Thursday, August 28, 2014

Indy Democrats Want to Raise Income Taxes While Republicans Want to Raise Income and Property Taxes

The headline outlines the dilemma faced by fiscal conservatives.  The Indianapolis Star reports:
The Public Safety and Criminal Justice Committee voted 6-4 to send the plan to the full council for a vote. If approved, it would raise $29 million a year for police by increasing the local police income taxes about $64 a year for a resident earning $42,000 annually.
The 6-4 vote was along party lines with the GOP in the minority.  Amazingly Republicans Councilors such as Ben Hunter and Aaron Freeman didn't vote against the proposal because of the income tax increase, but rather because they also wanted to raise residents' property tax too.  Yes, Indianapolis Republicans (with the exception of Councilor Christine Scales) are upset with Democrats because they do not support increasing taxes even more.

As proposed, I don't believe there is any restrictions on the revenue with public safety, that the money would be required to be used to hire more police officers as opposed to, say, paying the new revenue to the proposed new Justice Center, the cost of which has already skyrocketed to over $600 million?    After all, the last increase in the local income tax in 2007, the majority of which was supposed to be used to hire more police officers, resulted in fewer officers being hired?   Why should we believe it would be different this time?

I would be remiss if I didn't comment on the Star's writer assertion that the proposed tax hike is "a slight income tax hike."  That word "slight" seems like an editorial insertion instead of what a journalist, trained in presenting a story in an unbiased fashion, would write.   In fact, it is an increase of more than 9% (1.62% to 1.77%)  in the local option income tax and, if viewed more narrowly, a 43% increase (.35% to .50%) in the public safety portion of that tax.  The tax increase is hardly a "slight" one.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Study Encourages Later Starting Time for Middle and High School Students

The blog StateImpact reports:
A new recommendation released Monday by the American Academy of Pediatrics encourages middle and high schools to push start times back, in order to align students’ academic schedules with their biological sleep rhythms.

The organization says schools should start classes no earlier than 8:30 a.m. Nationally, only 15 percent of high schools currently follow that guideline. 40 percent start classes before 8:00 a.m.

Ideally, researchers say, teenagers should get between 8.5 and 9.5 hours of sleep each night. Recent polls indicate that only 41 percent of middle school students and 13 percent of high schoolers do.

“Chronic sleep loss in children and adolescents is one of the most common and easily fixable public health issues in the U.S. today,” said pediatrician Judith Owens, who wrote the policy statement.

“Studies have shown that delaying early school start times is one key factor that can help adolescents get the sleep they need to grow and learn.”
For years I taught college classes.   Several years ago, I agreed to teach a 7 am class.  It was an experiment - the university thought they would try to accommodate the mostly older adult students' schedules by providing a class before the work day instead of the typical evening class.  It turned out to be the worst class I ever taught.  The students weren't alert and engaged with the material. Class participation was non-existent.  But it wasn't just the students.  I too, as an instructor, wasn't on top of my game.   I thought as the semester wore on, we would all adjust to the early time.  It never happened.

The focus now on early childhood education as a way of improving academic performance is iffy at best.  The studies are mixed, with many finding that the gains of pre-K are only temporary.  But there is one reform that will cost little if anything and unquestionably lead to better academic results.  That reform is later starting times for middle and high school students.

Press Release: Former Hancock County Sheriff Bud Gray Settles Lawsuit Against Police Chief John Jester and the City of Greenfield

Retired Hancock County Sheriff C.K. “Bud” Gray settled his civil lawsuit with the City of Greenfield in lieu of taking the case to trial as scheduled for the week of August 18, 2014.  The parties reached an agreed resolution during the course of a settlement conference conducted late last month which is subject to approval by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court of the Southern District of Indiana.  Gray's lawsuit concerned claims made against Chief John Jester and the City of Greenfield for false arrest, malicious prosecution and defamation surrounding his arrest on obstruction of justice charges on August 6th of 2010. 

            The last four years have been especially difficult for the Gray family.  Charges were hastily filed and Gray was arrested. A maelstrom of negative publicity followed after the initial news conference held by law enforcement officials including the Lead Investigator, Police Chief John Jester of the Greenfield Police Department.  Charges against Gray were ultimately dismissed with prejudice in February of 2011 following an investigation by Special Prosecutor, Daniel J. Sigler.

            Richard Cook, Esq., Attorney for Sheriff Gray stated, "Sheriff Bud Gray's lawsuit was never about the money, it was about restoring Bud's reputation within the community of Hancock County which he so proudly served for 34 years. We are pleased to have reached an amicable resolution with the City and accept the City's sincere expression of regret for how this occurred. The Gray family bears no ill will towards those involved in law enforcement or the City.  The Gray family believes that weight of the events overtook the better judgment of those involved and led to a rush to file charges.

            Sheriff Gray and his family have paid dearly both financially and emotionally for this hasty action.  Thankfully, their lawsuit has provided the Grays with a vehicle to restore Bud's good name and reputation in the law enforcement community and Hancock County.  The Gray family also believe the terms of the settled adequately recognize the seriousness of this loss."  

            As part of the settlement the City of Greenfield and John Jester have agreed to pay the sum of $100,000 and issue a public statement recognizing Sheriff Gray's service to the Hancock County Community, and their regret over the way the case unfolded which led to Gray's premature arrest on charges of Obstruction of Justice.  The Gray family appreciates the City of Greenfield's recognition of Sheriff Gray's years of public service and their regret for how the events unfolded surrounding his arrest.

            The charge of obstruction of justice as well as other matters were examined and fully investigated by Special Prosecutor, Daniel J. Sigler, to determine whether any charges were warranted.  After an appropriate investigation, on February 9, 2011, Special Prosecutor Sigler filed a report with the Court in which he stated:

The Special Prosecutor in summary viewed “this investigation and the entire case as unfortunate and avoidable.”  He also observed that “[t]here was no motivating factor that required a rush to judgment and Sheriff Gray being arrested” and “[i]t would have been far better to obtain the appointment of a special prosecuting attorney immediately so the entire investigation could have been conducted in a neutral manner without the drama of a public spectacle.” 

[Special Prosecutor’s Report to Court of February 9, 2011, at 12].  On the same day the Special Prosecutor announced his findings, he filed a motion to dismiss with prejudice the charge of Obstruction of Justice filed against Gray, which was granted by the Court on February 10, 2011. 

            During the course of the civil litigation brought by Gray against Police Chief John Jester and  the City of Greenfield, Jester was deposed and questioned regarding the investigation he led. In Chief John Jester's deposition, he was unable to point to any evidence that Sheriff Gray had ever communicated a threat to any witness with the intent that the witness withhold information or delay the investigation.  Also, Jester could not identify any evidence that Gray unlawfully obstructed the City's Police Department's investigation.

            In his deposition, Chief Jester conceded there were no threats communicated to any witness:

Q. During either of the conversation between Donny Munden and Brian Ellison, did the sheriff threaten either of those two individuals?

A. Can you repeat your question for me, please?

Q. Did the sheriff ever threaten Donny Munden in his phone conference with Donny Munden?

A. I don't believe he ever threatened Donny.

[Jester Dep. 127:10 - 127:16]  Sheriff (Bud) Gray also never communicated to Brian Ellison any threats.  Jester testified in his deposition:

Q. And why did Brian Ellison tell you that he didn't want to be taken under protective custody?

A. I don't know that he actually gave me a reason, sir.

Q. Did Brian Ellison tell you that he was afraid for his life?

A. No, sir, not that I'm aware of.

Q. And to your knowledge, there was no indication at that point in time that Sheriff Gray had ever taken any action to intimidate Brian Ellison?

A. Prior to his arrest?

Q. Yes, sir.

A. He had conveyed the threat to me.

* * *

Q. So what statement did the Sheriff make to you that intimidated Brian Ellison?

A. I can't say that it intimidated Brian Ellison.

Q. So there were no statements that he made to you that would have intimidated Brian Ellison?

A. Correct. [Emphasis Added].

[Jester Dep. 134: 05 -134:17; 135:16-135:21].   

            There was not any other evidence of obstruction of justice uncovered after Gray's arrest according to Chief Jester:

Q. Did any of the individuals that you interviewed indicate that the Sheriff had personally threatened them?

A. No, sir.

Q. Did any of the people that you interviewed indicate that they overheard the Sheriff personally threaten anyone else?

A. No, sir.

Q. Did any of the witnesses that you interviewed tell you that the sheriff -- that they had witnessed the Sheriff destroy evidence?

A. No, sir.

Q. Had any of the persons that you interviewed told you that they had witnessed the evidence -- or witnessed the sheriff destroy evidence?

A. No, sir.

Q. Any of the witnesses that you spoke with tell you that the sheriff had dummied up any records?

A. No, sir.

Q. Would it be fair to say that none of the witnesses that you spoke with after the arrest of the sheriff provided you with any tangible evidence of obstruction of justice?

A. That would be a correct statement, sir.

[Jester Dep. 213:13 - 214:11]. 

            With regard to claims of theft of money or property, Jester conceded in his deposition that the evidence did not support charges:

Q. What evidence do you have that there was criminal intent on the part of the Sheriff to commit the crime of theft?

A. I don't at this point.

Q. So there is no evidence of mens rea?

A. Not now.

Q. There wasn't evidence at the time you prepared this report either; correct?

A. Nope.

Q. And without mens rea, you don't have theft, do you?

A. That's correct. [Emphasis Added].

[Jester Dep. 246:09 - 246:19].

           On August 6, 2010, the day of Sheriff Gray's arrest, Jester allowed the press to come along for the arrest of Gray and even transported a reporter and photographer in his squad car so they could be present during the arrest.  [Jester Dep. 197:04-197:23].   To the best of Jester's recollection, this is the first time he had ever given the press a ride to an arrest. Id. This occurred even though: 1) This is not standard operating procedure for his department; 2) Jester would not have approved such a request by one of his own   officers; 3) Having the press present would not be helpful; 4) It would be emotionally traumatic for Gray; 4) It would be unwise to bring non-law enforcement people to a situation where they potentially could be placed at risk; and 5)        Chief Jester, as the chief investigator, had the absolute power to deny the press access and could have refused to transport them. [Jester Dep. 194 -197].
           
The news conference following Gray's arrest inaccurately accused him of  threatening witnesses unleashed an avalanche of negative news reports concerning his arrest on charges for obstruction of justice which ultimately proved to be without legal merit. Following Gray's arrest, Chief Jester, as a spokesman for the Greenfield Police and the City of Greenfield, told multiple news agencies and members of the public that Sheriff Gray had threatened county sheriff employees to keep them from talking to law enforcement.  This is what Jester said to the news media:

Today at 4:15 p.m., Hancock County Sheriff, Calvin Gray, was arrested in Hancock County.  Sheriff Gray has been charged with one count of obstruction of justice.  This arrest results from an ongoing investigation by the Greenfield Police Department, the Indiana State Police, and the Hancock County Sheriff’s Department concerning misuse of government monies.  During the investigation Sheriff Gray was found to have called witnesses, threatening their safety. [Emphasis Added].

            When questioned by reporters, this point was again made by Chief Jester in the same news conference following Gray's arrest, even though it was factually baseless:

Reporter: What do you mean calling witnesses and threatening them?

John Jester: Um, there was witnesses called in an attempt to get them not to speak with us during the investigation.  There was threats made of physical harm.

Reporter: These are not witnesses in other cases but witnesses within the department?

John Jester: Yes

Reporter: So fellow officers were threatened?

John Jester: Some fellow officers, yes.

These statements ultimately proved to be inaccurate as noted above.
******************************************************************************
            Video Excerpts from Jester’s deposition cited above and the original news conference addressing these points are contained on the following YouTube link:


Additional inquiries for information or comment should be addressed to:
                        Richard Cook,
                        Attorney for Sheriff C.K. "Bud" Gray
                        Yosha Cook Shartzer & Tisch 
                        9102 North Meridian Street, Suite 535
                        Indianapolis, IN 46260
Email:
rcook@yoshalaw.com
Web:
www.yoshalaw.com

Phone: 317-334-9200
Fax:
317-228-3355

Monday, August 25, 2014

Star Matt Tully Should Be Fired for Not Disclosing Conflict of Interest in Column Advocating Mayor Ballard's Pre-K Program

Gary Welsh of Advance Indiana broke the news yesterday that Indianapolis Star columnist Matt Tully had a conflict of interest in penning his column advocating Indianapolis taxpayers endure yet another tax increase for the Mayor"s pre-K education program.  In Gary's piece he quotes at length Tully's column advocating the program, including a focus on Eli Lilly and Company's support for the program which will be run as a public-private partnership, which means private profits will be made off the public's money.  What Tully completely fails to mention in his column is his wife's key role in promoting the program as an employee of Lilly.  Gary though picks up on it:
Now here's what Tully didn't tell you but should have told you as an ethical journalist.
Star Columnist Matthew Tully
Tully's wife, Valerie Tully, is employed at Eli Lilly as a Global Public Policy Director where she is responsible for "reviewing legislative and administrative proposals to determine corporate position and enable external engagement in support of that position" according to her LinkedIn profile. In other words, she's paid to influence what supposed journalists like her husband communicate to us.

It gets better. It seems Valerie Tully also serves as chairman of the board of directors for the Day Nursery Association of Indiana, a nonprofit which operates eight Indianapolis area child care centers that provide day care and education services daily to more than 800 children. Day Nursery gets its funding from parent fees, federal Title XX funds, Child and Adult Care Food Program, Step Ahead councils, United Way, corporate and foundation grants and private donations according to the nonprofit's website. Suffice it to say that Day Nursery will be the recipient of any new tax dollars generated for Ballard's pre-K initiative. And did I mention that Jason Kloth, Mayor Ballard's deputy mayor for education, who was responsible for fashioning the administration's pre-K proposal, also sits on Day Nursery's board of director with Tully's wife? Conflict of interest? Any other questions?

UPDATE: Lilly executives Mike O'Connor and Robert Smith were guests on Amos Brown's radio talk show last week to pitch the pre-K tax and spend plan. O'Connor actually identifies the Day Nursery by name as providing the type of early childhood education that would be funded by the program. O'Connor, by the way, was one of the architects of Peterson's 65% local income tax increase that sank Peterson's re-election bid who once derisively referred to Ballard as a "jar head." He now has nothing but glowing comments for Ballard's tax and spend plan. Of course, O'Connor will be supporting Ballard's Democrat opponent next year and will be happy to see Ballard's knuckle head of an idea help sink his re-election bid.
For a reporter or columnist to not reveal a conflict of interest like that would be grounds for dismissal at most newspapers, or at the very least a harsh disciplinary action.  But this is the Indianapolis Star, a newspaper which consistently ignores journalistic ethics.  A couple years ago, I pointed out that the Star editors had grossly violated journalistic ethics in a CIB editorial:
"As CIB President Ann Lathrop noted Tuesday, the agency has built up reserves in part because it has large loans that will come due in the next few years. That starts in 2017 with $33.7 million that the city owes to private investors that helped initially with funding for Circle Centre mall and later Bankers Life Fieldhouse...."

What the Star's editors failed to disclose to its readers is that the owner of the Indianapolis Star, Gannet Co., Inc., is one of those private investors.  On September 13, 1994, Central Newspapers, Inc. approved investing $2.3 million into the Circle Centre Mall, which debt has been rolled into the debt on the Bankers Life Fieldhouse.   In 2000, Gannett bought Central Newspapers.  Thus, Gannett is now one of those investors it was saying in the editorial needs to be paid back, even if it means higher property taxes for Indianapolis residents.
Under even the most forgiving standards of judicial ethics, the Indianapolis Star's editors at the very least had a duty to disclose in the editorial Gannett's ownership interest.
I guess Tully feels he has no reason to disclose conflicts of interest when Star editors ignore that responsibility themselves.

Polls Show Republicans Appear Poised to Take Back the U.S. Senate in 2014

It appears the Republicans are on their way to winning back the Senate in 2014.  Currently there are 53 Democrats and 45 Republicans.  Two independents, Angus King and Bernie Sanders, caucus with the Democrats.  With Vice President Joe Biden presiding over the Senate, Republicans would need to pick up six seats in 2014 to have a majority.

The Democrats appear to be conceding three open seats formerly held by Democrats in West Virginia, Montana and South Dakota where Republicans lead by 12%, 20% and 14.5%

That means that Republicans need only win three Democratic seats while holding their own.  The Republicans currently lead in Iowa (.8%), North Carolina (1%), Louisiana (1%), and Arkansas (3%).  Republicans also appear to have solid shots at Alaska (-3.7%), Michigan (-4%), New Hampshire (-6.6%) and Colorado (2.5%).  Many analysts also think the gap in Minnesota will close.  In that state, Senator Al Franken leads his Republican opponent by nearly 10%.

The Democrats have hopes of winning only two Republican seats, in Kentucky and Georgia. But it appears in those Republican states the Democrats may have hit ceilings on their support.  The GOP candidates lead in those states by 3% and 4.2% respectively.

Note:  All polling percentages are Real Clear Politics average of recent polls in those states.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Democratic Mayoral Candidate Rep. Ed Delaney Attacks IMPD Staffing Decreases under Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard

In a continuing effort to shape the public debate, on Thursday Democratic state representative and
Rep. Ed Delaney
mayoral candidate Ed Delaney issued a press release attacking the shrinking city police department under Mayor Greg Ballard's watch and advocating support for restoring the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department to 2007 levels:
 

For Immediate Release: Contact: Anastasia Foster
August 21, 2014 317-413-7497
www.eddelaney.org
www.facebook.com/delaneyforindy

DELANEY NEWS RELEASE ON MAYOR BALLARD’S POLICE STAFFING PROPOSAL
 
  Restoring IMPD to full staffing levels

o When Mayor Ballard was first elected IMPD had 1,740 sworn officers. As of July 2014 that number had fallen to 1,527, a decline of 213 officers or 12.2 percent. This happened while our population grew and crime, esp. murder, rose precipitously.

o After presiding over a six-year decline in staffing levels, the Mayor has responded to the situation he has created by asking to restore some but not all of the 213 lost positions. By 2018 we would have 1,677 officers, 63 fewer than we had in 2007.

o The IMPD Staffing Study Commission recommended that by 2018 we restore the level of police officers to 1,797. This is an increase of some 50 officers from the 2007 level and is 120 more than the Mayor proposes. In my view this is the least that we should do.

Creating legislative support for a central Indiana police training facility

o In January of this year the Indianapolis Fraternal Order of Police recommended the creation of a regional training academy which would have the potential to generate revenue and reduce training costs for IMPD. I believe that the General Assembly should be asked to support this effort financially.
 Protecting public school revenue

o Last year the Mayor proposed funding an IMPD staff increase largely from public education (at a cost of $3.9 million) by eliminating the Homestead Credit. Such a move would generate $8.3 million for the city budget and some $700,000 for selected local units of government. If he persists in this effort the Mayor should at a minimum restore the funds to public education.

Outreach for federal grants

o This year the city failed to apply for a $1.5 million grant from the federal COPS program, expressing a concern that a staff increase would not be sustainable. Surely, we can do better than that.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Angie's List Lays Off 97 From Its Sales Force

The Indianapolis Star reports:
Angie’s List laid off 97 members of its sales force team today.

The largest reduction, the company said in a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, will come from the Big Deal sales team.

The online review site reported a second-quarter loss of $18.4 million July 23 amid rising expenses.

...
This comes only 15 months after Indianapolis handed out $4.6 million in incentives to stay in downtown Indianapolis.  At the time, Gary Welsh of Advance Indiana discussed an IBJ investigative piece on curious real estate transfers that took place:
This has to be one of the more unusual investigative pieces done by one of the Indianapolis Business Journal's excellent reporters. The latest edition of the IBJ features a front-page story by Chris O'Malley titled, "Oesterle sells land, reaping millions, Angie's List $6.3 million price exceeded assessed value." It's quite the case of self-dealing by a man the publication has followed throughout his business career and upon whom it has heaped plenty of glowing praise and adoration. Some critics would argue that the publication has been a bit too generous in its coverage of Oesterle and the business he co-founded with Angie Hicks because of his close relationship with its chairman and owner, Mickey Maurer, who also sits on the board of directors of Angie's List. That's why the scathing story in today's edition comes as such a surprise.

O'Malley explains how Oesterle formed a separate company, Henry Amalgamated, in which he owns a 70% stake, to acquire nearly 40 parcels of property on the city's near eastside. Karl Northern owns the minority interest. That company, in turn, leased their property at premium lease rates to Angie's List for its expanding headquarters and operations. The combined assessed value of the properties owned by Henry Amalgamated is just $2.625 million; however, Angie's List is acquiring the properties from their CEO's company for $6.25 million. Oesterle defends the sale, claiming that no cash is exchanging hands, at least cash that came from his hands. That's because Mayor Greg Ballard, who has received large campaign contributions from Oesterle, was very generous with your tax dollars and gave Oesterle's company $4.6 million in incentives from the downtown TIF district after the company pledged to keep its headquarters in downtown rather than relocating to the suburbs. Oesterle allowed the value of those incentives to go to Angie's List as part of the sale.
The parcels Henry Amalgamated bought with city incentives, mostly on the western edge of Angie's campus, were not sold to Angie's at a profit, Oesterle told the IBJ. he said those parcels were simply transferred to Angie's from Henry Amalgamated, with no money exchanged. Essentially, then, the value of city incentives went to the company itself.
"It was almost four blocks of real estate. I thing [Angie's] got a very good deal," said Oesterle, prefacing his comments by saying he was speaking on behalf of Henry Amalgamated and not Angie's List.
Just how good the deal was for Oesterle's Henry Amalgamated is hard to say.
No one involved in the transaction would say how much Henry paid for older parcels, those bought without city incentives....

Indianapolis to Pay Hourly Rate to Consultant Far in Excess of What Other Cities Are Paying

One of the seven consulting contracts signed by the Ballard administration to promote the proposed Justice Center is with KPMG Corporate Finance, LLC.  The cap on the contract (which assuredly will be hit) is $3,000,000 with an hourly rate $212.50 which is to rise to $637.50 an hour if the deal is closed.  That $637.50 rate translates into $10.63 every minute.  The $212.50 and $637.50 rates, by the way are for ALL employees, even clerical.

Let's look at what cities are paying KPMG in contracts I found online.  I have also included the approximate date of the contract)

Chicago: (8/2014)  $90 an hour

Idaho:  (2012) $250 an hour

Dallas:  (2007) $190 an hour

Portland: (2002) $120 an hour, $145 after January 1, 2013

The only comparable KPMG contract I could find on line was one with the State of Indiana which paid KPMG $4.5 million and had hourly rates as follows:  Managing Director $655, Director $560, Associate Director/VP $470, Associate $380, Clerical $150.  The contract ran from 2006 to 2009 with hourly fees increasing every year. The amount cited is for the 2009 year.

It is true that the work in each of these contracts are different.  But it is not clear why that in the Indianapolis is so much more complex that it involves a much higher rate.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Wayne Township Small Claims Court Clerk Denies Access to Court Records Involving Collection Agencies, Unbelievably Claims Records Are Not Public

It's pretty remarkable in this day and age that a court clerk would not know court records are public records and that anyone off the street has the right to look at those files.  Apparently though someone at the Wayne Township Small Claims Court needs some better training.  I am fairly confident that once that court's well-regarded judge, Donnie Vaughn,  learns what one of his employees did, he will set her straight and train his staff what their duties are to the public in terms of the open records law.

In the complaint below that Attorney Steve Hofer filed with the State's Public Access Counselor, he also makes note of the curious fact that defendants names in Wayne and Lawrence Township are not included on a number of collection cases filed in Wayne and Lawrence Townships.

I would be remiss if I didn't give a shout out to Pike Small Claims Court who Steve identifies as complying with the law.  I may be biased because it is my home township, but my experience is that Pike Township has the best run small claims court in Marion County.  Kudos to my fellow law school classmate, Judge Doug Stephens for that.

The following is a link to Steve's blog on the subject.

***********************************

August 21, 2014                                               
 
Luke Britt
Indiana Public Access Counselor
W470 Indiana Government Center South
402 West Washington Street
Indianapolis IN 46204

               OFFICIAL OPEN RECORDS COMPLAINT

                                              Agency: Wayne Township (Marion County) Small Claims Court
                                              5401 West Washington Street, Indianapolis IN 46241
                                              Date of Request/Agency Denied Access: August 4, 2014

 Dear Counselor Britt: 

I am hereby making a complaint of denied access under the Indiana Access to Public Records Act.  The agency in question is the Wayne Township Small Claims Court in Indianapolis.  On Monday, August 4, 2014, during regular business hours, between 2:30 and 3:00 PM; I went to the Wayne Township Small Claims Court for the purposes of reviewing a selection of recent cases filed by bad debt buyers.  The abuse of the court system by bad debt buyers is a matter of public concern.  For context see: The One Hundred Billion Dollar Problem in Small Claims Court: Robo-Signing and Lack of Proof, Peter A. Holland, published in Journal of Business & Technology Law, Vol. 6, p. 259, 2011 and online at http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1875727. See also the New York Times Magazine feature story Paper Boys: Inside the Dark, Labyrinth, and Extremely Lucrative World of Consumer  Debt Collection,  Jake Halpern, http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/08/15/magazine/bad-paper-debt-collector.html?_r=0 

At the Wayne Township Court, I was allowed to use the public access terminal to identify a selection of recent cases. I copied down some case numbers, approximately 20, and asked to see the files that went with the case numbers.  The attendant said that I was not allowed to see the files, that they were not public. The only public information was the information on the terminal. I told the attendant that she is mistaken, these are public records that are readily accessed by collection attorneys on a daily basis.  On that same day I had inspected files without incident at Pike Township Small Claims Court. The attendant told me that I would have to take it up with the supervisor who was not in, and would not be available until tomorrow. She would not give me the full name of the supervisor. I offered to make a written request, but I was rebuffed.   

I believe it is the responsibility of the agency to have persons trained in compliance with the act on duty during all regular business hours regardless of the presence or absence of any given supervisor.  I believe my treatment at this court conveys an image that the court’s policy is to be friendly to debt collectors but not to persons who want to police the conduct of debt collectors.  

Finally, I would have made an informal request for an opinion by the counselor if it were not for a disturbing fact that I found out later.  In the MYCASE online record system, the defendants’ names are missing from the online records of a number of collection cases filed in Wayne and Lawrence Townships after 8/11/2014.   (See enclosed documentation.) If researchers aren't even able to get defendant names from the online system; it will be impossible to uncover problems with debt collectors misusing the court system.

Sincerely,

Steven R. Hofer
Attorney at Law

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Tax, Borrow and Spend Indianapolis Republicans Plot to Take Fiscal Conservative Out in Primary, Possibly Hand District to Democrats

Over at Advance Indiana, Gary Welsh has penned a nice article entitled:  The Conscience of the Indianapolis City-County Council:  Christine Scales.
Councilor Christine Scales
I echo Gary's praise of Christine.  Just recently we saw virtually every Republican councilor, but not Christine, sign on to sponsor a property tax increase.  This same group of Republican councilors is also pushing for a local option income tax increase of nearly 10%.  It is astonishing how far these councilors, and Republican Mayor Greg Ballard, have strayed from the fiscally conservative principles that won the election in 2007.

One thing though in particular caught my eye in Gary's article about Councilor Scales:
Incidentally, the Republican council leader, Mike McQuillen, who can't get enough of shooting spitballs at Scales during council meetings, used introductions at the beginning of the council meeting last night to introduce a guy by the name of Tim Craft. Keep an eye on this guy. The Republicans met behind closed doors and drafted Craft, an associate of CB Richard Ellis, to run against Scales in next year's Republican primary as punishment because she votes like, well, like a real Republican would vote. Of course, Craft's Democratic business associate at CB Richard Ellis, Gordon Hendry, who served in the Peterson administration, and his wife, Jennifer Wagner, did all they could to stop Ballard's election in 2007. They couldn't say enough bad things about candidate Ballard in 2007.
Councilor Mike McQuillen
So McQuillen and other Republicans are plotting to unseat Councilor Scales in the GOP primary with an associate of one of the biggest government contractors in the city, a beneficiary of Indy's well-polished pay-to-play system and all those increased taxes and fees on working men and women that Councilor Scales has fought so valiantly against.  But it is worse than even what Gary has portrayed.  With the new maps, Scales' northeast side district is far from being safe.  Republican operative David Brooks, who drew the maps, pegs the Republican baseline in the district at 55.12%.  But Brooks used 2010 which was an exceptionally good Republican year.  Using the 2012 election, I calculate a Republican baseline of only 50.38%.  Most likely the 2015 baseline will be somewhere between the two figures which makes it a very competitive district.

Councilor Scales is well-known in that district and by far the best suited to hold onto it despite the challenging demographics of the area.  Knocking her off in a primary would put an unknown Republican on the ballot and tip the balance to the Democrats. 
That McQuillen and his ilk would even contemplate doing this shows what is wrong with the establishment RINOs who have latched on to Mayor Greg Ballard's pay-to-play administration that is fueled by tax and fee increases, as well as reckless borrowing. They would rather lose a district to the Democrats, than have in a Republican in office who is a fiscal conservative and who stands up for taxpayers.  And that is precisely why those McQuillen and the other RINOS are, deservedly, heading for a huge election loss in 2015.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Chief of Staff Ryan Vaughn Repeats Lie About Indianapolis Property Tax Caps Causing Loss in Revenue

Pat Andrews of Had Enough Indy once again takes apart the numbers and catches city officials lying about the budget.  This time her fact checking snares Chief of Staff Ryan Vaughn:
Ryan Vaughn
... Chief of Staff (aka Mayor) Ryan Vaughn, is reported by John Tuohy of the IndyStar, as having said
Vaughn said tax collections have lagged since passage of property tax caps in 2008. Next year's property tax revenues will be $63 million less than in 2008 -- the homestead tax credit and the police tax were a couple of the only options the city has left to collect additional money, Vaughn said.
Come on Ryan.  Either you know you are pulling a fast one over the public, or you do not.  Neither option is adequate to transparency in government.

Vaughn specifically picked 2008 for a comparison because that was the last year before the tax caps program was fully implemented.  You don't have to talk to government officials very long before they are bemoaning tax caps.  I don't want to dismiss all of their claims out of hand.  But - and this is a big 'but' - they never seem to recall the massive amount of obligations that the State took over, funded by the 1 percent increase in State sales tax.

In the case of the City-County, the State of Indiana took over funding of specific obligations that used to cost the City-County over $113 M a year.  For instance, the famous pre-1977 police and fire pensions.  This pension had not had prudent payments made to it over the years and those public safety folks were beginning to retire in mass.  This is the financial cliff that Peterson was facing when he got the public safety tax raised.

So, when you subtract the $113 M a year from the 2008 property taxes, well then Mayor Ballard got quite a golden ticket from the State Legislature.  When you subtract that $113 M a year in obligations, AND account for tax cap penalties, the City-County collected just about $50 M more from property taxes in 2014 than in 2008.  Yes, I said MORE.
 Pat then goes on to provide a graph for those of us who like pictures:
Below is a graph showing the City-County total property tax levy and the net levy (total levy minus circuit breaker penalty) from 2008 through 2014. To simplify the jargon, the total levy is what they asked for, the net levy is what they got. The state took over City-County obligations in 2009 and the circuit breakers began to hit in 2010.
As you can see, the total property tax levy (what they asked for) and net levy (what they got) took a real jump in 2009 (The 2008 data is normalized for the $113M in City-County obligations taken over by the State in subsequent years so we can compare apples to apples.)  Without a doubt, the initial year of the tax caps was good for the resources of Indianapolis.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Liberals Blast Texas Governor Rick Perry Indictment, Criminalization of Political Differences

Many liberals are rejoicing in the indictment of Texas Governor Rick Perry for threatening (and then carrying out) a veto against continued funding of the "public integrity" division of Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg after her embarrassing driving while intoxicated arrest in which she was found to have a blood alcohol level of nearly three times the legal limit and was videotaped being extremely abusive to law enforcement officials while being booked.  The video (actually there are three, links for which can be found here) speaks for itself.
Texas Governor Rick Perry

Governor Perry thought DA Lehmberg was an embarrassment, had lost the confidence of the people., and should resign. When the budget bill came before him, he did a line item veto of funding for the "public integrity" activities of Lehmberg's office when Lehmberg refused to resign.

For exercising his constitutional prerogative to veto funding for Lehmberg's office, a Travis County special prosecutor unbelievably brought two felony charges against Governor Perry to a grand jury who indicted him this week.

First up is David Axelrod, a senior adviser to President Obama from 2009 to 2011 who tweeted:
“Unless he was demonstrably trying to scrap the ethics unit for other than his stated reason, Perry indictment seems pretty sketchy."
Other liberal Democrats took to Twitter to announce that the indictment of Perry was ludicrous, including Jonathan Prince and Matt Yglesias:
Have to say Perry indictment seems nuts. Gov has constitutional power to veto. Gov uses power. Grand jury indicts [because] they don't like reason?" Prince asked
"Hard for me to imagine these Rick Perry charges sticking," Yglesias wrote, adding, "Does anyone think this Perry indictment makes sense?"
Left-wing blogger Jonathan Chait also blasted the indictment in an column entitled "This Indictment Of Rick Perry Is Unbelievably Ridiculous."

Even the liberal leaning news outlet, ThinkProgress, which has long been a critic of Governor Perry, issued an editorial raising doubts about the validity of the Perry indictment.

On the academic front, three of the biggest names, Professors Alan Dershowitz, Jonathan Turley and Eugene Volokh were united in support of Perry.  First up is Prof. Dershowitz:

The indictment also outraged former Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, who nobody would accuse of being a conservative or a Republican.
...Dershowitz calls himself a "liberal Democrat who would never vote for Rick Perry," but he's still "outraged" over the Texas governor's indictment Friday on charges of abuse of power and coercion.

The charges are politically motivated and an example of a "dangerous" trend of courts being used to affect the ballot box and politics, he told Newsmax on Saturday. 

"Everybody, liberal or conservative, should stand against this indictment," Dershowitz said. "If you don't like how Rick Perry uses his office, don't vote for him."

 ...

  "This is another example of the criminalization of party differences," said Dershowitz, a prominent scholar on United States constitutional law and criminal law who writes the "Legally Speaking" column for Newsmax. "This idea of an indictment is an extremely dangerous trend in America, whether directed at [former House Majority Leader] Tom DeLay or [former President] Bill Clinton."
Further, Dershowitz said, such indictments are something that's done in totalitarian countries and should not be done in the United States.

In such countries, "if you don't like them, you indict," Dershowitz said. "In America, you vote against them...this should be up to the voters. There is no room in America for abuse of office charges, and this has to stop once and for all. This is a serious problem."

And indicting a politician, rather than fighting back through a ballot box, "is so un-American."
Dershowitz also told Newsmax Perry was well within his rights when he vetoed the money for Lehmberg's office, as he "saw a drunk serving as DA" who "shouldn't be enforcing criminal law.
UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh penned an article analyzing the Texas criminal statutes used to indict Governor Perry and concluded that indictment was improper.  Prof. Turley, who opined that Gov. Perry was wrong in threatening a veto of public integrity funding if DA Lehmberg refused to resign, nevertheless did not find a legal basis for turning a political dispute into a criminal matter.

Democrats are at risk at overplaying their hand, banking on a ridiculous indictment to smear Governor Perry, who is increasingly looking like a strong presidential candidate in 2016.   It's good though to see that some on the left though have the integrity to stand up and say that what is being done to Governor Perry is not supported by any rational interpretation of the law and is simply wrong.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Democratic Mayoral Candidate Ed Delaney Attacks Mayor Ballard's Pre-K Program As Inadequate, Poorly Thought Out

State Representative Ed Delaney today kicked off the 2015 mayoral election season with a press
Democratic Mayoral
Candidate Ed Delaney
conference in which the veteran Democratic lawmaker took aim at the Ballard administration's pre-K program, including Ballard's plan to fund it with the elimination of the local homestead property tax credit.  That approach, which would result in only some residents facing property tax hikes, also acts to raid tax revenue from school districts in Marion County.

In a press release following the conference, Delaney outlined his criticism of Ballard's program:

The Mayor’s pre-k proposal does too little and drains existing programs already under stress

o    By the Mayor's own estimate there are nearly 6,000 children in poverty who could benefit from decent pre-school education. His proposal would reach less than 25% of children in poverty. His proposal does nothing for the remaining 75% of children in poverty and nothing for those children whose parents cannot afford preschool.

o   The Mayor would finance his modest idea by taking funds away from public schools, public libraries, IndyGo Transit and Eskanazi Hospital. Let me repeat that: every cent of his proposal will result in harm to existing services including the tens of thousands of children in our public schools. This is robbing Peter to pay Paul.  In doing this the Mayor would eliminate a Homestead Credit that has benefited the schools and reduced taxes for homeowners. I am handing you a chart to show the exact costs to our schools and other public facilities. To take just one example, the Mayor will take $922,700 per year for 5 years from the Franklin Township Schools alone. That school system is already under financial stress. Note that in the process of cutting our schools and city services the Mayor would also increase taxes on homeowners by $3.7 million. 

The Mayor’s proposal does not help all the children who need help to attend pre-school

o   Pre-school is costly but it is money well spent. According to the Mayor's estimate it costs from $4700 to $7000 per year. His proposal would only help one of four poor children not now in pre-school. It would leave everyone above the poverty level to pay the full-cost of pre-school whether their parents make $35,000 or $350,000 a year. Such a program cannot be labelled "public" education, yet he would fund 75% of the cost of his program from public school dollars.

The Mayor’s proposal is driven by the Election Cycle not by good planning

o   The State is slowly beginning to create a structure to support preschool with state dollars. I am urging the Legislature to move more rapidly to fund a state-wide pre-school program. In the long run pre-school education will lower our crime rate and improve academic performance. It only succeeds if the approach is thoughtful and widespread. It should not be done in a hurry because the Mayor is facing an election.

o   The Mayor has been under siege over the murder rate in our capital city. It is only natural that he wants to respond. He is right that over the long haul pre-school education will lower our crime rate and strengthen our community. But we need to have a thoughtful approach to this long-term program. It simply cannot succeed if it is too small. It cannot generate support if it undercuts everything from school budgets to public transit and public health.

o   If the Mayor needs political cover, let him get it by engaging in a debate over how to fund pre-k, who gets help, what role the public schools will have and who will run the system. I am prepared to engage in that debate with the Mayor and the other Democrats seeking that office.

Will Seven Justice Center No Bid Consulting Contracts Worth $12 Million End Indianapolis Mayor Ballard's Political Career?

There was outrage last week when it was discovered that the administration of Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard had entered into a $750,000 no bid consulting contract with public relations and lobbying firm Bose Public Affairs Group.  It turns out that was the tip of the iceberg.  Diligent work by reporters unearthed six more no bid consulting contracts for the promotion of the Justice Center, contracts worth more than $12 million.  The IBJ details the contracts:
Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard
The largest contract, signed in February, is with architectural consultant Hellmuth, Obata & Kassabaum Inc., also known as HOK. The firm stands to make $4.7 million if the city closes on a deal for the justice center. That may include a closing bonus and finance charges on the deferred fees, according to the agreement. 

Financial consultant KPMG can earn up to $3 million, and that includes a potential bonus, or "success fee," if a deal closes. KPMG is working at a discounted rate of $212.50 per hour. If the deal closes, the bonus will be calculated with an hourly rate of $637.50. 

Legal consultant Bingham Greenebaum Doll's retainer is worth up to $1.5 million, but it can be amended if fees accrue beyond that amount. Deputy Mayor for Economic Development Deron Kintner, who entered the agreement with Bingham in October, used to work at Bingham's predecessor firm, Bingham McHale LLP.

Bingham's sub-consultant, Los Angeles-based Nossaman LLP, can earn up to $2.5 million, according to an agreement, also entered by Kintner in October.

Public relations and lobbying firm Bose Public Affairs Group is charging $750,000 in three installments. Bose senior consultant and former mayoral staffer John Cochran is working on the justice center project, communicating with City-County Council members and residents affected by the new courts and jail. The justice center is slated to be built on the site of the former General Motors stamping plant on the western edge of downtown.

There are also two smaller contracts, one with local building consultant John Klipsch, who could earn up to $100,000, and one with risk-management consultant Bickmore for up to $50,000.
(Emphasis was added.)
Think one of the consultants might advise the administration that the current plans for the Justice Center are not the best, well think again.  According to Ballard spokesman Marc Lotter:
It's not up to the consultants to advise against entering a deal, Lotter said. "They are providing the expert counsel to make it go forward," he said.
For 6 1/2 years, the Ballard administration has used projects such as this to enrich with our tax dollars government contractors, invariably also contributors to the Mayor's campaign.  But the consulting contracts the Ballard administration handed out this time with respect to the Justice Center are unprecedented, evidence that the Ballard pay-to-play practices are now on steroids.  There also appear to be people within the Ballard administration, without any apparent supervision by the Mayor, aggressively using their positions to enrich friends and supporters, one last desperate attempt to raid the public treasury before the lights mercifully go out on the Ballard administration forever.

The $12 million in no bid contracts also create a dynamite political issue for Ballard's Democratic opponent(s).  Those contracts could well prove to be the final nail in the coffin holding Ballard's political career.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Indianapolis Mayor Ballard's 2013 Finance Report Raises Questions As To Whether He Will Run for Re-Election in 2015

In early January of this year, the campaign of Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard filed its 2013 annual report with the Marion County Clerk's Office.  The report suggests questions as to whether Ballard intends to go to the post in 2015 as well as highlights a continuing "burn rate" problem.

Let's look at some comparable year reports which will highlight my point.  In particular, I looked at reports that were two years before the election, outside the election window, when an incumbent is supposed to be raising money and stashing it away for use in the election window.

Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard
Mayor Ballard 2013
Raised: $617,618
Spent:  $203,400
Burn Rate:  32.9%

Mayor Ballard 2009
Raised:  $831,080
Spent:  $377,579
Burn Rate:  45.4%

Mayor Peterson 2005
Raised: $1,338,354
Spent:  $272,487
Burn Rate:  20.4%

Let's crunch the numbers.  Ballard's two years out fundraising is down by 26.0% and spending is down 46.1%.  The latter is not necessarily a bad thing as a candidate is not supposed to spend a lot of money in an off year.  Former Mayor Peterson did it exactly correct in 2005, stashing away nearly 80% of every dollar his campaign brought in.

Contrary to the belief that he is a prolific fundraiser, Ballard raised only 46.1% of what Peterson raised in a comparable year.

Much of Ballard's spending has always gone to consultants.  In the 2009 report, Ballard, for inexplicable reasons, paid Hallowell Consulting, run by Jennifer Hallowell, $92,857.  That was down to "only" $52,000 in the 2013 report.   Such large payments to Hallowell, who is married to Marion County Republican Chairman Kyle Walker, were always strange given her spotty record as a consultant.  In 2007-2008, Hallowell acted as New Hampshire campaign manager for former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani.  Giuliani finished fourth in the Granite State with only 9% of the vote. When Giuliani later dropped out,, Hallowell ran John McCain's campaign in Indiana.  In 2008, McCain became the first Republican presidential candidate since 1964 to lose Indiana.

Most observers are certain Ballard will throw his hat in the ring for a third term. With former U.S. Attorney and Secretary of State Joe Hogsett waiting in the wings, I think a Ballard attempt at a third term in increasingly Democratic Indianapolis is far from a certainty.  I'm sticking with the odds being only 50-50 that Ballard will run again.