Monday, December 22, 2008

Dear Mayor: "If You Want a Friend in Politics, Get a Dog."

During the course of my interview with the Star for the article , "When Ballard Won, So Did Law Firm," I was asked the "so what" question. The question was "so what" if one law firm, in this case, Barnes & Thornburg, dominates the current City administration.? What is the danger in that?

Well, the answer I gave did not make the cut, understandably given the amount of detail the reporter had on the subject. The answer is that having one law firm essentially come in and take over an administration, as Barnes & Thornburg partners Bob Grand and Joe Loftus have done with Mayor Ballard's administration, is to compromise the independence the Mayor needs in his decision-making. The Mayor needs to know that the advice he is receiving is impartial and objective, and not tainted by consideration private attorneys give to promoting their client's interests. Grand and Loftus have positioned themselves in the administration not just to get their law firm legal fees, but more importantly to control the fountain of government contracts that emanate from the 25th Floor.

Would Grand and Loftus make decisions to promote the interests of their firm's clients at the expense of the Mayor's political future? Well, Exhibit A is the Venture Real Estate John Bales no-bid contract that, in return for Bales advising to the Mayor on which city properties to sell, will give Bales, a client of Barnes & Thornburg, the exclusive right to commissions from those sales. To combine the consulting and marketing functions in such a plan is abysmal public policy. But the most important thing is that the move is a political disaster for the Mayor. The Democrats will, rightfully, wrap that issue around the Mayor's neck the next election. They had a choice on the 25th Floor to do something for a client of Barnes & Thornburg or to protect the political future of the Mayor. The client's interests won out and we Republicans are going to pay dearly for that choice.

Bob Grand would like for people to believe he had nothing to do with that contract, which since he is Bales' attorney and a top adviser to the Mayor, requires a suspension of common sense. The article, after all, points out though that Grand and Loftus sit in on weekly staff meetings. Why would Loftus, a lobbyist, and Grand, who supposedly is only an unpaid, unofficial adviser to the Mayor, be sitting in on the Mayor's meetings with his key personnel? Their presence inhibits the development and implementation of good, objective policy. When a private lawyer sits in on a meeting like that, the clients that lawyer represent in private practice are also sitting at the table. Mayor Ballard needs to kick Grand and Loftus, whose law firm has numerous clients with interests before the Mayor, out of these weekly staff meetings. While there are occasions for outside counsel or a lobbyist to attend a meeting, it is certainly not weekly meetings the Mayor has with his staff.

Mayor Ballard seems to believe that Grand and Loftus are only helping him out of the kindness of their heart and because they want to do what is in the best interests of the people of Indianapolis. The Mayor needs to be more politically savvy than that. The Mayor has been befriended because he is in an enormously powerful position and can do favors for lots of people. To paraphrase President Harry Truman, "Mayor if you want a friend in politics, get a dog." The fact the Mayor has fallen prey to this elementary political mistake speaks volumes about the need for this politically-inexperienced mayor to have a strong political adviser, one who comes unencumbered by outside interests, and who will tell him what is in his best interests, even when that advice runs counter to the Barnes & Thornburg partners.

Where did the Mayor lose his way? One only has to look at the transition. Bob Grand went in and seized power immediately. People who were part of Ballard's campaign and had been asked to be part of the transition, were pushed aside by Grand who did not return their phone calls or tell them when the transition team was meeting. Anyone who was independent-minded and strong-willed, and who might actually question what Grand and Loftus were doing, were not going to be part of the new administration.

As a result, the Mayor, a Marine, left many of his soldiers who had fought so valiantly for him on the battlefield. When a Marine goes on a mission, it is with the knowledge that the Marine won't be left behind. There is still time for the Mayor to live up to that Marine philosophy. Those men and women who helped him get elected are still out there on the field of battle, waiting for the Mayor to come back and get them. Let's hope he does so soon.


Anonymous said...

Paul, you are so right.

If Mayor Ballard had done to his soldier what he did to his volunteers and campaign workers he'd be "court-martialed".

Not only did he leave his troops on the battlefield after they helped him win this election he appointed the campaign enemies of his troops to high level boards, commissions and city administration jobs. Of course all this happened because Grand shoved them all aside, therefore campaign enemies were not screened out, but actually placed throughout the administration to serve at the please of
Bob Grand and Joe Loftus.

Ballard needs to wake up fast to B&T otherwise not only is he going to lose the election, but I guarantee you he'll end up with some indictments/convictions in the future...ignorance is no excuse, he'll be held accountable in the end...not B&T.

Leslie Sourwine said...

Now I understand how private jails violate the rights of inmates and get away with it. Indeed they have nothing to fear with the attorney firm that represents the jail owners sitting next to the Mayor. I am also getting a full understanding why the Mayor did not respond to our communications to him concerning police misconduct and the problems the inmates are having getting important medical care.
This situation is a win-win-win-lose situation. The Mayor wins, the BBT Law Firm Wins, the CCA Corporation wins, and the taxpayers lose. When Ballard was elected many of the taxpayers in Indy thought that they were bringing in new blood, uncorrupted by big corporations and big law firms. Having been on top of the inmate situation and learning first hand that the problems at the jail are continuing unabated my personal opinion is that the Indianapolis taxpayers are going to find out that the new blood is possibly tainted as well.

Leslie Sourwine
The Police Complaint Centr