Friday, October 24, 2014

More Bid-Rigging In The Ballard Administration

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

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

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

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

Thursday, October 23, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Digital Photo Proof Saves Motorist From Erroneous Parking Ticket

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

Democratic Candidate For State Treasurer Says He'll Donate Salary If Elected

Mike Boland, the Democratic candidate for Indiana Treasurer, says he will donate his $76,600 a year salary to charity or scholarships if he's elected. Boland, a retired Illinois legislator and educator, tells the Terre Haute Tribune-Star that his family is in good health and he has no mortgage to pay on his home. Boland says he's not rich; just "a good middle class." He said a secondary reason for giving up his salary is to remove the cynicism held by many voters that all politicians are crooks. Boland said Harry Truman believed that politics was a noble occupation and so does he.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

RIP Sheriff Jack Cottey

Former Marion Co. Sheriff Jack Cottey (R) passed away today at the age of 75. He reportedly had been suffering from cancer for some time. We feel for family members, of course, for the loss of their loved one and express our deepest sympathy to them for their loss.

Below is the reaction to Cottey's death by a number of state and local political luminaries. I don't share their views of the man. The profuse praise of Cottey by these prominent people is disturbing to say the least. The man I most remember is the man in the video above (NSFW), and it's the memory scores of people who got on his bad side for trying to do the right thing most remember. "I've got three more weeks, I'm going to bury some people's asses," Cottey bellows to the poor guy in the towing company office on the receiving end of his profanity-laced tirade because his unmarked car had been towed after he parked it illegally while getting tanked in the Columbia Club.

It's quite alarming that people who hold or have held such powerful positions in our state and local community would describe a man who had so little respect for the law despite being a life-time law enforcement officer in the glowing terms they do. Their effusive praise of this man says more about them than it does Cottey, who was simply a product of one of the most corrupt eras of law enforcement in Indianapolis' history. I'm truly sorry for his family's loss, but his departure is no loss to the local law enforcement community to which he brought so much shame and disrespect. He was no role model for younger law enforcement officers, and I can only hope that most of them view him as I did for the public's sake.

"Marine, state legislator, sheriff -- Karen and I knew Jack as a leader and a friend. We have deep respect for his many contributions to both public service and public safety."

--Mike Pence, Indiana Governor and former U.S. Representative

"Sheriff Cottey will be remembered as a national leader in local crime prevention and community policing. During very critical times, he was among the first to recognize that homeland security begins with hometown security. As a former United States Attorney, he was by my side after 9/11 proudly leading the men and women who serve and protect our local communities, as they worked with state and federal law enforcement to keep us safe from terrorism."

--Susan Brooks, U.S. Member of Congress, former Indianapolis Deputy Mayor for Public Safety and former U.S. Attorney

"Sheriff Jack Cottey displayed a unique blend of leadership traits -- compassion, vision, tenacity, common sense and fairness. He knew Indianapolis and her people well. His absence will be felt deeply by all those knew and worked with him."

--Richard G. Lugar, former U.S. Senator and former Indianapolis Mayor

"Our work together spanned many decades in his constant commitment to public safety and public service. As prosecutor, I worked closely with Jack as deputy chief and legislator to improve Indiana's criminal law. As mayor, I saw how the city benefited from his initiatives as sheriff, in innovated technology and techniques with the help of rank-and-file deputies. Jack was truly a public citizen who served his community and friends loyally and with commitment."

--Stephen Goldsmith, former Indianapolis Mayor and former Marion County Prosecutor

"When I was elected mayor, I appointed Jack as Deputy Chief of Detectives. He served faithfully in that capacity, and we subsequently supported each other in many political contests. I loved his laugh and his enjoyment of life. He was a genuine and caring person, and a good friend and ally. We will miss him."

--William H. Hudnut III, former Indianapolis Mayor

"I am deeply saddened in saying goodbye to one of our community's long-time civic and political leaders. Whether in the state legislature or during his two terms as Marion County Sheriff, Jack Cottey was known for always extending his hand across the political aisle in order to get things done for the people he was elected to serve-a quality that is too often absent in today's political climate. Jack was my friend and colleague. I, along with the rest of Indianapolis, will miss him."

--Joe Hogsett, former Indiana Secretary of State and former U.S. Attorney

"Jack Cottey and I served as deputies together as deputies in the Marion County Sheriff's Department in the early 1960s. He was a longtime friend and a great law enforcement officer. Jack was always able to work across party lines and put public safety first. I was fortunate to follow him as sheriff. He will be truly missed by so many in the law enforcement family."

--Frank Anderson, former Marion County Sheriff and former U.S. Marshal

"What I'll remember most about Jack Cottey is his great laugh. There are people whose laugh 'lights up a room,' as they say. Jack's laugh lit up the room and shook the pictures off the walls. Jack was a great politician, because he really loved politics. And he loved it because he loved people. Not 'the People,' as an abstraction, but individual people. All of them. And politics was for Jack the best chance he had to give each and every person exactly what they wanted and needed from their state and local government."

--Scott Newman, former Marion County Prosecutor

Former Deputy Prosecutor Gets Six-Month Suspension For Felony Drunk Driving Conviction

A spokesman and deputy prosecutor for former Marion Co. Prosecutor Carl Brizzi received a six-month suspension by the Indiana Supreme Court from the practice of law for his recent felony drunk driving conviction in Hamilton County. Mario Massillamany pleaded guilty on April 9, 2014 to operating a vehicle while intoxicated, his third such conviction, which was elevated to a felony due to a prior OWI conviction within the past five years.

According to the Supreme Court's Order, Massillamany promptly self-reported his arrest last July. In 2010, Massillamany received a public reprimand from the Supreme Court after he pleaded guilty to operating a vehicle while intoxicated and endangering another person's life, a Class A misdemeanor. Massillamany had a prior conviction for OWI dating back to 2000. The Court's Order also says that Massillamany had neglected to report a prior illegal consumption arrest in 1996 on his initial application to practice law in Indiana or in his renewed application. Massillamany will be reinstated following his six-month suspension as long as he complies with the terms of his probation.

The order found that Massillamany violated the following rules of professional conduct:
8.1(a): Knowingly making a false statement of material fact to the Board of Law Examiners in connection with a bar admission application.
8.1(b): Failure to disclose relevant facts to the Board of Law Examiners.
8.4(b): Committing a criminal act that reflects adversely on Respondent's trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer.
Hat tip to Indiana Law Blog.

Obama Ebola Czar: Population Control In Africa And Asia Top Concern

This older interview of Indianapolis native Ron Klain, the consummate Washington insider and political hack who President Barack Obama has just appointed as his Ebola czar despite having no medical credentials, should send chills up the spines of West Africans where the deadly virus has reached epidemic proportions. Population control in places like Africa and Asia is what he sees as a top concern with which America should concern itself.