Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Open Records Request for Mayor's Transition Contract

I have heard disturbing reports from several Republicans who were close to candidate Greg Ballard and worked on his campaign that after his election the Mayor-elect signed a contract with for the law firm Barnes & Thornburg to handle his transition. The story is that in the contract the Mayor completely ceded all authority to run the transition and organize the executive department of the city to Barnes & Thornburg. Republicans who went to Ballard because of concerns over how the transition was being handled were told by the Mayor-elect that he could not interfere because of the contract he signed which gave exclusive authority to Barnes & Thornburg.

I am a great believer in open records and sunshine on government operations. When people in government insist on operating in secrecy it is almost always because they are doing something wrong and often self-serving. If there is a transition contract out that may have led to one law firm dominating city government and using the firm's position to benefit clients at the expense of taxpayers (which certainly appears to be the case,) people have a right to know. Republicans have the most to lose by having these embarrassing exposures taking place in 2011 rather than in 2009, when those problems can be addressed. If the GOP is going to have any chance to win the Mayor's office and retain a majority on the council in 2011, Mayor Ballard needs to fix the embarassing the problems with his administration now. Those problems originated with the transition and have continued since.

I know that if the below request were privately made, it would be ignored and I would spend weeks fighting to get my hands on the contract. For that reason, I am making my open records request public. We need honesty and full disclosure. No more excuses.

Paul K. Ogden
Attorney at Law
3525 W. 55th Street
Indianapolis, IN 46228
Phone: (317) 297-9720

January 14, 2009

Mayor Greg Ballard
City-County Building, 25th Floor
Indianapolis City-County Building
Indianapolis, IN 46204

RE: Open Records Request for Barnes & Thornburg Transition Contract

Dear Mayor Ballard:

Pursuant to Indiana's Open Records Law, IC 5-14-3 et seq, I am requesting the following:

A copy of any contract(s) signed by you (or your representative) with the law firm Barnes & Thornburg for work done during the transition period between your election on November 6, 2007 and your assumption of the Mayor's office on January 1, 2008, which contract(s) includes but is not limited to the work performed by said law firm partners, associates or contractors in setting up and organizing the executive department of the government of the City of Indianapolis.
If you are claiming the document requested is subject to an exception to the Indiana Open Records Law, please identify that exception and provide an explanation as to why you believe the exception applies.

Because this request is being made by mail, IC 5-14-3-9(b) provides that you have seven days to respond.


Paul K. Ogden
Attorney at Law


Anonymous said...

It's mind boggling to count up all the tax dollars that are funneled into the pockets of Barnes & Thornburg lawyers. You might even say that we're funding our own demise.

Anonymous said...

Good luck getting production or enforcement. That absolute half-wit America-hating Nazi, Heather Neal, over at the Public Access Counselor, makes it her life's work to obstruct the disclosure of public documents.

Diana Vice said...

The Public Access Counselor cannot enforce anything. It's just a hoop one has to jump through to get to the court system. Heather Neal can only offer advisory opinions; she cannot enforce them.

Anon, what evidence do you have that she hates America?

Paul K. Ogden said...

Anon 10:02 - A lot of it is indirect. The key is not the contracts B&T has with the city for legal representation, but that their lawyers are in a position to influence where the contracts go, i.e. to their clients.

Anon 8:12 - I've had trouble with Heather Neal in the past. The problem is that she will take whatever is said by the agency as true without going back to the complainant for a response. She claims she doesn't have time to get a reply from the complainant after the agency has responded. That's standard operating procedure in the legal world.

Diana, you're right. I don't think I would want to give her enforcement power anyway. The problem is not that she's doing advisory opinions (I'm okay with that), the problem is she simply accepts as 100% true whatever the respondent (usually an agency) says and writes up her opinion based on that.

I agree...I don't have any evidence Heather Neal hates America. I don't think she handles complaints correctly - see above.

Diana Vice said...

I had a similar situation occur when I filed a complaint against the Rossville School District. Four years ago I had asked for copies of checks written to Tremco for the $700,000 roof job taxpayers overpaid for. The Superintendent wrote a letter saying no such public record existed. I believe he was trying to cover up the fact that he entered into an illegal bidding contract. Anyway, the PAC bought his deceitful explanation hook, line, and sinker. Then, two years later, I asked for the same records and received them. The date on the check proves that those same records existed the first time I had asked for them. The Superintedent's response to the PAC when I filed the second complaint was that the check was written to Weatherproofing Technologies, and not to Tremco. The PAC didn't even bother to check it out to see if it was actually true and issued an opinion based on the misinformation that the superintendent provided. I wrote her back and asked her to take a close look at the check. It was made out to "TREMCO/Weatherproofing Technolgies." She told me she'd put it in the file. What good will that do?!!! Her official opinion makes no mention of the superintendents misinformation, and once again a public official got by with a blatant disregard of Indiana's public access laws.

I needed these records to defend myself against a SLAPP lawsuit. It's not in the public interest for the PAC to take the word of the public official. Sometimes what they say is not true as was proven in my case.

I think the PAC ought to practice what Ronald Reagan preached:


That would certainly be a step in the rigt direction, unless, of course, the real goal isn't to make public access easier.

Anonymous said...

As an experienced lawyer, I believe Barnes & Thornburg took advantage of Mayor-Elect Greg Ballard's fear and lack of experience when he was elected.


2012 can't come too soon. Barnes & Thornburg will downsize that year after the Republicans lose [both] the city and the state and it will be what they deserve. It's a shame though, because the Dems are no better; but we republicans were supposed to step up and do things the right way--weren't we Mayor Ballard?

Now ALL republicans will suffer!

Boy, did we make a mistake supporting Greg Ballard for Mayor of OUR city.

Paul K. Ogden said...

Anon 1:56,

Regarding your comment:

"As an experienced lawyer, I believe Barnes & Thornburg took advantage of Mayor-Elect Greg Ballard's fear and lack of experience when he was elected."

BINGO!!!!! You are the winner.