Wednesday, August 31, 2011

State Agrees To Pay Out $5 Million To State Fair Stage Collapse Victims

Indiana's tort claims act limits the total amount of claims against the state for the tragic collapse of the Indiana State Fair grandstand stage rigging that killed 7 concert-goers and injured more than 40 others to $5 million. Today, Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller announced the state would pay the maximum amount permitted by law. The state also announced that Kenneth Feinberg, the administrator of the fund that paid out claims to victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, had offered his services pro bono to administer the payout of claims to the victims of the state fair stage collapse.

State Fair officials also indicated that a special remembrance fund has raised more than $800,000 to date for the victims, including $554,000 raised from the proceeds donated from the Maroon 5 and Train concert relocated to Conseco Fieldhouse that was originally scheduled to take place at the State Fair's grandstand prior to the stage collapse. Feinberg will aid the fund in the distribution of the donated funds to the victims.

WRTV also reported today that a contract between the State Fair and Sugarland would have required the payment of at least $335,000 to the band even if the concert had been cancelled due to the approaching bad weather that toppled the stage rigging a short time before the band was scheduled to take the stage. In light of the tragedy that ensued, Sugarland notified state fair officials that it would not seek payment for the contracted amount. Fair officials insist money had nothing to do with their decision not to call the concert due to the approaching severe thunderstorm.

Songwriter George Green Dead At 59

Seymour, Indiana native George Green wrote the lyrics for some of John Mellencamp's greatest songs. The Bloomington Herald reports that he has succumbed to lung cancer in Albuquerquie, New Mexico where he has been living the last several years. He was 59. Mike Leonard reports on his death:

A Seymour native, Green was a classmate and childhood friend of Mellencamp’s and lived in Bloomington for many years before moving to New Mexico a decade ago.

“I’ve known George since we were in the same Sunday school class. We had a lot of fun together when we were kids. Later on, we wrote some really good songs together,” Mellencamp said this week. “George was a dreamer, and I was sorry to hear of his passing.”

Green co-wrote numerous songs with Mellencamp, including: “Human Wheels,” “Minutes to Memories,” “Hurts So Good,” “Crumblin’ Down,” “Rain on the Scarecrow” and “Key West Intermezzo.”

Other artists to record Green’s songs included Streisand, Jude Cole, Vanessa Williams, Hall & Oates, Gary Morris, Ricky Skaggs, Sue Medley and the Oak Ridge Boys.

“George Green was a superb lyricist who played an important role in moving John Mellencamp along the road to seriousness as a songwriter,” said Anthony DeCurtis, a longtime music writer and contributing editor to Rolling Stone magazine. “His plain-spoken, poetic touch lifted many of John’s songs, and, I believe, helped teach John what was possible for him to achieve as a writer. John eventually internalized those gifts himself, and George provided a close-at-hand model for how that could happen.”

One of the most compelling Green/Mellencamp collaborations, “Human Wheels,” was born out of a poem Green wrote as a eulogy delivered at the grave site upon the death of his grandfather. “He had no intention of using it as a song,” Mellencamp said in a 2008 interview. “He had me read it and I said, ‘These are the best lyrics you ever wrote.’ He said, ‘They’re not lyrics’ and I said ‘I can make them lyrics.’ I took it and kind of cut it up and wrote the chorus.”

Another song that was one of Green’s favorites was “Higher Ground,” which was recorded by several artists, including Streisand. It was the title track to her 1997 album, which became the eighth No. 1 album in her career. “That’s one he always told people he wrote as a Valentine to me,” said his widow, Kathryn. “That was very sweet of him.”

Green said he often wrote lyrics with a melody or rhythm in mind, but he would never divulge either when he’d turn in his lyrics to his publishers, which included industry giants EMI and Warner/Chappell Music. “The funny thing was, when he heard something finished and the musicians were done with their end of the collaboration, the melody and rhythm often matched what was going on in his head in the first place,” his widow said.
“He was such a perfectionist. He could labor over a word for days or even weeks,” she said. “It had to be exactly right. And he always worked until it was.”

Kathryn Green said her husband was inspired to love words and 20th century American literature by a high school English teacher in Seymour. He was an ardent reader and book collector and owned a complete collection of the first edition works of F. Scott Fitzgerald.

The longtime Bloomington resident suffered a serious heart attack in 1994 and learned then that he had a congenital deformity: his heart and the arteries supporting it were smaller than they should be. But his death was caused by a rapid-forming small cell lung cancer, his widow said. Doctors estimated that it took four weeks from the time the cancer began to his death Sunday afternoon at Lovelace Hospital in Albuquerque.

Green was born Jan. 28, 1952, the son of Harvey Green and Lucille Dunn. Survivors include his wife, Kathryn; four children: Nicholas Green, Carrie Evans, Ian Green and Sarah Bolivar; and 16 grandchildren. Funeral arrangements are being made by French Funerals Cremations of Albuquerque. A memorial service or celebration of life in Bloomington is being planned and will be announced at a later date.

The family also hopes to launch a memorial fund in Green’s honor for cardiac care at Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis.
I had the pleasure of meeting George Green a number of years ago when he testified before a committee of the Indiana House of Representatives that was considering legislation that would have hampered the ability of songwriters to earn royalties on the publication of their songs. He came across as a very humble man who simply believed businesses who played his and other songwriters music in their establishments for the listening pleasure of their patrons should pay for the privilege of playing his music. Unlike performers, songwriters for their livelihood rely more heavily on the royalties that are collected by copyrighted music licensing organizations, which license businesses that play their copyrighted music in their businesses. His message was very simple, if not well-received by the legislators on the committee, who were more interested in casting votes for the Indiana Retail Council, which was pushing the legislation. I'll never forget the legislation's author telling me that he could care less whether songwriters like Green earned royalties from their music. The retailers contributed a lot of money to his campaign and they represented a far greater number of people than songwriters like Green he told me. Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed and the legislature watered down the bill the author was carrying for the retail industry to the point of making it harmless, particularly considering that its transparent purpose was to usurp federal copyright law.

Congressman Carson Says Tea Party Wants Blacks Hanging On A Tree

Hearing is believing. Your representative in Congress, Andre Carson, told a gathering of the Congressional Black Caucus recently that members of the Tea Party view blacks as "second-class citizens" who would like to see blacks "hanging on a tree." Worse yet, Carson's comments seemed to suggest that those views were held by some of his fellow Republican members in Congress. Carson's spokesman, Jason Tomsci, confirmed to the Indianapolis Star that he had made the comments and "they represented Carson's frustration with Republican efforts in Congress to cut back on programs such as Head Start that help African Americans and other minorities." Absolutely unbelievable. This man is not fit to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives. His constituents must demand his resignation. It's hard to believe that a man who holds these views could actually represent a white majority district in Congress. His race-baiting views are so far removed from mainstream thought that he cannot possibly represent his constituents effectively in Congress. What an embarrassment he has become to the people of his district.

UPDATE: I'm still waiting for the Indiana Republican Party and the Marion Co. Republican Party to respond appropriately to Carson's outrageous and insulting comments. It's pretty sad that they must be prompted to respond. I guess I shouldn't be surprised, particularly given the way the Marion Co. Republican Party turned its back on the Tea Party movement that put it back in control of Indianapolis city government four years ago.

UPDATE: U.S. Rep. Allen West (R-FL), the only Republican African-American member of the Congressional Black Caucus, is threatening to resign his membership in the organization in a letter to its chairman unless it condemns the inflammatory comments made by Rep. Carson:

"It is unconscionable when a fellow CBC Member, Congressman Andre Carson, comes to South Florida and claims that some in the Tea Party would love to see black Americans 'hanging on a tree,'" West wrote Wednesday in a letter to CBC chair Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO), which he also released to the media. "It is appalling to hear another CBC colleague, Congresswoman Maxine Waters, say 'The Tea Party can go straight to hell.'
"As Chairman of the CBC, I believe it is incumbent on you to both condemn these types of hate-filled comments, and to disassociate the Congressional Black Caucus from these types of remarks. Otherwise, I will have to seriously reconsider my membership within the organization."

Congressman Carson's desire to generally criticize a large grassroots group as racist is baseless and desperate. When individuals believe they are defeated in a political disagreement, they normally resort to race-baiting, which in my opinion is in itself racist.

As a member of the CBC, I look forward to working with you to help end this practice. All of us, especially Congressman Carson, Congresswoman Waters and others who have engaged in racially-motivated rhetoric, should follow the example of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., not the example of Reverend Jeremiah Wright.

More On Mourdock Hits Back Against Howey And Rusthoven

A few days ago, I told you about how State Treasurer Richard Mourdock had taken strong exception to a charge made against him by Brian Howey of Howey Politics and Barnes & Thornburg's Peter Rusthoven that he was responsible for $1.2 billion in recent losses incurred by Indiana's Public Employees Retirement Fund. As Mourdock explained, he merely serves as one of several trustees in his capacity as State Treasurer on PERF's board, which is largely made up of appointees of Gov. Mitch Daniels. The board actually hires outside financial advisers to manage and invest the funds. Howey's criticism of Mourdock didn't end with the PERF losses. Mourdock has penned a response to Howey's criticism, which to his credit, Howey has published in full at his website.

Mourdock is particularly upset with what he calls Howey's "errant and bias reporting" on his personal finances. In particular, Mourdock took exception to Howey's suggestion that he relied on insider information to unload a large part of his stock portfolio prior to S&P's decision to downgrade the nation's credit rating from its long-standing AAA status.

Howey wrote: “Mourdock unloaded his personal stock portfolio on Aug. 2, the day Congress passed and President Obama signed the debt ceiling deal.” That’s wrong. The order to sell my stock was placed well before Aug. 2 and occurred over several days.

Howey, who has criticized me previously, apparently thought innuendo was in order and attempted to smear me by including in his article: “The Washington Post reported that the Securities and Exchange Commission is looking into whether certain market participants learned of the downgrade before its announcement.”

Fact: Standard and Poor’s announced publicly weeks before the downgrade that if $4 trillion wasn’t cut from the federal budget a downgrade would occur. Call me a prudent investor because I believed them.

Mourdock claims another report by Howey made it appear that he had not done his homework when he called for the firing of Treasury Secretary Timothy Geitner. Howey noted that Lugar voted against Geitner's confirmation when it came before the Senate. Mourdock says he was aware of that fact, but that he still expected Lugar to show leadership by leading the push for his resignation.

Before making that public statement, I researched the issue and determined that Senator Lugar voted against the confirmation of Geithner. During a TV interview on the story, a reporter shot back with “but Mr. Lugar voted against the Geithner confirmation.” I nodded my head affirmatively on camera and said: “He did. Well he gets a chance to lead now ….”

In his written text, Howey reported my response as “He did? Well he gets a chance to lead now…. “

By altering my affirmative and definitive statement to a question, Howey clearly wanted the reader to believe I was neither prepared nor knowledgeable.

Finally, Mourdock takes strong exception to the mischaracterization of his challenge of the Obama administration's bailout of the Chrysler Corporation that allowed secured creditors' rights, including Indiana pension fund investments, to be wiped out in contravention of long-standing bankruptcy law.

Howey’s criticisms of me began two years ago when I fought to stop the confiscation of Indiana pensioners’ funds in the Chrysler bankruptcy. He disagreed with my actions and had the right then and now to disagree with me. But still, two years after the fact, the fundamental reporting is wrong. He wrote that Chrysler stock had been purchased. No, secured debt was purchased not stock. This is a critical distinction in this important story.

Howey continued: “The U.S. Supreme Court refused to take the case.” Wrong again. On Dec. 14, 2009, the nation’s High Court granted our petition in the case and acted immediately to vacate the decision of the lower court that led to the approval of the Chrysler bankruptcy plan. He may not have approved of my actions but the facts cannot be denied and ought to be reported.

Mourdock concluded:

Facts are stubborn things.

I sincerely believe reporters have tough jobs as facts are not always easily discernible. I do not expect perfection. I accept fair criticism. Howey’s recent article demonstrates that facts and context weren’t convenient to the story he wished to sell.

Readers deserve facts and truth. Howey left them badly wanting.

Pennsylvania Prosecutor Not As Generous To Kruse As Indiana Prosecutor

A Dauphin County, Pennsylvania prosecutor has charged former auctioneer Dean Kruse with felony theft for selling a 1919 Sayers and Scoville hearse that belonged to John Bosk for $43,000 at an auction his now-defunct Kruse International conducted in Hershey, Pennsylvania in 2008 but failing to turn over the next proceeds to Bosk. This same scenario has played out over and over again over the past couple of years, but prosecutors in Kruse's DeKalb County have essentially left it up to the defrauded owners to sue Kruse in civil court proceedings as their sole remedy. The Journal-Gazette's Angela Mapes Turner explains:

Although Kruse has faced numerous challenges in civil court, the felony theft charge marks a new approach. It is unclear whether Dauphin County authorities will try to extradite Kruse. Messages left Tuesday with investigators in Dauphin County were not returned.
Kruse was considered one of the fathers of the American automobile auction industry and held one of the world’s top auctions for years in Auburn. His financial woes brought down the empire last year when complaints led to the suspension of his auctioneer’s license and revocation of his auction house.
He has been sued repeatedly in recent years, in multiple states, for his business practices. He sold his large auction-park property south of Auburn last year to Auctions America by RM, a subsidiary of one-time Kruse rival RM Auctions.
Kruse has said previously his financial problems began at the onset of the recession when he began releasing sold vehicles without first securing payment. In August 2009, Kruse endured a spate of bad publicity as unhappy customers sought out media days before what would be Kruse International’s last Auburn auction.
Kruse’s final Hershey auction led to several lawsuits, including one filed by the auction venue, according to DeKalb County court records.

This is a common complaint you hear from people defrauded out of their money in transactions with unscrupulous business operators. If a person steals your car, the prosecutor has no qualms with bringing criminal charges against the person who stole your car. If the person steals that same car from you in a business transaction by refusing to pay you, prosecutors will often tell you that it is a civil matter with which they can't be bothered.

By way of comparison, special prosecutor Dan Sigler charged Secretary of State Charlie White with felony theft for drawing a salary as a Fishers Town Council member for a period of a few months during which he did not reside in his district, although nobody questions that he performed the duties of his office and White actually returned the salary he earned. Kruse sold a number of automobiles at his car auction in Auburn, Indiana and accepted payment from the buyers, but he never turned the net proceeds of the sales over to the sellers. No prosecutor in DeKalb County has charged him with theft. It seems like an unequal application of our criminal laws.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Rupert For Governor?

Rupert Boneham
Rupert Boneham of "Survivor" fame has formed an exploratory committee for a potential run for Indiana governor as a Libertarian candidate. "I have spent my entire adult life serving my community and I see an opportunity to make a difference for Indiana," Rupert writes at a Rupert For Governor website he has established. Surveying the current crop of candidates for the office, Rupert says he does not "see anyone that has an understanding of what daily life is like for many Hoosiers nor anyone who appears to understand the harm that misguided government policies are doing to our communities." Rupert plans to spend the next several weeks talking to Hoosiers about his potential candidacy before making a final decision to launch a campaign for governor.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Attorney General Moves To Dismiss Class Action Lawsuit

Attorney General Greg Zoeller's office today filed a motion asking a Marion County judge to dismiss a class action lawsuit Cohen & Malad filed last week seeking to include everyone who attended the Sugarland concert at the Indiana State Fair grandstand as a plaintiff in the wake of the stage rigging collapse that left seven dead and more than 40 others injured. Indiana's tort claim statute requires claimants to provide a notice of their tort claim to the Attorney General and allow the office 90 days to respond before filing a lawsuit against the state. Unlike the Cohen & Malad lawsuit, attorneys representing six other claimants filed tort claim notices with the state and withheld naming the state as a defendant until the state had the opportunity to respond to the claim in accordance with the tort claims statute. The Star's Carrie Ritchie reports:

Attorneys at Indianapolis law firm Cohen and Malad didn’t give the state 90 days to respond before filing suit on behalf of Angela Fischer and all of the stage collapse victims.
In the suit, Fischer claims that the collapse, which killed seven and injured dozens, caused her to suffer "severe emotional trauma." She was not physically injured.
Some local attorneys have been critical of the suit and have questioned whether it’s a publicity stunt.
However, Attorney General Greg Zoeller said in the news release that his request for the dismissal is based on procedure, not the merits of the suit.
“We can’t have one claimant try to cut in line when other claimants are following the rules,” Zoeller said in the release.
The state has received six tort claim notices so far, and the people pursuing the class action suit were the only ones who didn’t follow the proper procedure, according to the release.

A copy of the Attorney General's motion can be viewed here. It also points out that the plaintiffs' attorneys in the class action lawsuit failed to identify the address of the claimant as required by Indiana's tort claims act.

Left Edits Bachmann Speech To Create Whitey Scandal

The Left will stop at nothing to destroy every Republican candidate who steps forward this election cycle to challenge The One. He has proven to be a colossal failure of a president, who the American people have figured out is totally consumed by the pomp and circumstance of the office incapable of being a serious leader, so they must engage in character assassination against every potential opponent to protect him from the same fate dealt to another big time loser of a president, former President Jimmy Carter. The Left has actually edited a speech given by U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann to a group of Iowa voters to make it appear she said, "Who likes white people?" The question drew a roar of approval from her audience. The only problem was that she actually asked the crowd, "Who likes wet people?" You see, it was pouring down rain while she delivered her speech. The Daily Caller sets the records straight on the audio recording that has gone viral on a number of liberal websites today:

Ever a magnet for controversy, Minnesota Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann is once again the subject of a vicious rumor. A doctored video surfaced this week that appears to show Bachmann asking an audience, “Who likes white people?”
Accusations of racism followed, as blogs and websites including Wonkette used the video as evidence of Bachmann’s extreme views.
Alice Stewart, a spokesperson for Bachmann’s presidential campaign, explained to The Daily Caller: “She said, ‘Who likes wet people?’ It was pouring down rain that night.”
A Yahoo News report also laid the rumor to rest by pointing out that when Bachmann seized the microphone on stage, her audience was soaking wet and as a way to lighten the mood, she jokingly asked, “Who likes wet people?” Immediately after, Bachmann said, “Yeah, that’s right. Because we have the God of the winds and the rain don’t we?” That phrase was not included in the doctored video.
The comments were made at the Midwest Spirit Christian Music Festival on August 5 in West Des Moines, Iowa. Bachmann gave a speech about her Christian faith.

More Predictable News Reporting Of Republican Presidential Candidates

When it comes to coverage of any Republican presidential candidate, there are no rules. Anything goes. A headline this morning at Politico says it all: "Is Rick Perry Dumb?" Jonathan Martin writes:

Doubts about Perry’s intellect have hounded him since he was first elected as a state legislator nearly three decades ago. In Austin, he’s been derided as a right-place, right-time pol who looks the part but isn’t so deep – “Gov. Goodhair.” Now, with the chatter picking back up among his enemies and taking flight in elite Republican circles, the rap threatens to follow him to the national stage.
“He’s like Bush only without the brains,” cracked one former Republican governor who knows Perry, repeating a joke that has made the rounds . . .
Didn't the media also question whether Bush had brains? I recall plenty of similar stories written about Bush when he first ran against Al Gore in 2000 and during his re-election campaign against John Kerry. When the Yale grade transcripts of both Bush and Kerry were made public, we learned that both were mediocre students with Bush earning a slightly higher GPA than Kerry. When John McCain ran against Obama in 2008, the media gladly reported that his grade transcripts from the U.S. Naval Academy showed he graduated near the bottom of his class. Rick Perry's grade transcripts from Texas A&M were publicly revealed before he even announced his campaign for president to make the case he was a poor student. Who knows what Obama's grades looked like in college? They remain under lock and seal for some strange reason. There is obviously something that Obama is hiding in his college records; otherwise, they would have long ago been made public.

UPDATE: Jack Cashill stumbled across a letter Barack Obama wrote while he was serving as editor of the Harvard Law Review in which he defended the school's affirmative action policy. Not surprisingly, Cashill found the letter was chock-full of grammatical errors.

Obama Uncle In Country Illegally Arrested For DUI

Onyango Obama, a 67-year-old Kenyan citizen, was arrested in Framingham, Massachusetts last Wednesday for drunk driving after his car nearly struck a police officer. Onyango, an uncle to President Barack Obama who is in the country illegally, told police in response to a question of whether he would like to make a phone call to arrange bail: "I think I will call the White House."

News reports say Onyango has hired the same immigration attorney Obama's aunt, Zeituni Obama, hired after news reports during the 2008 presidential campaign turned up the fact that she had ignored an order of deportation after her asylum claim had been denied. Like Zeituni, ICE has previously ordered him deported from the country. In 2010, an immigration judge ruled that Zeituni could remain in the U.S. as an asylum seeker after he ruled that her return to Kenya could pose risks to her because of her status as the aunt of Obama and her poor health condition.

Obama's 2008 presidential campaign was forced to return campaign contributions the aunt had illegally made to his campaign as a foreign national. News reports at the time uncovered the fact that Zeituni  had been living in public housing and receiving a monthly disability check from the government despite her illegal status.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Code Enforcement Employee Stole $20,000 In Permit Fees

WISH-TV reports that a 23-year-old employee of the Indianapolis Department of Code Enforcement stole at least $20,000 in permit fees the Department collected during a 9-month period. The employee no longer works for the Department and WISH-TV is not identifying him until he is formally charged. The employee, who worked as a cashier, presumably pocketed fees that were paid in cash since most fees are paid by check. It doesn't look like there was much oversight in the office for the employee to be able to steal for that long before anyone noticed something was amiss. The Department claims it has implemented new procedures to prevent the situation from recurring. Rick Powers serves as the Department's director.

Mourdock Hits Rusthoven And Howey For Blaming Him For Pension Fund Losses

Indiana State Treasurer Richard Mourdock has hit back against claims by Barnes & Thornburg's Peter Rusthoven and Howey Politics' Brian Howey that he was responsible for $1.2 billion in recent losses in the state's Public Employees Retirement Fund. As State Treasurer, Mourdock only manages the State Police Pention Trust. Yet, Howey and Rusthoven both penned columns recently attributing the pension fund losses to Mourdock's management of the funds. Mourdock fired off a letter to the editor of the IBJ demanding a retraction and an apology in response to Rusthoven's recent column in the IBJ:

Peter Rusthoven's column about raising the federal debt limit included a major error worthy of retraction and an apology. He is a long-time financial supporter of Sen. Richard Lugar and wrote with the intention of promoting his candidacy. Rusthoven should form his opinions around facts, not blatant fallacy.
Rusthoven claims that pensions funds I oversee as state treasurer "lost $1.2 billion since June." That allegation is ridiculous, false and reckless. The pension fund he is referring to is not managed by the state treasurer.
Indeed, the sole pension fund I oversee as state treasurer, the Indiana State Police Pension Trust, had total assets of $388 million at the end of the last quarter, and therefore it could not have lost $1.2 billion as Rusthoven claims. This elementary and obvious fact might have been made clear to him with no more effort than a visit to the state treasurer's website.

The IBJ offered no apology for Rusthoven's column. Instead, an editor's note says, "Rusthoven based the comment on a news article erroneously saying Mourdock managed all state pension funds." It added, "Mourdock manages the police pension trust, and by law, he or his designee is a trustee of the public employee retirement system." Appointees of Gov. Daniels actually control Indiana's public retirement system board of trustees. Mourdock does, however, sit on the the board in his capacity as state treasurer. Outside financial investment consultants are retained by the board of trustees to manage the invested funds. The board generally just sets the allocation among investment types and leaves it to the funds' managers to make the specific investment decisions.

Howey, also a big supporter of Sen. Lugar, repeated the claim in his weekly political newsletter that Mourdock managed the PERF funds as well. Mourdock also demanded a retraction and apology from him. Howey declined the invitation and instead pointed in a recent column to reports put out by Mourdock's office boasting of his stewardship of state investments:

In an Oct. 20, 2010 press released from the Treasurer’s office, Mourdock claimed credit for a 6.99 percent return - or $480 million - in interest on “state investments.”

In an interview with the Wabash Conservative Union in 2007, Mourdock was asked to define his duties. He responded, “Simultaneously very narrow, which is to say, in the constitution the only description of this office, is that the State Treasurer shall serve as the state’s chief financial officer. The only constitutional duty I have is to make sure we earn the highest possible grade of interest on the funds of the State of Indiana.”

He added, “I believe that I have the greatest job in all of Indiana government because I have huge responsibilities, which I like, I have tremendous latitude, I get to be creative, and I don’t think any newspaper reporter knows we exist. It can’t get any better than that.”

Just as the current secretary of state says he’s not the state’s chief elections officer, Mourdock appears to be saying he’s the state’s chief financial officer - but only for the good parts.
Howey didn't stop there. Howey questioned why Mourdock had not placed his personal investments in a blind trust after he recently mentioned that he had pulled out a significant amount of his personal investments from the stock market after Congress voted to raise the national debt limit, which was followed quickly thereafter by Standard & Poor's decision to lower the U.S. government's credit rating from its long-standing AAA status.

I can’t remember a single politician ever talking about his own personal stock portfolios. And Mourdock is no ordinary politician. He’s the treasurer of Indiana.

Why aren’t his personal stocks in a blind trust, so those wires don’t get crossed with his state duties? I thought the timing of his personal sell off - three days before Standard & Poor’s downgraded the U.S. credit rating - was curious. And it made me wonder about Mourdock’s temperament for office. His challenge to the Chrysler/Fiat merger after bankruptcy, he claims, was based on principle, but it smacked of political grandstanding with thousands of Indiana jobs (and future tax revenue) at stake. If he had won, it would have cratered the Indiana auto sector. A prudent leader would have looked for another way.

Howey claims that Mourdock is upset at him for criticizing the failure of his campaign to raise nearly as much as Lugar has raised for his re-election bid, an altercation his chief of staff had with a tea party activist and losses his backers suffered in recent state central committee races. It's clear that a raw nerve was struck and there is no love lost between Mourdock and the two Lugar supporters, Rusthoven and Howey.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Jim Wallace Filming New Campaign Ad

I ran into businessman Jim Wallace on Mass Avenue today while returning from lunch and had a friendly chat with him. Wallace was in the midst of filming a new TV spot for his 2012 GOP gubernatorial campaign. Like Gov. Mitch Daniels, Wallace loves riding his motorcycle. There are lots of motorcycle racing fans in town this weekend for the running of this weekend's MotoGP race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Angie's Wish

Several observant readers have brought up interesting questions about a proposed IPO for Indianapolis-based Angie's List, an online website that aggregates customers reviews of service companies and sells memberships to consumers to access that information. The pertinent facts here are as follows:

Angie’s List said in its filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission that its revenue was $59 million in 2010 and $38.6 million for the first six months of 2011. Its net losses for the same periods were $27.2 million and $25.8 million, respectively. It also said it had accumulated debt of $143 million as of June 30 . . .
In listing its risk factors, the company noted that it has lost money since its inception and expects this will continue for the foreseeable future. It also noted that it has significantly increased spending on acquiring new members.
Angie's List, co-founded by Angie Hicks and Bill Oesterle, has been in existence for 16 years and it's lost money every year. It has $143 million in accumulated debt. It lost $50 million in the last two years alone. Excuse me for asking, but who in their right mind would invest money in a company with that kind of a losing track record? Who benefits from a public offering other than the creditors to whom a mountain of debt is owed by a company that has never turned a profit?

Last week, Gov. Mitch Daniels and Mayor Greg Ballard announced more than $14 million in state and local economic development incentives being awarded to the company in exchange for a promise to add up to 500 new jobs by 2015. One of the company's co-founders, Bill Oesterle, served as Gov. Daniels' campaign manager. You have to wonder if the timing of that announcement wasn't planned to coincide with the company's planned announcement this week of its IPO.

I'm not an investment guru, but what am I missing here? An attorney professing to be an expert in such matters at Barnes & Thornburg tells the IBJ that there's nothing unusual about investments in companies with a long record of losing money being offered to the public.

"Still, it’s not unusual for a company to file for an IPO with a money-losing track record, said David Millard, chairman of Barnes & Thornburg LLP’s corporate department and an expert on IPOs." 
 “This is a company that’s been around for a long time and has a great history,” he said. “But it’s got that challenge of the market: How skittish are investors?”
Not sure if there is a relationship between the two, but the company's CFO has the same last name as David Millard. His name is Robert Millard.

I've always admired Angie's List and its contributions as a growing Indianapolis business, but I had no idea the company has been bleeding money every single year of its existence. I had assumed it was a huge success story and that's why it was going public. I'm absolutely astonished that a company could continue to expand and survive this many years without ever turning a profit. The IBJ earlier reported that the company has received large infusions of cash totalling more than $50 million from reputable investors in recent years, including T. Rowe Price, Battery Ventures, Saints Capital and Wasatch Funds. The company hired Bank of America to handle its IPO, which got its own bailout of sorts from billionaire Warren Buffett yesterday. At least one business writer, Investor Place's Tom Taulli, says Angie's List won't come highly recommended because of its mounting losses. Hell, what do I know? I'm just a gumshoe lawyer trying to eke out a living.          

Illinois Toll Road Increases Will Hit Pocketbooks Of Northwest Indiana Workers

It's something to think about as Indianapolis regional civic leaders clammer for the creation of a regional transportation authority for the Indianapolis metropolitan area to create tolled roads and develop rapid transit. An unelected Illinois Tollway Board voted yesterday to increase tolls a whopping 87% to finance $12 billion in new highway projects. The Northwest Indiana Times talks to one Indiana worker who says the toll increase will cost her an additional $364 a year on top of the skyrocketing fuel costs and tolls she is already paying. What's interesting is that the region has rapid rail transit that helps commuters travel throughout the Chicago metropolitan area without ever getting behind the wheel of a car. All of the $12 billion in planned new projects, however, is for toll road projects, including adding additional lanes, rebuilding exists roads and adding new routes to the 286-mile system of tolled roads in the Chicago area.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

JW Marriott Claims Video Surveillance For Hinkle Case Unavailable

The JW Marriott may be Indianapolis' newest and most luxurious hotel, but it claims its video surveillance system hasn't been working--at least as far back as the night when State Rep. Phil Hinkle hooked up with an 18-year-old gay hustler to whom he paid $80 to spend the night with him.

Surveillance video that could shed light on a scandal involving Republican State Representative Phil Hinkle does not exist.
The JW Marriott's head of security said its surveillance system hasn't been working for at least 31 days, though.
That should be reassuring to guests who pay more than $200 a night to stay at the hotel that fashions itself as a "Fresh Take On Luxury." Now does anyone actually believe it is possible that this brand spanking new hotel's surveillance system has been out of operation for the past month? Not that it would matter if there was surveillance video available. The hotel's security tells Fox 59 News that nobody from IMPD has requested surveillance video or any other evidence regarding the Hinkle affair. That's because orders came from the top not to investigate the potential crimes both 18-year-old Kameryn Gibson and the 64-year-old Hinkle accused the other of committing, notwithstanding IMPD's insistence that there is no crime to investigate. If there is no crime to investigate, then IMPD should immediately drop all of the charges against persons it boasted of arresting for prostitution no more than a week before the Star broke the Hinkle scandal.

Next question: When will someone in the media ask Hinkle who paid for his hotel room that night? If he says he paid for it himself, demand he produce a receipt for the room charge. Let's see if Hinkle, other state lawmakers or city councilors report receiving as a gift free accommodations at the JW Marriott.

UPDATE: A Star editorial today calls on Hinkle to resign his office. It reads, in part:

Hinkle argues that he broke no law. That is debatable. And at the least, he certainly brushed the edge of illegality, risking his reputation, credibility and effectiveness as a lawmaker in the process. Whatever forces made him do it, he gambled what he could not afford to lose, and he lost. He should call an end to the damage he has inflicted on himself, his family and his constituents, and step aside.

Woman Acquitted On Charges She Recorded Chicago Cops

I mentioned this case earlier in a discussion of an Illinois eavesdropping law that makes it illegal to record a conversation without the consent of both parties. An Indiana woman was charged with a felony for violating the statute when she recorded a conversation she was having with Chicago police officers who were attempting to convince her not to file a sexual harassment complaint against an officer. Tiawanda Moore claimed that a police officer responding to a domestic disturbance call at her boyfriend's home began fondling her and attempted to give his phone number to her. When internal affairs investigators questioning her about her complaint against the officer discovered she was recording their conversation on her Blackberry, they charged her with felony eavesdropping. Unbelievably, the Cook Co. State's Attorney prosecuted the case, but a jury acquitted her of the charges. The Sun-Times reports on her acquittal:

A former stripper, who secretly recorded two Chicago Police Internal Affairs investigators while filing a sexual harassment complaint against another officer was acquitted on eavesdropping charges Wednesday.
“I’m feeling a lot better now,” a smiling Tiawanda Moore said after a Cook County jury returned the verdict in a little over an hour.
The 20-year-old Indiana woman admitted she taped the officers on her Blackberry in August of last year. But she said she only did it because the investigators were coaxing her to not go forward with her complaint.
“I wanted him to be fired,” Moore testified of the cop she alleges fondled her and gave her his phone number during a domestic battery call at the South Side residence she sometimes shares with her boyfriend.
Moore said she didn’t know about the Illinois Eavesdropping Act, which prohibits the recording of private or public conversations without the consent of all parties. Even so, Moore’s attorney, Robert Johnson, said his client was protected under an exemption to the statute that allows such recordings if someone believes a crime is being committed or is about to be committed.
The Internal Affairs officers were “stalling, intimidating and bullying her,” Johnson said. The recording, which was played in court during the one-day trial, proved it, Johnson said.
Assistant State’s Attorney Mary Jo Murtaugh told jurors, “The content of the tape is not the issue. The issue is that the words were taped.”
But Ed Yohnka, spokesman for the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, said the verdict “reflects a repudiation of the eavesdropping law in Illinois. Clearly, the public believes that individuals should be able to record police engaged in their public duties, in a public space in an audible voice.”

The findings of the internal affairs investigation Moore filed against the police office are under seal according to the Sun-Times. The ACLU is challenging the constitutionality of Illinois' eavesdropping law in a federal court on First Amendment grounds.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Levin Promotes Jobs, Fair Wages And Pizza

Vote For Bill Levin (HQ) from Englehart Group on Vimeo.

At-large Libertarian candidate for the City-County Council, Bill Levin, released his first campaign video today produced by the Englehart Group. There's an unlikely appearance by Mayor Greg Ballard's Latino adviser in the video. Check it out.

UPDATE: Melyssa Donaghy has asked me to let people know that she is hosting a fundraiser for Levin on September 24, 2011 at 6:00. If you are interested, RSVP by calling (317) 200-7255. For some reason, the campaign video originally posted yesterday has been taken private.

UPDATE II: I received confirmation that the video has been taken off line because Carlos May received an angry phone call from none other than Mayor Greg Ballard demanding to know why he appears in Levin's first campaign video. A disclaimer is being added to the video before it will be made publicly available to assuage Ballard. "I like and respect Carlos way too much not to add it," Levin said.

Cash Rich CIB To Purchase 500 Parking Spaces For Rolls-Royce

The CIB may have been on the brink of bankruptcy just two years ago, but now it's sitting on a pile of cash that's just burning a hole in its pockets waiting to be spent. First, it gave $33.5 million to the billionaire Simons for their Indiana Pacers. Then it announced it is giving more than $8 million to the City to cover the costs of the Super Bowl. Now we learn it's planning to find 500 new parking spaces for the giant, foreign-owned defense contractor, Rolls-Royce, to accommodate the company's workers in its new digs at the Faris Building earlier abandoned by Eli Lilly. The IBJ's Francesca Jarosz explains:

The Capital Improvement Board will be charged with helping Rolls-Royce Corp. find up to 500 additional parking spaces to accommodate the company’s move to a downtown office campus formerly occupied by Eli Lilly and Co.

At its meeting Monday, the board gave its leaders clearance to move forward in drafting a parking agreement with Rolls-Royce and the city.

It would include giving the CIB, which operates the city’s stadiums and the Indiana Convention Center, authority to operate the Faris Campus garage and two nearby parking lots – 2,000 spaces in total – during evenings and weekends when events are taking place. The CIB would keep the net parking revenue, and that money would be escrowed into a fund that would be used to cover the cost of finding more spaces for Rolls-Royce, said Barney Levengood, the CIB’s executive director . . .

The CIB will get to keep its cash from parking operations that is not used toward securing spots for Rolls-Royce. Levengood said he could not estimate how much revenue the garage could bring in for the CIB.

If it’s not enough to cover the cost of finding parking, Levengood said, the CIB has the right to negotiate a new financial structure for the deal, but it’s not yet clear whether that would involve the city or Rolls-Royce chipping in to cover the cost of financing the garage.

“If the revenues are not sufficient to pay the outstanding liability, we have the ability to go back to the city,” Levengood said.

Levengood also declined to identify potential parking areas for fear that owners could drive a harder bargain in negotiating with the CIB for the sale of the spots. Kintner said Lucas Oil Stadium, which the CIB operates, could be one option.
The CIB has operating reserves of nearly $11 million and total reserves of about $50 million currently according to CIB's CFO Dan Huge. The City earlier this year announced it was awarding Rolls-Royce a 10-year tax abatement deal on the Faris Building, along with other state and local incentives, to relocate 2,500 employees from other locations in the city to the downtown location. Hey, the city gave free parking to Simon Property Group's employees after giving it $25 million to build its new headquarters downtown. Why shouldn't taxpayers provide free parking for Rolls-Royce's employees as well? In the words of Ann Lathrop, it's our obligation as a "good corporate citizen."

Hinkle Admits He Paid $80 To Hustler For Hotel Rendezvous But Insists He's Not Gay

State Rep. Phil Hinkle (R-Indianapolis) is now speaking out about his encounter with an 18-year-old gay hustler at the downtown JW Marriott after House Speaker Brian Bosma called on him to resign yesterday. He admits exchanging e-mails with Kameryn Gibson in response to an ad Gibson had posted on Craigslist seeking a "sugga daddy." He admits picking up Gibson, paying him $80 in the car ride on the way to the hotel and entering Room 2610 with him at the hotel. Hinkle insists, though, that he never agreed to have sex with Gibson, never exposed himself to him, never attempted to prevent him from leaving the room or offered him money to stay quiet. Instead, he claims Gibson essentially rolled him by leaving the hotel room with his iPad, Blackberry and $100 cash when he went to the bathroom and later tried to shake him down after he learned he was a state legislator. The Star's Alex Campbell has Hinkle's belated response to the story he first broke twelve days ago:

State Rep. Phil Hinkle admitted Tuesday that he paid a young man $80 to have a good time. But Hinkle insisted he isn't gay and doesn't know why he did it . . .
Hinkle's version of what happened that night in Room 2610 at the JW Marriott hotel differs greatly from the version provided by the young man and his sister . . .
Hinkle's version: He never exposed himself and never offered anything to the Gibsons to keep quiet. Instead, he said, Kameryn Gibson stole those items when Hinkle was in the bathroom.
"These people," Hinkle said, "are lying through their teeth." . . .
Hinkle acknowledged he picked up Kameryn Gibson and drove him to the hotel, giving him $80 in the car. But when they arrived, Hinkle said, they simply made small talk about baseball and the view from the hotel -- nothing further.
"I went to the edge," Hinkle said, "but I didn't fall over the edge."
Hinkle then went to the bathroom, he said. When he came back out, he said Kameryn Gibson was gone -- and so were his money clip, his business card holder, his BlackBerry and his iPad.
Hinkle said he thinks Gibson found out he was a state lawmaker when he looked through the money clip.
After Gibson had left, Hinkle said he spoke with Megan Gibson via his hotel phone. He said she mentioned something about talking to Fox 59 and being offered $6,000.
At that point, Hinkle said, he thought maybe they were extorting him. Hinkle said that his daughter later met with Megan Gibson and retrieved the BlackBerry, as well as his business card holder and state identification.
Hinkle said he never met Megan Gibson in person, and hopes that he and his lawyer will find hotel security tapes that prove she never came up to the room.
Hinkle also forcefully denied Megan Gibson's assertion that Hinkle's wife called and offered them $10,000 to keep quiet.
"Anybody who knows my wife," Hinkle told The Star's political columnist, Matthew Tully, "knows she would not pay $10 to keep a mistake I made quiet, let alone $10,000."

Hinkle said he does not plan to file a police report about the items he alleges the Gibsons stole.

"I got everything back but the iPad," Hinkle said, "and quite frankly, if that makes them feel good, so be it."

For their part, Gibson and his sister, who came and picked him up at the hotel, are standing by their story. Megan Gibson told Campbell that Hinkle is a "liar" and "crazy." She has a point. How many straight men pay young boys to go to expensive hotel rooms with them just to talk? It sort of reminds me of Bill Clinton's famous answer to Phil Donahue's question about whether he ever smoked pot: "I smoked, but I didn't inhale."

If IMPD and the Marion Co. Prosecutor are serious about enforcing the laws against prostitution they so willingly enforce against other citizens, then it seems to me they have an obligation to launch an investigation of the incident. You have Gibson admitting that he was at a minimum working as an escort without a license in violation of a city ordinance. If you go back and check city council records, you will likely find that Hinkle voted to enact the very ordinance in question while he was a member of the City-County Council in order to combat the very activities Gibson and Hinkle admit occurred. Gibson claims Hinkle first tried to stop him from leaving the hotel room and then later offering him money to remain silent. Those actions could be argued to be crimes. Hinkle has accused Gibson, in turn, of theft and extortion. Neither of them look good in this ordeal and both arguably broke the law. It is no surprise then that neither of them are going to file a police complaint against the other.

I also find it curious that the Star continues to leave out of the story the information that I first reported on about Hinkle being at the JW Marriott on the night in question to attend a wedding reception for the daughter of a powerful lobbyist, Pat Kiely, head of the Indiana Manufacturers Association. The guest list at the reception was a Who's Who of Indiana Republicans, including Gov. Mitch Daniels. Persons attending the reception observed Hinkle, who came without his wife, wandering in and out of the reception and spending a great deal of time on his cell phone.

Given the information we now know, Bosma and his Republican colleagues have no choice other than to call on Hinkle to resign. Who could argue that Hinkle's actions were not worse than Congressman Anthony Weiner's inappropriate sextings? Weiner, who is also married, earlier this summer caused a stir when it was revealed that he had engaged in x-rated conversations via Twitter with women and exchanged lewd images of himself with them. Weiner resigned his seat under pressure from House Democratic leaders.

UPDATE: Matt Tully met up with Hinkle at a Starbucks in Kokomo to discuss his predicament. His column today discusses his meeting, including a question he put to Hinkle if he had hooked up with guys before under similar circumstances. "When I asked whether he had previously arranged such encounters, he quickly answered, 'We're not going there.'" That doesn't sound like a denial. The Bilerico Project's Bil Browning earlier claimed that he had been contacted by three men who had claimed to have hooked up with Hinkle at hotels in the past for sex. Browning had requested information from people on hypocritical legislators during this year's debate over the constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriages, a proposal supported by Hinkle. Tully said Hinkle responded to criticism that he is a hypocrite by insisting he had never been a "judgmental Bible thumper." Hinkle blames his action on mental health issues for which he is seeking professional treatment, including years' old issues he had with his father.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Class Action Suit Harms The Real Victims

With much fanfare today, the law firm of Cohen & Malad announced it had filed a class action lawsuit in the Marion County Superior Court on behalf of "all victims of the Indiana State Fair stage collapse." According to a press release put out by the law firm, the lawsuit "alleges that the State of Indiana and the companies involved with installing and maintaining the structure were negligent in their handling of the event and in failing to ensure that the structure itself was safe." It continues, "The class action lawsuit also alleges that there were defects in the design and manufacture of the Supertruss load bearing roof structure." In order to maximize the recovery for the "victims," the law firm has graciously agreed to donate its time "by waiving our fees for claims against the State." The only named plaintiff in the firm's initial lawsuit is Angela Fischer, a concertgoer who was neither physically injured nor lost a family member in the state fair tragedy. Fischer claims she suffered "severe emotional trauma" from witnessing the event and its aftermath.

As an attorney, I believe that all of the "victims" of this tragedy deserve to be compensated for their losses. Having said that, I find what Cohen & Malad is doing with this class action lawsuit both a disservice to the real victims of the tragedy and the legal profession at large. To date, seven people have died as a result of the tragedy and more than 40 others have suffered "physical injuries." The total amount available for all of the injured class of persons from the event under Indiana's tort claim statute is $5 million. Further, the most any individual can recover from the state is capped by statute at $700,000. Cohen & Malad says it is waiving its fees against the state so "more of these limited funds can go towards covering the real economic losses of those affected by this tragedy." The applicable word here is "affected" as opposed to injured. Yeah, I was deeply affected watching the twin towers live on TV come crashing down after two jet airliners were crashed into them by terrorists, but I didn't suffer the real injuries of those who lost loved ones or suffered life-threatening injuries from the terrorist attack. By seeking recovery for the thousands of people who merely witnessed the tragic event, this lawsuit actually harms the real victims--the dead, the injured and their surviving loved ones.

It isn't clear to me how Cohen & Malad can prematurely file a lawsuit against the state before submitting its claim through the tort claim notice process first as the other attorneys representing real victims have done. Attorney Kenneth Allen filed a lawsuit in LaPorte County simply to get a restraining order against the state to prevent it from moving or altering the stage rigging wreckage in order to preserve evidence for potential claimants. A LaPorty County judge granted his motion today.

Reading the press release closely, you realize the firm is not waiving its fees for claims against other parties, such as the stage rigging operator, Mid-America Sound, or the concert promoter, Live Nation. Those entities are no doubt insured and have by far the deepest pockets to recover given the constraints of the tort claim caps on claims against the state. Prior to today's announcement, the lawsuits announced were made by attorneys representing the real victims, including Ladendorf & Ladendorf, Hastings & Hastings, Kenneth Allen and Carl Brizzi. It strikes me that Cohen & Malad is seeking to one-up the attorneys representing persons who suffered real harm by forcing the consolidation of the other cases into their class action lawsuit. This is evidenced by the firm's lawyers asking these other attorneys to waive their fees as well. "Cohen & Malad intends to reach out to and encourage other plaintiff’s attorneys representing those injured in this tragedy to also waive their fee for claims against the State," the press release states. This it seems to me is the kind of conduct that gives lawyers such a bad name. These other lawyers were contacted by the real victims to represent them in their claims, unlike Cohen & Malad. The firm's real motives here are less than transparent: sweep the case out from under these other attorneys in one fell swoop so their firm can alone drive this litigation.

Cohen & Malad's press release also used the filing of its lawsuit as an excuse to criticize Gov. Mitch Daniels for not calling for an increase in the tort claim liability caps in state law, which were last updated in 2003 prior to his election as governor. "Mr. Levin indicated that it is outrageous for Governor Daniels to come out and say that this was just a “fluke event,” and then to more recently say that those injured in this event should receive full compensation without taking a single step to raise the $5 million dollar cap on all claims," the press release states. Perhaps I'm too jaded in my views as a practicing attorney, but I'm not moved at all by Cohen & Malad's claimed generosity. It looks to me like this class action suit will seek recovery for people who really didn't suffer injuries, thereby diluting the claims of those who suffered real harm. Moreover, class action lawyers wind up taking a big piece of the pie for their costs and fees, leaving the multiple claimants with insignicant recoveries. Your thoughts?

UPDATE: It's been awhile since I looked at the standard in Indiana for proving negligent infliction of emotional harm in bystander cases so I looked it up. It looks like a Supreme Court case decided in 2000, Groves v. Taylor (729 N.E.2d 569), is the controlling precedent. The Court set out three considerations for separating legitimate claims from spurious claims:

First, "[a] fatal injury or a physical injury that a reasonable person would view as serious can be expected to cause severe distress to a bystander. Less serious physical harm to a victim would not ordinarily result in severe emotional distress to a reasonable bystander of average sensitivity." Id.
Second, emotional distress may accompany the death or severe injury of persons such as friends, acquaintances, or passersby. But the emotional trauma that occurs when one witnesses the death or severe injury of a loved one with a relationship to the plaintiff analogous to "a spouse, parent, child, grandparent, grandchild, or sibling is unique in human experience and such harm to a plaintiff's emotional tranquility is so serious and compelling as to warrant compensation." Id. (footnote omitted). Limiting recovery to those plaintiffs who have the specified relationships with the victim acknowledges the special quality of such relationships yet places a reasonable limit on the liability of the tortfeasor.
Third, "[w]itnessing either an incident causing death or serious injury or the gruesome aftermath of such an event minutes after it occurs is an extraordinary experience, distinct from the experience of learning of a" loved one's death or severe injury by indirect means. [citations omitted]
I'm not sure how a plaintiff like Fisher qualifies under this rendition of the direct impact test. The facts laid out in the press release do not suggest she witnessed the death or severe injury of an immediate relative as a bystander, even if she did experience the death or severe injury of other persons directly.

House Speaker Brian Bosma Calls On Phil Hinkle To Resign

WRTV's Norm Cox is reporting that House Speaker Brian Bosma has met with State Rep. Phil Hinkle (R-Indianapolis) and other members of his caucus to discuss the front-page expose' in the Indianapolis Star laying out in lurid detail a rendezvous between Hinkle and an 18-year-old gay hustler at a downtown JW Marriott hotel room. Bosma tells Cox his leadership wants Hinkle to resign.

"While the entire House Republican leadership team has compassion for Phil and his family, it is clear that Rep. Hinkle would best serve his constituents and our state by stepping down immediately and returning to private life," Bosma said in a statement.
Bosma claims that Hinkle's presence in the House is a "detriment to the continuing work of the Legislature."
Hinkle apparently isn't taking his leadership's advice. "Hinkle admitted that he made some mistakes but said parts of the newspaper's story are untrue," Cox reported. Hinkle told Cox he has done nothing illegal and won't resign. Hinkle also told the Star that he and his family had earlier decided he would serve through the end of this term and not seek re-election next year. That comports with my earlier reporting that Hinkle was intent on serving out the remainder of his term before retiring when he turns 65 in order to maximize his retirement benefits for twelve years of service in the General Assembly. Bosma told the Star that he would begin the process of removing Hinkle from his committee assignments if he chooses not to resign. Still no reporting from the news media on the obvious question: Why isn't IMPD investigating the case?

UPDATE: I couldn't pass up the opportunity to mention a post on the Indiana Senate Democrat's blog entitled, "Lawmakers consider changes to combat sex trafficking." Apparently, the Indiana Attorney General's office wants the legislature to move quickly to make changes to Indiana law ahead of next year's Super Bowl in February based on testimony the office gave to the Criminal Code Evaluation Commission:

The Office of Attorney General Deputies David Miller and Abby Kuzma presented to the committee information concerning human trafficking for sex. The Attorney General’s Office testified that there are some deficiencies in Indiana law which will make prosecution for aspects of the offense of human trafficking difficult. Because Indiana will be hosting the next Super Bowl, Deputy Kuzma urged the committee to act quickly to move legislation to correct the deficiencies because, as she testified, it has been shown that large events, attended mostly by men, with a party atmosphere, result in increased human trafficking for sex . . .

Deputy Kuzma suggested the following changes be made to Indiana law:

•Criminalize a person who knowingly attempts to traffick a person who is less than 18.

•Insert language that lack of knowledge that the victim was under 18 is not a defense.

•Insert language that consent from a victim who is under 18 is not a defense.

•Amend language in the current law so that any adult who attempts to traffick a person under 18 years of age may be prosecuted. Current statute prohibits “. . .parent(s), guardian(s), or custodian(s). . .” from trafficking a person less than 18.
UPDATE II: The heat on Hinkle is turned up. WISH-TV's Jim Shella reports that House Speaker Bosma has stripped Hinkle from a committee chairmanship in the House and a summer study committee chairman position. Marion Co. GOP Chairman Kyle Walker has also renewed his call for Hinkle to resign.

UPDATE III: We have an answer on the reason IMPD has launched no investigation: The Department says nobody has filed a complaint. And the Marion Co. Prosecutor's Office says it has done nothing  because IMPD has not forwarded a criminal complaint to its office. Yeah, there's nothing like the Sgt. Schultz defense: "I know nothing." Here's a clue to IMPD. When your department has credible evidence that a crime has been committed, you have authority to investigate without anyone filing a complaint. It's a practice your department carries out daily in exercising its police powers. As to Prosecutor Curry, you have someone on your staff employed as a grand jury investigator who can convene a grand jury, subpoena witnesses and execute search warrants if you want to learn whether a prosecutable crime has been committed. It's like I've said before and will say again many more times. There are two forms of justice in this county: one for the common folks and one for the privileged elite. Criminal laws are used like a hammer to clobber the little people every day, while the privileged elite can break as many criminal laws as their hearts desire because they have immunity from prosecution.

Former Supreme Court Justice Calls For Changes In Wake Of Fundraising Flap

Former Indiana Supreme Court Justice Ted Boehm has written an article for the IBJ saying that judges in Marion County should be appointed through a merit selection system rather than elected after a controversial fundraising solicitation was circulated among lawyers for Judge Becky Pierson-Treacy. Boehm called the elected system whereby judges are chosen in a closed door meeting by a handful of attorneys and power brokers of each political power "downright screwy." Boehm spoke to WRTV's Derrick Thomas about his views:

 "Just think how you'd feel if you are going into a court and the judge has the power to decide who gets custody of your children, and the lawyer from the other side has made a $1,000 contribution to the judge and your lawyer hasn't," Boehm told 6News' Derrik Thomas reported.
Thomas also spoke to former Marion Co. Superior Court Judge Gary Miller about the typical $12,000 slating fee candidates for judge pay to get the privilege of serving as a Marion County judge.

"It's very uncomfortable for judges. We go from being this very independent judicial officer, to being a very partisan, political creature," he said.
Naturally, Marion Co. GOP Chairman Kyle Walker thinks the current system is perfect.

 "What we have in Marion County is the best merit system. It's an endorsement process that has worked," he said. "Anytime you can put the opinions of hundreds of people over those 10 people (who slate candidates) that are handpicked by the governor and other folks, you're probably going to be better off."

Walker's suggestion that the opinions of hundreds of people go into the selection of the judges could not be further from the truth. Before precinct committee persons meet to choose judge candidate at a caucus, a small group of attorneys and power brokers have already decided who will be chosen. Most of the PCs who vote at the caucus are appointed by the county chairmen. Not surprisingly, they are typically government employees and government contractors beholden to the wishes of the party leaders. 

Monday, August 22, 2011

Georgia Street Project Includes Heated Street And Sidewalks

Artist's rendering of finished Georgia Street project for Super Bowl
Fellow blogger Pat Andrews continues her excellent coverage of the outrageous public expenditures that are being made at the behest of the local Super Bowl Committee to make the billionaire owners of the NFL satisfied with the accommodations provided during next February's Super Bowl event since the $750 million stadium with a retractable roof financed by higher taxes simply doesn't cut it for these demanding team owners. We learned soon after the City won the bid that it would have to find money to build a new enclosed practice field for one of the teams because other enclosed facilities already available in the Indianapolis area didn't meet NFL standards. Then we learned that more than $12 million would be spent renovating Georgia Street to transform it from a functioning city street to a pedestrian-friendly village with outdoor cafe dining and a boardwalk. As WTHR described it:
The Super Bowl Village will feature café dining on the sidewalks and a boardwalk in the center of the street. It will be designed as a free, festive atmosphere where fans without a game ticket can mingle outside in the afternoon and evening, get a drink, huddle in warm zones with heaters and enjoy concerts.
"We are not shying away from the weather. We're going to have fun with it. There are different things we can do outside to keep the fans warm and happy," said Baughman.
"The village is really going to be the front door to the NFL experience in the convention center and Conseco Fieldhouse, which will also host events," said William Browne, the Founding Principal and President of Ratio Architects. "This becomes the street fair, if you will, the activity spot to radiate out from downtown for the many events that will take place during the Super Bowl."
It didn't make sense at the time to describe those sort of amenities for Georgia Street given Indianapolis' cold winter weather. Despite Baughman's claim that the project would not involve "shying away from weather," it turns out that's not quite the case. Andrews learned that one of the amenities being offered with the three new blocks of Georgia Street will be heated streets and sidewalks. After all, we can't allow the Super Bowl visitors' feet to get cold walking on the freezing surface temperatures of our streets and sidewalks now, can we? Andrews picked up this bit of information from the designs the Super Bowl committee had prepared for the redesign of Georgia Street to meet the NFL's requirements, after which it signed a contract with the Department of Public Works to get reimbursed for more than $1.6 million it incurred for the design plans. Andrews blogs:

One of the more interesting, some might say frivolous, design changes noted in the initial round of contracts, subsequently taken over by DPW to pay, was to heat Georgia Street. Yes, the street and sidewalks will be heated from underneath with forced steam pipes. The cost estimate was another $1 million. Now, just how useful will that be beyond the Superbowl??? Come on. This clearly is a case of what sorts of things you spend money on, when you are spending someone else's money. Its just like the retractable roof on Lucas Oil Stadium, that rarely is retracted when the sun shines, but I hear, often leaks when it rains.

A question that remains to be determined is whether businesses along Georgia Street that have been negatively impacted by the construction work over the past year will be able to hang on until the Super Bowl. Earlier this year, the Pub complained to WTHR that its business had fallen 40% due to the construction work. Nordstrom closed its doors at the end of July as the major anchor for Circle Centre Mall, leaving vast space on three floors of the the mall completely unoccupied.

If that isn't enough to get you upset, check out these numbers. WTHR's Mary Milz reports that the CIB will spend at least $8 million in taxpayer money on the Super Bowl:

The game is 167 days away and Eyewitness News has found out at least $8 million in tax money is needed. Most of the money budgeted by the Capital Improvement Board, which runs both the convention center and Lucas Oil Stadium, will go to public safety.
North Texas spent millions on police and fire protection during Super Bowl XLV in February. Indianapolis expects to spend $4 million alone in overtime when it hosts the Super Bowl in February. The money won't come from the public safety budget, however. It will come from the Capital Improvement Board.
"I think, in general, we get the hospitality taxes that are going to be coming in due to the event," said CIB president Ann Lathrop. "Given the significant, one time only impact this is going to have, we think it is the right thing to do as good corporate citizens."

Keep in mind this was the same CIB that claimed it was teetering on bankruptcy just a couple of years ago unless we bailed it out with a series of tax increases and a new state subsidy. Now the CIB is so cash rich that it has $33.5 million to give away to the Simon's Indiana Pacers and another $8 million to foot the bill for Super Bowl-related expenses. I will flat out claim and defend such claim until proven otherwise that Ann Lathrop and Bob Grand totally fabricated a financial crisis after they took over the CIB following Mayor Ballard's election in order to find money for the Simon's new public subsidies for their NBA basketball team and to finance the Super Bowl costs, the event that we were told would cost taxpayers nothing because all of the funds necessary to cover the expenses would be paid by contributions raised by the local host committee. There have been reports that the CIB is letting the NFL use space at the convention center during the Super Bowl free of charge. Further, the legislature passed an unprecedented tax exemption that covers the Super Bowl event so that the NFL doesn't have to pay any state or local taxes during the event.

No, Ann Lathrop, we will never recoup the losses from this event. And the claim that the Super Bowl will generate $450 million for the local economy repeatedly touted in local news media reports is complete and utter BS. No independent study of the Super Bowl has ever proven that it generates anything approaching that kind of economic impact. Independent analysts peg the economic impact at no more than $40 to $50 million at best. As for added tax benefits, look at how little sales tax revenues grew in the Arlington, Texas communities that hosted this year's Super Bowl. Look no further than Detroit for the definitive proof of just how little benefit the Super Bowl generates for the city at large. How stupid do they think people are? It is simply unconscionable to be spending tens of millions of dollars to put on a party for the nation's richest people while the common people are sinking by the day under the pressure of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. At the rate things are going, they're going to need a small army to simply keep out angry, rioting taxpayers who will share in none of the benefits of this party and who are struggling to find jobs and to put food on the table for their families.

UPDATE: The CIB approved its budget yesterday, which naturally calls for an increase in its operating budget of $4.4 million to $77.5 million unlike virtually every other city-county agency next year that is facing cuts or a flat-lined budget. The CIB was asked about the annual $10 million subsidy payment to the Pacers that is suppose to be needed to defray maintenance costs on Conseco Fieldhouse in light of the fact that the NBA currently has a player lockout with the failure to ratify a new collective bargaining agreement and may play a shortened season or no season at all this coming year. Of course, the biggest expense of operating an NBA team are the salaries of players, which the owners don't pay while a lockout is still in progress. The Pacers pay nothing to lease Conseco Fieldhouse and get to keep most of the revenues the facility generates from both game and non-game events. Here's the reaction of Ann Lathrop, who is nothing more than a stooge for Bob Grand, whose law firm represents the Simon family interests, including the Indiana Pacers:

"The building doesn't go away," Lathrop said. "Those expenses will stay there. It's our building, and we have an obligation to keep it running."
She did not know how much it costs to operate the building during Pacers' home games.

Did you catch that? She doesn't know how much it costs to operate the Fieldhouse during Pacers' home games. This is one of the same CIB leaders, an executive for a major accounting firm no less, who swore up and down she had seen the Pacers' financial statements and could confirm the team was losing money. It was on the basis of that review of the team's financial situation that Lathrop and other members of the CIB voted to approve the three year, $33.5 million gift to the franchise to help defray the costs of running Conseco Fieldhouse. Lathrop, in effect, just admitted that she doesn't even know what it costs to maintain the Fieldhouse. She never cared because she is financially rewarded for doing what the power brokers in this town order her to do. It means more lucrative government consulting work for her employer, Crowe Horwath. Yes, those billables do impact the amount of money Lathrop earns at the firm. As always, there is absolutely nobody on the CIB who represents taxpayers.

More On The Indiana State Fair Stage Collapse

The Star has a good story this morning by reporters John Russell, Heather Gillers and Tim Evans that examines the type of stage Indiana uses for its grandstand concert performances compared to that used at other state fair venues around the country.

 .  .  .  A look at other state fairgrounds across the nation turns up a mix of temporary and permanent stages, and some creative engineering to make them stand up to bad weather and remain versatile.
The Iowa State Fair uses a permanent stage, with steel beams and girders, which sits on railroad tracks. When the fair wants to clear the area for another outdoor event, it pushes the stage down the tracks.
"We never have to tear it down," said Lori Chappell, spokeswoman for the Iowa State Fair. "It's solid, but we can move it when we need to."
The Illinois State Fair uses a permanent structure built at the fairgrounds in Springfield decades ago. At the Ohio State Fair in Columbus, all major concerts are conducted in a permanent indoor concert facility.
In contrast, the Indiana State Fair, like many others across the country, uses a temporary stage. Each summer, shortly before the fair begins, stagehands erect portable metal towers and scaffolding upon a wide, permanent concrete slab in front of the Grandstand. Then various bands hang tons of gear from overhead trusses.
During high winds, the entire structure can sway and shudder. On Aug. 13, the stage rigging collapsed onto the Sugarland crowd just minutes before the concert was to start. Six people have died in the accident, and dozens were hospitalized. Fair officials later acknowledged the massive structure had not been inspected.

Last week, I mentioned how Illinois State Fair officials have stage rigging that allows the overhead canopy to be raised and lowered depending on weather conditions and special efforts fair officials take to make certain the load balance is proper--precautions that were notably absent when Indiana's stage rigging collapsed under high wind conditions as the legs simply buckled and toppled the structure. The Star discussed those differences with Illinois fair officials and the precautions they took when the same storm system moved through Springfield earlier the same day that the storm hit Indianapolis.

Erecting a permanent stage does not solve all problems or mean that fair officials can ignore bad weather. Two weekends ago at the Illinois State Fair, storms packing 60 mph winds moved toward the fairgrounds. Officials monitored weather conditions as they prepared for a major outdoor concert. Finally, as the winds showed no sign of abating, officials ordered the removal of a bank of heavy video screens suspended from the roof. Then they lowered the roof.
They took those precautions even though the stage is a permanent structure.
After the storm passed, workers reattached the video screens and hoisted the roof back in place for the night's show by rock band 3 Doors Down.
Stacey Solano, spokeswoman for the Illinois fair, said she did not know the reasoning behind the decision in the 1950s to construct a permanent stage. But it has served the fair well for decades.
Although the stage's supporting framework is permanent, the roof is temporary, Solano said. It is put up by contractors each year before the fair begins. When the fair is over, the roof is removed.
While the roof is in place, Solano said, officials closely monitor the weather. When storms are approaching, they lower the roof, which is done with powered winches.
"It gets it out of the wind and keeps the center of gravity a little lower," she explained. "It also helps protect equipment that is on the stage."
Workers also can take down a backdrop "so air can move more freely through the stage area" when bad weather threatens, she said.
Solano said concert speakers, which are elevated but not attached directly to the roof, also are lowered when winds increase. Before the roof and equipment are raised back into place, the stage set-up is closely inspected.
"Everything is checked daily," she said, "and sometimes several times a day."
The story indicates that a permanent stage structure that is more safe could cost in excess of $10 million, an amount the state fair fund seems to have available for such permanent improvements.

It also looks like another lawsuit will be initiated for one of the victims of the state fair tragedy. Former Marion Co. Prosecutor Carl Brizzi will send a tort claim notice to state officials today on behalf of family members of Gary Goodrich, a security worker for ESG Security who was killed instantly when the stage rigging collapsed.

UPDATE: The Star is reporting that the tragedy has claimed the life of a seventh victim. Citing a state police statement, the Star reported that  24-year-old cheerleading coach from Ohio, Meagan Toothman, succumbed to the severe injuries she sustained more than a week ago over the weekend at an area hospital where she was being treated. WIBC is now reporting that the report of Toothman's death was made in error:

State Police say they prematurely announced the death of a seventh victim of the State Fair stage collapse.
92 minutes after ISP reported Meagan Toothman, 24, had died of her injuries, spokesman David Bursten says Toothman remains on life support in very critical condition. He quotes Marion County Coroner Frank Lloyd's office as describing death as imminent.
Unbelievable. How could the Coroner's Office report someone's death is imminent? Are they her health care provider? Not hardly.

UPDATE: The family has indicated its intention to donate Toothman's organs in anticipation of her death following the removal of life support late last night. Her organs were to be removed surgically this afternoon. Technically, Toothman will be declared legally dead upon removal of the organs. This has created the confusion over the timing of her death. So Toothman becomes the seventh fatality as of today.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Calvin Borel Arrested In Evansville For DUI

Calvin Borel
Three-time Kentucky Derby-winning jockey Calvin Borel was arrested by Indiana State Police in Evansville this weekend for driving while intoxicated. Indiana State Police stopped Borel shortly before midnight last night after he allegedly made an unsafe lane change on U.S. 41 in Evansville. A state police statement said Borel's blood alcohol level tested over the legal limit but did not state the amount. Borel had been scheduled to ride in races today at Ellis Park in Henderson, Kentucky, but he was pulled from his rides after last night's arrest. Borel is due in court on Monday after he posted a $100 bond and was released Sunday morning.

Who Is Our 2012 SB, Inc.?

The nonprofit organization created to help put on the Super Bowl 2012 host committee activities is known legally as "Our 2012 SB, Inc.", a fact uncovered by fellow blogger Pat Andrews while poking and prodding the corporation counsel's office to produce any legal agreements entered into by the city with the nonprofit organization. The group's purpose, as quoted on Andrews' Had Enough Indy blog, reads:

a mutual benefit corporation organized to promote the common business interests, growth and opportunity, and the general economic welfare for businesses in and around Indianapolis, Indiana (the "City"), by attracting and hosting a professional football championship game in the City.
Our 2012SB, Inc, submitted a successful bid for the National Football League's Super Bowl XLVI, a profession football championship to be held in Indianapolis in 2012.
Under the supervision of the National Football League, Our 2012SB will centralize the planning and the execution of the 2012 Super Bowl to ensure coordination of all efforts and community resources. Our 2012 SB will serve as an extension to the National Football League in the local community, as the City's ambassador to the incoming Super Bowl fans, guests, and corporations, and as a manager of local resources such as City services (emphasis added), event venues, accommodations, and thousands of volunteers.

Note that the self-appointed nonprofit leaders have deemed themselves the "manager of local resources, such as City services." Andrews learned that the nonprofit organization had on its own hired an engineering firm to redesign Georgia Street and, after the fact, signed a contract with the Department of Public Works under which the City had to reimburse the nonprofit for more than $1.5 million in engineering fees it had incurred on the Georgia Street project. The George Street project is expected to cost taxpayers more than $12 million and is being done exclusively to benefit the Super Bowl event.

A look at the tax returns filed by Our 2012 SB, Inc. reveals that its board of directors reads like a Who's Who of city insiders. The organization's CEO is Allison Melangton, who was paid a salary and benefits of more than $232,000 according to the most recent tax returns filed for the organization for the 2009 tax year. The board's leadership and members include the following:

Mark Miles, Chairman (CEO, Central Indiana Corporate Partnership, Inc.)
Cathy Langham, Vice Chairman (President, Langham Logistics)
Derrick Burks, Treasurer (CPA, Ernst & Young)
John Lechleiter, Secretary (CEO, Eli Lilly)
Tony George (Indianapolis Motor Speedway)
Earle Goode (Chief of Staff, Gov. Mitch Daniels)
David Simon (CEO, Simon Property Group)
Susan Williams (CEO, Indiana Sports Corporation)
Eugene White (Superintendent, IPS)
Jack Swarbrick (Athletic Director, Notre Dame)
Jeff Smulyan (CEO, Emmis Communications)
Paul Okeson (Vice President, Keystone Construction)
Pete Ward (COO, Indianapolis Colts)
Tom Jernstedt (Retired President, NCAA)
Alfredo Lopez Yunez (Doctor of Neurology, IU Neurology)

The host committee had taken in more than $10 million since its formation in 2007 through the end of 2009, which included more than $400,000 in public support when it started in 2007. In 2009, the organization spent $932,000 for operational expenses, including: more than $86,000 on travel, $10,000 of which went to pay travel expenses for "federal, state or local public officials"; $25,000 in conference-related expenses; more than $212,000 on undisclosed management fees; more than $28,000 for legal fees; and more than $11,000 for accounting expenses. The committee reported about $3.9 million in assets as of the end of 2009. One can only imagine who all will get their hands on the tens of millions of dollars to be spent by this organization before the Super Bowl event is concluded, not counting the tens of millions of dollars the organization is dictating that taxpayers spend on the event out of the City's budget.