behavior at the scene of the fatal crash. And they criticized Straub for appointing to an advisory group a certain morning radio talk show host -- Shabazz. They cited a past Shabazz blog post that "what this town needs are a couple of good police beatings."

Shabazz said his comments were taken out of context and that while he approves of a "reasonable use of force" by police, he doesn't advocate brutality. Tom John, chairman of the Marion County Republican Party, made an appearance at the news conference and said, "I maybe gave them too much credit and expected substantive discussion."

Yeah, whatever. Just keeping digging Abdul.

Double Homicide Overnight

IMPD has had its hands full the last few days. Now Fox59 News reports on a double homicide involving a couple engaged to be married who were found shot to death in their home near where a shootout occurred at an outdoor barbecue.

Homicide detectives are searching for suspects in an apparent shooting that left a couple in their 30's dead on the west side.

Around 10:40 p.m. Thursday, police say a man went to a home at the corner of 31st and Harding to check on a friend he hadn't heard from for some time.

Inside the house, he found his friend and a woman both dead.

Police were not releasing much more information.

But family members at the scene say the man and woman were engaged to be married, and had both been shot to death.

The sister of the male victim said police told her 18 gunshots had been fired in the home and there had been forced entry.

Family members also say the couple had a 3-year-old daughter together.

Fox59 News says it is unclear if there is any connection to the shooting in that same neighborhood that left six shot and two dead.

UPDATE: Police now suspect a murder-suicide.

CVS Employee Claims To Have Sold Alcohol To Bisard

An employee of CVS who does not wish to be identified has told Fox59 News he sold alcohol to Officer David Bisard while he was dressed in uniform prior to him crashing his police cruiser into a pair of motorcyclists, killing one and seriously injuring two others. The CVS employee sold a bottle of vodka to Bisard approximately 12 hours before the crash according to Zach Myers' exclusive report:

A CVS employee has come forward, claiming to be the cashier who sold alcohol to IMPD Officer David Bisard while he was in uniform.

The employee does not want to reveal their name or face but this worker does want to reveal what happened inside the CVS store on the northeast side roughly 12 hours before Bisard ran down a group of motorcyclists.

Wearing a company uniform and carrying a recent paystub, the employee said it was during an overnight shift at the store's 71st and Binford location when IMPD Officer David Bisard brought a bottle of vodka up to the counter, in full uniform.

"He seemed very sober. His eyes were a little red but he said he'd been up all night," the employee told Fox59 News.

The cashier claimed to be unaware at the time of IMPD's policy against officers buying alcohol in uniform but did mention Bisard's ID was checked. The employee then asked him if he was on or off duty.

"So, he promised me that he was not on duty, that he was off duty and that he just wanted to buy the vodka and go home and rest. So I... I sold it to him."

The employee doesn't remember if it was before or after midnight but was positive it was either late Wednesday night August 4th, or early Thursday morning August 5th... or late Thursday night, the 5th, or early Friday morning August 6th.

It was 11:21 a.m. Friday, the 6th, when Bisard crashed his cruiser, killing motorcyclist Eric Wells and injuring two others, including Kurt Weekly, who remains in a coma.
"I was very sad and hurt. And felt really bad for the family. And wish I would have never sold it to him."

It's not yet clear if Bisard actually was on duty at the time of the alcohol purchase and there's no proof the vodka he bought that night was what made his blood alcohol content register .19 after the crash.

This employee claimed Bisard was a regular at the store.

Reporter: "Had he bought alcohol in uniform before?"

CVS Employee: "Yes."

When asked why this cashier came forward to Fox59 News, risking being fired, the employee told us it was a sense of civic duty.

"I felt like this is what I had to do. And it's the right thing to do."
In a separate story, CVS released a statement saying a misunderstanding between the company and police led to prosecutor's obtaining a court order to obtain surveillance video footage from one of its stores. "It appears that a misunderstanding occurred during a request to review footage at another CVS location and we are taking immediate steps to correct this," Mike DeAngelis stated. "We believe we are already in compliance with the court order and we will continue to cooperate with county prosecutors in their investigation."

There is also good news for Lt. George Crooks, who Public Safety Director Frank Straub had removed as head of IMPD's Fatal Alcohol Crash Team (FACT) following the Bisard crash. He is being reinstated to his former position according to Fox59 News after it was determined he had been ordered not to go to the crash scene. Several other high-ranking officers at IMPD, including the number two and number three persons at the police agency, were demoted last weekend by Straub in response to police handling of Bisard's investigation. Straub has since apologized to Crooks for his premature decision to take an adverse employment action against him.

UPDATE: The Star says Fox59 News has it wrong. Straub has no intention of reinstating Crooks to his former position or apologizing to him. Hmmm.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Joe "The Popper King" Miller Dead

Joe Miller, one of the largest financial contributors to Indiana Democrats and the world's largest manufacturer of Poppers is dead according to fellow blogger Ruth Holladay. She says a source tells her he took his own life last night:

A known contributor to Dem causes, Joe Miller, a gay man, has died. By his own hand.


Here is a portion of an email from a source:

"You've probably heard that Joe Miller died late last night. Joe was a controversial figure in the gay community---I'm sure you've heard of his travels and tribulations. He made lots of money and spread it around. Rumors about his lifestyle are rampant, and always hahve been. Yet, he was largely a recluse."
I wrote earlier this summer about how an Atlanta gay activist died after using Poppers while he was on the prescription drug Levitra. Miller's company, Great Lakes Products, illegally distributed Poppers as a recreational inhalant largely in the gay community, where it is sold in gay bars, adult bookstores and over the Internet. Miller once boasted that he was the largest manufacturer of Poppers in the world and spent more money than any other business on advertising in gay publications. Miller gave large campaign contributions to politicians like the late U.S. Rep. Julia Carson, former Indianapolis Mayor Bart Peterson and U.S. Rep. Baron Hill. According to Indiana campaign finance data, Miller and his businesses contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to Indiana Democratic committees and candidates in recent years. He also donated generously to Indianapolis' Damien Center, which aids in the treatment of people suffering from HIV/AIDS. Ironically, Miller's product played a key role in the spread of HIV/AIDS among gay men, although the proven connection was largely ignored by the mainstream media. Indianapolis media rarely reported on Miller, who was one of Indianapolis' most successfull businessmen.

Barnes & Thornburg Rocked By Murder-Suicide

The Indianapolis law firm of Barnes & Thornburg became the center of tragedy today after a man dramatically shot and killed himself on the rooftop garage next to the firm at 11 S. Meridian and plunged to his death on the sidewalk along South Meridian Street. Police have since learned the man, Dave Frisby, had earlier strangled to death his wife, Mary Jane Frisby (shown above with her husband), in their Brownsburg home. According to WRTV, Frisby and his wife were going through a divorce. After killing his wife, Frisby then drove to the rooftop of the garage adjacent to Barnes & Thornburg's downtown offices where his wife was employed as an attorney. Armed with two handguns, Frisby fired several shots in the direction of the law firm before turning one of the guns on himself. WRTV describes the shooting and the suicide message Frisby left on his Facebook site condemning a culture of moral corruption at the law firm:

Witnesses told police they saw the man fire two to three shots toward a nearby building that houses the Barnes and Thornburg law firm, where Mary Jane Frisby was a partner.

"He turned and it's like he looked directly at us and fired two shots," said Anthony Prather, a lawyer who was in the office at the time.

On Dave Frisby's Facebook page, he posted a message, apparently shortly before killing himself, condemning the law firm.

"The bad lawyers at the Barnes and Thornburg law firm ... do not respect the institution of marriage and corrupted my wife Mary Jane (sex and drugs). Someone (maybe one of their good lawyers) please make them pay. Justice demands the truth out. It's a tragedy."

Fribsy, who was armed with two handguns, was pronounced dead at the scene, police said. There were no other reports of injuries.

Frisby's Facebook page lists him as retired from Indiana University Purdue University-Indianapolis.
Mary Jane Frisby worked as an intellectual property attorney at Barnes & Thornburg.  "The Barnes & Thornburg family is deeply saddened by the tragic incidents that occurred today," said Alan Levin, the firm's managing partner. "Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family of our beloved former partner, Mary Jane Frisby." Levin continued, "Mary Jane was a valued member of Barnes & Thornburg for several years. She will be missed by all of us. This is a very sad day for the firm."

Frisby is shown at left just moments before turning the gun on himself.

UPDATE: One reader says Mary Jane Frisby had just left the law firm to take a new job at Columbus-based Cummins.

Haslar Promotion At IMPD Draws Criticism

I knew something was up this morning when I received an anonymous phone call from a pay phone lamenting the promotion of Lt. Scott Haslar to the East Disrict Commander's position at IMPD. The name didn't immediately strike a bell with me, but after I googled Haslar's name, I recalled the incident the caller complained about. In 1990, Haslar, who is white, shot and killed an unarmed African-American robbery suspect. Haslar mistakenly believed the man was armed when he shot him. "An Indianapolis policeman testified Wednesday that Leonard R. Barnett Jr. moved several feet toward him and was pushed back by the officer before the robbery suspect was shot to death at a Near-Downtown intersection," the Indianapolis Star reported after the shooting. "It was him or me," the Star quoted Haslar as saying during a federal trial on the shooting. The shooting took place after a high speed chase with Barnett which ended in a crash. Barnett suffered a broken leg in the car crash, but Haslar insisted Barnett moved aggressively towards him.

The shooting death led to a firestorm from the City's black community. An internal investigation cleared Haslar of wrongdoing as did a federal criminal grand jury that investigated the shooting. A federal civil rights lawsuit brought against the police department and Haslar ended with a jury verdict in the police officer's favor. Chief Paul Ciesielski was questioned by WTHR about Haslar's promotion today in light of the 1990 shooting death that sparked so much controversy. Here's that report:

IMPD Chief Paul Ciesielski said Haslar's exemplary record makes him a natural fit for the promotion. WTHR asked the chief if Haslar's 1990 incident weighed into his decision at all. Ciesielski said no.

Officer Haslar was accused of shooting an unarmed man, Leonard Barnett, in July 1990. Officer Haslar claimed Barnett had a gun but no gun was found at the scene. Haslar was exonerated by several investigations including a Federal Grand Jury which refused to indict him.

Haslar was even awarded a medal of valor for his handling of the incident.

Haslar told Eyewitness News, "You can never get over that. It is something that will always be in the back of my mind. I moved on. I was exonerated by several courts back then, civil trials, FBI investigations and I have gone on to a fairly successful career and that is what I am focusing on now, where I'm going in the future and not the past."

IMPD credits Haslar in part for the substantial drop in crime in the East District compared to one year ago.
Haslar will replace Officer Chad Knecht, who has been promoted to fill a deputy chief position which opened up following the demotions of several high ranking police officers last weekend because of their handling of the DUI fatal accident involving Officer David Bisard.

The 1990 shooting death is not the only incident of controversy in Haslar's past. In 1991, a former police colleague accused Haslar of using excessive force against a woman during an arrest. The Star reported at the time, "A former Indianapolis policewoman who is blowing the whistle on alleged police misconduct has accused 1991 Medal of Valor winner Scott L. Haslar of using excessive force to make an arrest." The Star report continued, "In pretrial testimony for her U.S. District Court lawsuit against the city, Carol Harriman said she saw the policeman ram a woman's head into a wall." In 1993, several black ministers protested the promotion of Haslar to the rank of Sergeant. "Two and half years after the July 9, 1990, shooting, Haslar's name remains a festering reminder of police abuse for some city residents," the Star reported.

Today's announcement came after Mayor Ballard met with a racial mixture of ministers this morning to discuss the tension between police and the community. Haslar's promotion will likely further inflame already tense relations between the city's African-American community and IMPD.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

IMPD Roundup

There's lots of news today on the latest investigations concerning police misconduct at IMPD. Here's a rundown of what's making news today:

  • Chief Paul Ciesielski is recommending the firing of Officer Matt Elam, who is accused of wrecking his police car and hiring a private collision repair business to make repairs to his car rather than reporting it to the department and having it repaired at the city garage. A Marion County grand jury investigation is trying to determine whether criminal charges should be filed against Elam.
  • CVS has been ordered by a Marion County judge to preserve surveillance video footage that may show Officer David Bisard purchasing alcohol sometime prior to the collision that left one motorcyclist dead and two others seriously injured.
  • Mayor Greg Ballard attempted to visit one of the victim's of Bisard's crash, Kurt Weekly, at Methodist Hospital but was turned away.
  • Mayor Ballard has agreed to meet with local black ministers to discuss issues with IMPD.
  • IMPD has launched a separate investigation of the alleged altercation between Indiana State Police Officer Wayne Billings and IMPD DeputyChief William Benjamin at IMPD headquarters. ISP announced yesterday it had launched a separate investigation and placed Officer Billings on administrative duty.
  • An audio recording supposedly captures the verbal argument between ISP Officer Wayne Billings and Deputy Chief William Benjamin.
  • Public Safety Director Frank Straub thinks there is a conspiracy of opportunists to oust him as public pressure mounts for his firing.
  • And finally, controversial radio talk show host Abdul Hakim Shabazz is fanning the flames of a conspiracy theory involving Lacy Johnson, black ministers and Melina Kennedy to turn black voters against Ballard.

A Word Of Caution To Blog Commenters

I understand people have very strong feelings about what is happening within IMPD currently and want to express their views in support of or against Public Safety Director Frank Straub, IMPD Chief Paul Ciesielski and Mayor Greg Ballard. Some people have made openly critical anonymous comments about the aforementioned persons on the Indiana Barrister blog run by controversial radio talk show host Abdul Hakim Shabazz, a member of Straub's advisory board for public safety. Anonymous blog commenters to that blog should be cautioned that Shabazz is more than willing to out them to their superiors as being responsible for posting comments critical of the administration regardless of whether he actually knows the true identity of the person posting the comment. He has a history of doing this. His blog, like this one, enables him to perform some basic tracking of comments posted on his website, and he may draw false conclusions about the identity of a commenter that could have serious consequences to their employment with the city. Make no mistake about it. Shabazz is an operative bought and paid for by the Ballard administration and his re-election campaign. Post on his blog at your own risk. 

A Council Of The Government, By The Government And For The Government

If you analyze how most of our Indianapolis City-County Councilors earn a living, it's no small wonder why the council has such antipathy for ordinary taxpayers and such empathy for people living off the public dole. A look at the most recent ethics disclosure statements filed by our councilors reveals that 16 of the 29 members who make up the council depend on the government for their livelihood as employees of government-funded institutions or government contractors. In some cases, both the councilor and his or her spouse are government employees.

Four councilors' households are entirely dependent on the government for their livelihood. Vernon Brown (D) is an Indianapolis firefighter, while his wife is employed by IPS. Susie Day (R) works for the Indiana Department of Worforce Development, and her husband is employed by the Bureau of Motor Vehicles. Maggie Lewis (D) works for the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute, while her husband works for the Marion County Assessor. Mary Moriarty Adams is also employed by the Marion County Assessor, while her husband is employed by the Marion County Sheriff's Department. Monroe Gray (D) is a retired firefighter, while Marilyn Pfisterer is married to a retired firefighter.

Two other councilors, Barb Malone (R) and Brian Mahern (D), list the state of Indiana as their employers. Brian's brother, Dane Mahern (D), is employed by the City's Department of Administration. Doris Minton-McNeil (D) is employed by IPS as is Libertarian Ed Coleman's spouse. Coleman works for a nursing home that is owned by the Health & Hospital Corporation and operated by ASC. Republican Mike McQuillen's wife works for the Lawrence Township school district. Republican Virginia Caine's husband works for Wishard Hospital.

Several other councilors depend on funding from government contracts for their livelihood. Jackie Nytes (D) is executive director of the Mapleton-Fall Creek Development Corporation, which is funded entirely by government grant money. Her husband's business, Printing Partners, is also a contractor with city-county government agencies. Jeff Cardwell (R) owns Do-It-Best in Indianapolis, which does business with city-county government agencies. Bob Lutz (R) represents in his law practice Zore's, Inc, a business that contracts with the City. Angel Rivera (R) is employed by the Consultants Consortium, another government contractor which lists Marion Co. GOP Chairman Tom John as its lobbyist. And last but not least, Council President Ryan Vaughn (R) works for Barnes & Thornburg, which has been paid millions of dollars in recent years to do legal work for city-county agencies and which also lobbies for a variety of outside interests, including ACS, the controversial private contractor to which the administration of Mayor Greg Ballard just awarded a 50-year parking meter lease.

If we really want to return control of our government back to the people, we have got to implement major reforms to prevent persons with a vested financial interest in the government from serving in executive and legislative roles. The rise of the professional political class in this country has brought us to financial ruin. We need to begin by barring government employees from serving on our city-county council--at least those who work for the very government over which they are charged with overseeing.

Ben Quayle Ekes Out Win In Arizona

His opponents went all out to defeat him, but political new-comer Ben Quayle seems destined to follow in his father's footsteps and become a member of Congress. The AP has declared Quayle the winner in a hotly contested race in Arizona's third congressional district to replace retiring U.S. Rep. John Shadegg. Quayle beat out a crowded field of 10 candidates with 23% of the vote. His nearest competitor, businessman Steve Moak, captured 18% of the vote. His father, former Vice President Dan Quayle, made a last minute appeal for him after he faced a barrage of attacks for once writing for a racy blog known as DirtyScottsdale under the alias Brock Landers. The third congressional district is a Republican-leaning district. A Quayle TV ad in which he labeled Barack Obama as the worst president in history drew national attention.

Perhaps the biggest news in yesterday's primaries was the influence of a person who wasn't even on the ballot in any of the states holding primaries yesterday. That would be former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. She stood behind her running mate, Sen. John McCain, who handily turned back a challenge from conservative former U.S. Rep. J.D. Hayworth, a candidate supported by the tea party movement. In her home state of Alaska, Palin backed a tea party activist, Joe Miller, against incumbent Sen. Lisa Murkowski. With 84% of the votes counted, Miller is upsetting Murkowski. Miller is clinging to a narrow 2,500 vote lead. The race may not be decided for some time as absentee voting results are awaited. Murkowski had been the heavy favorite to win. Palin also waded into a tight race for the Republican nomination for Attorney General in Florida. She endorsed Pamela Bondi, who defeated Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Kennedy Calls For Straub's Firing

Democratic mayoral hopeful Melina Kennedy joined a chorus calling for the firing of Public Safety Director Frank Straub. "We have to see some leadership. This is too important, and I think changes are in order," Kennedy said. Mayor Greg Ballard is standing behind the egghead for now. "Director Frank Straub and his efforts to reform the Public Safety Department and fight crime in our city have my full support," Ballard said. Those of us who supported Ballard's election only to be betrayed by him are certainly not going to stand in the way of him continuing his rapid descent into political oblivion. Straub is giving no signs of giving up his position either. He says he's in the job for the "long haul," which means the number of days before the next election when voters send Ballard and his corrupt administration packing.

Dan Quayle Defends Son Ben Against Smear Campaign

Former Vice President Dan Quayle has largely remained on the sidelines during his younger son Ben's campaign for an open Arizona congressional seat, but the barrage of attacks leveled against him in the wake of a smutty website owner's claim that Ben once published posts for a steamy sex/gossip site called DirtyScottsdale.com has caused him to break his silence as Arizona voters go to the polls in today's primary election. Politico quotes the father:

I took my fair share of outrageous slams in politics but Steve Moak's vicious smear against my son is over the top and unprecedented," Dan Quayle wrote. "I have never in my 35 years of politics seen such an ugly, slanderous assault in the closing days of a campaign against a fellow Republican."

"Ben made a satirical fictional posting on a blog three or four years ago commenting on night life in Scottsdale. That blog no longer exists. Ben had absolutely nothing to do with the vulgar website mentioned in the ad created and aired by Steve Moak," he wrote.
Quayle blames the smear campaign on one of Ben's primary opponents, businessman Steve Moak, who he says is trying to "destroy my son and his reputation." Quayle is referencing the TV ad Moak is currently airing against Quayle where he uses his own words he allegedly posted on the smutty website against him: "My moral compass is so broken I can barely find the parking lot." Politico says Moak is the only opponent of Quayle's who has raised any significant amount of money for his campaign. He has raised $547,000 and contributed $300,000 from his own pocket to help finance his campaign against the well-financed campaign of Ben Quayle.

I was surprised when I perused Ben's FEC reports at the lack of support he received from Indiana Republicans where his father was raised and served as both a congressman and a senator. Dan moved the family back to Indianapolis after leaving office as Vice President in 1993 where Ben briefly attended Park Tudor high school, but the family later relocated to Scottsdale, Arizona. Most of the money Ben raised came from the Steven Chancellor family in Evansville, who own AmeriQual, a major government contractor. There were only a handful of contributions from the Indianapolis area and virtually no contributions from Huntington where Dan and Marilyn lived when he represented a northeastern Indiana congressional district back in the 1980s. The only Pulliam family member listed as contributing to him was Myrta Pulliam, who donated $1,000 last month. Dan is the grandson of conservative stalwart Eugene C. Pulliam, the former owner of the Indianapolis Star-News and other newspapers, including the Arizona Republic. The family sold its newspaper chain to Gannett more than a decade ago.

State Police Investigating Officer's Clash With IMPD Officer

An online Star report today says the Indiana State Police has launched an investigation into an alleged altercation between one of its state troopers and an IMPD officer at the department's headquarters downtown.  "Master Trooper Detective Wayne Billings was the state police officer involved in the interaction with the IMPD officer," according to a news release by state police spokesman Sgt. Anthony Emery. "Billings is a 30-year veteran of the Indiana State Police presently assigned to the Criminal Investigation Division at the Indianapolis State Police Post." According to the Star, Billings has been placed on administrative duty at the Indianapolis State Police post until resolution of the internal investigation.

The Star doesn't name the IMPD officer with whom Billings butted heads. An earlier report by WTHR, however, identified a state trooper as having an altercation at IMPD heaquarters with Deputy Chief William Benjamin. WTHR reported several days ago on the altercation:

A longtime Indiana State Trooper is coming under scrutiny for his actions toward another law enforcement agency.

The trooper got into a heated argument after walking into the office of a metro police official in downtown Indianapolis. Now his bosses at State Police headquarters have questions about what happened.

So far, Indiana State Police have not called for an internal investigation, but they want to know what happened.

The confrontation happened late Tuesday evening at the Metro police headquarters inside the City County Building. The state trooper cleared through security and proceeded to the second floor.

Once there, the trooper went to the office of Deputy Chief William Benjamin. That's where sources tell Channel 13 the trooper started an argument with Benjamin.

Channel 13 has also learned that another high ranking Metro Police official stepped in, possibly drew his weapon and told the trooper to leave.

Media Relations personnel at the Indiana State Police post declined our interview request on the matter. But inside sources did tell us the trooper in question has about 30 years experience and works as a detective for ISP.

It seems obvious the two reported incidents arose out of the same occurrence. It's not clear what the purpose of Billings' visit to IMPD's headquarters was.

Should Straub Be Fired?

A group of black ministers packed last night's City-County Council meeting to demand the firing of Public Safety Director Frank "I'm the police chief" Straub. The group is particularly upset that some high-ranking officers are being scape-goated for the mistakes that occurred in the investigation of Officer David Bisard after his police cruiser struck two motorcyclists, killing one and seriously injuring two others. Darryl Pierce and Ron Hicks, the number two and number three persons at IMPD, were demoted last weekend to the rank of lieutenants within the department in an effort to calm growing public anger over the handling of the case. Both were dispatched to the accident scene while IMPD Chief Paul Ciesielski met with Straub to discuss more pressing issues in Straub's office. Lt. George Crooks, who headed up the department's fatal alcohol crash team (FACT), was removed from his job even though he wasn't even at the accident scene. A Lawrence police department officer, Lt. Stan Stephens, a member of FACT, actually accompanied Bisard to the Methodist Hospital Occupational Clinic where his blood was drawn for testing. Stephens took more than an hour to deliver Bisard's blood sample for testing after it was drawn. According to WRTV, Stephens had lunch and visited with a friend before delivering the blood sample to the police property control room. The blood alcohol test showed Bisard to be intoxicated at a 0.19 level, more than double the legal limit. Prosecutors threw out the test results and dropped alcohol-related charges against Bisard after it was determined the blood had not been drawn by a person qualified under Indiana law to draw blood for such purposes. Bisard still faces several serious criminal charges, including reckless homicide.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Durham Living It Up In L.A.

WISH-TV's David Barras reports on the lavish lifestyle alleged Ponzi scheme operator Tim Durham continues to live in L.A., while thousands of defrauded middle class investors in Ohio wonder if they will ever get back a dime of the money they invested in Durham's Fair Finance Company. Although Durham owns a house worth nearly $4 million in L.A., Barras shows pictures posted on a Facebook site of a baby shower held last month at another L.A. mansion Durham is leasing for $20,000 a month.

Controversial Airport Authority CEO John Clark A Finalist For Atlanta Job

John Clark, the CEO of the Indianapolis Airport Authority hired just last year, is one of three finalists to run the nation's busiest airport, Atlanta's Hartsville-Jackson International Airport. Clark has something in common with each of the contenders for the job. According to an Indianapolis Star report, the the other two finalists are Louis Miller, former executive director and chief executive of Tampa International Airport, and Lester Robinson, former chief executive of Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport. Miller resigned his job earlier this year at Tampa after the airport authority's board brought in an outside attorney to investigate his dealings with the authority after several disagreements with the board over his actions. The Detroit airport authority's board fired Robinson earlier this year without explanation. Clark bolted his job in charge of Jacksonville's airport authority for greener pastures in Indianapolis after his treatment of employees and excessive spending on travel came under fire there. Clark has since come under fire at his Indianapolis CEO job for spending too much money on out-of-state travel. Florida prosecutors earlier this year announced they were investigating Clark's lavish travel expenditures while CEO of Jacksonville's airport. You would have thought the Atlanta search team could have found candidates with less controversy for consideration. Two of the three finalists are African-American, including Clark and Robinson. Miller is Caucasian. The decision will be made shortly by Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, who is African-American.

Another IMPD Officer In Trouble

Another IMPD officer is under investigation after it was learned he wrecked his police cruiser and attempted to cover up the damage to his car by failing to report it and by having it repaired at a private garage instead of the city's maintenance garage. The department isn't naming the officer yet, but WRTV has identified him as Officer Matthew Elam. He has received at least twelve commendations in the past, including the Medal of Valor, but he reportedly was suspended from his job two years ago for 10 days for violating department policy. Elam has now been placed on administrative duty pending the outcome of the investigation according to WRTV. Elam works the downtown district and is a member of IMPD's SWAT team. Elam is a 17-year veteran of the department. The Marion County Prosecutor's Office is investigating Elam's actions.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Blagojevich On Obama's Ties To Tony Rezko

I've always maintained that convicted political fixer Tony Rezko had much closer ties to Barack Obama than he had to former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich. Rezko played a key role in the corruption charges on which federal prosecutors tried the former governor that ended in a mistrial after jurors could only agree on convicting Blagojevich of just a single charge--lying to FBI agents. Rezko, who raised considerable campaign contributions for both Obama and Blagojevich, allegedly funneled cash to Blagojevich to help pay for renovations to his Ravenswood home in Chicago. Similarly, Rezko aided Obama in the purchase of his southside mansion by purchasing an adjacent vacant lot and then selling a portion of it to Obama, a move that allowed Obama to purchase his home for considerably less than the asking price and that significantly increased the home's value. In an interview with ABC News' Brian Ross, Blagojevich explains how his first introduction to Obama was made by Rezko, a Syrian Muslim immigrant who later became a Catholic:

Blagojevich said that Obama, even more than himself, had a longstanding, close association with Antoin "Tony" Rezko, the Chicago real estate developer who had become the subject of his own federal probe – one that ultimately led to Rezko's conviction on fraud and bribery charges. The former governor said his very first meeting with Obama, then about to join the Illinois senate, came by way of Rezko's personal introduction.

The point Blagojevich sought to paint in his interview with Ross that Obama was the ultimate target of U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald's investigation of him.

"When they had me in custody they were very clear about they wanted me to cooperate and talk about people in higher places ,and with all due respect to Mayor Daley, there's no one higher than Governor," he said.

"You're talking about then president-elect Obama?" Ross asked.

"I'm not saying that right now." Asked who else he could mean, Blagojevich shifted uncomfortably in his seat. "Is it your impression they were thinking about Obama?" Ross pressed.

"I have my own personal opinion but from where I'm sitting right now it's probably better for me not to talk about it." He then grinned, "If I'm guilty of anything it's that I talk too much."

Blagojevich's strategy in suggesting Obama is the ultimate target of Fitzgerald's investigation is patently obvious. He wants to place in the minds of potential jurors, particularly black jurors, in the case Fitzgerald plans to retry against him that if he is found guilty, this guy is going after Obama. Unfortunately, I don't think Obama has a thing to worry about. The reason I say that is because federal prosecutors went out of their way, to the point of weakening their own case against Blagojevich, to prevent ties to Obama from being brought out during the trial. Despite the criminal role Rezko played in some of the charges against Blagojevich, the government never called him as a witness. Rezko has never been sentenced despite his conviction more than two years ago at the insistence of federal prosecutors with whom Rezko has been cooperating in its case against Blagojevich. A key charge against Blagojevich, an attempt to sell Obama's Senate seat, involved conversations the former governor had with Obama and others close to him like Rahm Emanuel. Both Emanuel and Obama were key strategy advisers to Blagojevich during his first run for governor. Emanuel succeeded in taking Blagojevich's congressional seat when he ran for governor.

IMPD's Top Brass At Bisard Crash Scene

This report by Fox 59 News' Kimberly King brings home just how much is at stake concerning IMPD's handling of the investigation of David Bisard. A number of the top brass at IMPD were at the crash scene shortly after Bisard's police cruiser struck two motorcyclists, leaving one dead and two seriously injured. Assistant Chief Darryl Pierce and Deputy Chief Ron Hicks, the number two and number three officers in charge of IMPD under Chief Paul Ciesielski are there. Lt. Larry Jahnke, who heads up Internal Investigations is at the scene. Major John Conley is there as is Sgt. Doug Heustis, head of traffic investigations and reconstruction, was at the scene. Lt. Stan Stephens of the fatal alcohol crash team (FACT) accompanied Bisard to the Methodist Occupational Health Clinic where that flawed blood alcohol test was taken. King notes in her report that video footage of Bisard at the crash scene shows him wearing sunglasses. Police would typically want to observe the eyes of a driver involved in a traffic accident of this severity to look for signs of intoxication, an observation they couldn't make while he was wearing sunglasses.

UPDATE: The Mayor, Chief Paul Ciesielski and Public Safety Director Frank Straub conducted a press conference this afternoon at which they announced the demotions of Assistant Chief Darryl Pierce, Deputy Chief Ron Hicks and Major John Conley, all of whom were at the accident scene on the day of this fatal accident. According to the Star, the three are being returned to their merit positions within the ranks. Their failure to communicate to their superiors is cited for the reason behind their demotions. Apparently Chief Ciesielski is getting no blame for failed leadership on this case. Straub's conduct is predictable. He's in front of the cameras to take credit for anything good IMPD does, and he is in front of the cameras to lay blame for anything bad IMPD does.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Victim's Attorney Claims Bisard May Have Purchased Vodka Before Deadly Crash

An attorney representing one of the victims of a crash caused by IMPD Officer David Bisard claims in a letter to the Marion County prosecutor he has evidence Bisard may have purchased a 1.75 liter bottle of vodka in a CVS store within a 48-hour period prior to the accident that left one man dead and two others seriously injured. The reliability of this evidence, however, may be less than reliable based upon a WTHR report this evening. Bruce Kehoe, the attorney for one of the victims, relied on information he received from a CVS customer who may have seen Bisard make the purchase at one of two CVS store locations on the city's northeast side. Kehoe is calling on the prosecutor's office to use its subpoena power to determine whether surveillance records or credit card purchases would offer further proof of the purchase. The letter suggests the officer was dressed in full uniform when the purchase was allegedly made.

Ballard Awards Politically-Connected ACS 50-Year Parking Meter Lease

Your parking rates are going to double, and a private firm with strong political ties to Mayor Greg Ballard's administration will make millions at your expense. Ballard's administration announced it will award a 50-year contract to ACS, the same company which played a keys role in the botched welfare privatization contract FSSA awarded to IBM and which the state recently terminated, to lease the city's parking meters. Under the terms of the lease deal, ACS will keep 80% of all parking meter revenues it collects, a percentage which will eventually drop to 50% in the latter years of the lease agreement. Deputy Mayor Mike Huber says ACS is getting 80% of the revenues because it will spend millions to replace all of the current parking meters and will pay the city $35 million up front. ACS will be allowed to double the parking rates Indianapolis residents pay over the next 2 years. After that, parking rates will be adjusted regularly according to the inflation rate. The city says it will eventually receive about $1.5 million in parking revenues from ACS; however, those payment levels will not be reached until many years into the 50-year lease agreement with ACS. The city says it currently collects about $750,000 annually in parking meter revenues. In addition to the higher metered rates, extended hours for parking at metered spots will require paying up to 9:00 p.m. to park. The lease also will extend to the operation of other city parking garages, including those operated by the CIB. Something doesn't add up in those numbers. I'll leave it to one of this blog's talented analysts to explain it.

I knew as soon as this deal was put out on the street ACS would get the contract just like I predicted it would get the state's welfare privatization contract. The firm formerly employed former FSSA Secretary Mitch Roob, who was running the department when the partnership it had with IBM was awarded the welfare privatization contract. Former Indianapolis Mayor Steve Goldsmith and CIB President Ann Lathrop both formerly worked for ASC as well. And last but not least, ACS's hired gun lobbyist is Barnes & Thornburg, the law firm that has effectively called all of the shots in the Ballard administration since he took office in January, 2008. The firm has been paid more than a million dollars to perform legal work for city-county government since Ballard took office, and it is under contract to provide personal advice to Ballard's office. At the same time, the firm has represented multiple businesses doing business with the city or seeking to do business with the city as a hired gun lobbyist. Joe Loftus, former deputy mayor under Goldsmith, lobbies the city on behalf of ACS.

The state's welfare administration contract became a huge black eye for the Daniels administration, which ended the long-term contract it entered into with IBM; however, it permitted ACS a continued role in the original contract running a call center operation in Marion, Indiana, which leases a building that is owned by a firm in which State Rep. Eric Turner and his son are the principal owners. The state is now engaged in a contentious lawsuit against IBM, which the state blames for the botched privatization of welfare services. Critics complained at the time of Roob's connection to IBM's partner as a former executive with the company. The Daniels administration claimed Roob recused himself from participating in the contract negotiations that involved his former employer but other insiders say it was no secret from the day he assumed his role as FSSA Secretary that he was going to deliver the contract to a consortium of private businesses that included ACS. Roob is very close to Barnes & Thornburg's Joe Loftus. Both worked together in the Goldsmith administration and Roob was instrumental in working on several privatization deals initiated by former Mayor Goldsmith.

The city says it plans to use the $35 million ACS will pay it up front for street and sidewalk improvements in the downtown and Broad Ripple areas only. The administration already plans to spend a half billion dollars it expects to receive from the transfer of the sewer and water utilities to Citizens Energy in the form of upfront payments and additional borrowed funds for street and sidewalk improvements. Citizens Energy has already stated it will seek higher utility rates to pay for the money it must borrow in order to pay the city $263 million as part of that deal. The city also plans to leverage PILOT revenues, which are payments made in lieu of taxes by Citizens Energy on  the utility property it will get under the deal, to issue bonds to fund at least another $190 million in street and sidewalk improvements. No other taxing unit in Marion County will share in those revenues despite the fact that the payments represent payments on otherwise tax-exempt real estate. While the city will reap 100% of those tax revenues, its share represents only 20% of the property taxes businesses and residents pay each year.

Mayor Ballard is holding a press conference at 10:30 a.m. to gloat about this latest pay-to-play deal. What do you want to bet not a single member of the local news media will question the ties that so obviously played into the selection of ACS for this lucrative 50-year lease?

UPDATE: Apparently someone in the media took me up on my challenge at today's press conference and asked Ballard about awarding the long-term lease to ACS given its role in the botched FSSA privatization contract and its financial ties to people being paid to advise him. A WTHR report by Mary Milz shows Ballard looking and acting totally dumbfounded that any one would even question the choice. She then followed up with an interview with Marion Co. Democratic Chairman Ed Treacy, who wisely pounced all over the decision. Like I said, the people advising Mayor Ballard are simply trying to see how much money they can make off his stupidity and complicity in the raping of Indianapolis taxpayers for the benefit of his political contributors. They don't care how badly they damage him politically. As long as they are making millions off his administration, that's all that matters. This truly is the most corrupt administration in the history of Indianapolis. Taxpayers for generations will be paying the price for allowing him to auction off city assets to benefit his political cronies. This is where the U.S. Department of Justice should be focusing its public integrity investigation. Indianapolis public corruption long ago surpassed that of Chicago. The absence of an honest federal or state prosecutor in Indianapolis allows the politicians to operate with impunity.