Tuesday, April 7, 2009

New Chief of Staff for Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard?

The new blog Indianapolis Times reports that Deputy Mayor Nick Weber and Chief of Staff Paul Okeson are on their way out at City Hall.

That is not surprising news. Turnover in those types of positions happen a lot. What I find most disconcerting is the suggestion that current head of City Legal Chris Cotteril, a former Barnes & Thornburg attorney, might be taking over as Chief of Staff.

By far one of the weaker links in the Mayor's Office has been the poor quality of legal work and advice coming from City Legal, which I think is due chiefly to the failure of the Mayor to put into supervisory positions experienced attorneys. Chris Cotterill had less than five years experience (I don't think any in litigation) when he was appointed head of entire City Legal, which is made up of approximately 27 attorneys, bigger than most law firms in town. Jonathan Mayes, who had two years experience, was appointed head of the litigation division of City Legal. As any trial attorney will tell you, there is no substitute for actual experience when it comes to litigation, even more so when you're supervising other attorneys involved in litigation. Now as someone with 21 1/2 years legal experience, I can't imagine supervising a team of trial attorneys when I only had 2 years of litigation experience.

I've been advised by friends that Cotterill is a good person and have no doubt that is true. But, the Mayor, as someone very inexperienced in politics and inexperience that is showing in virtually every move he makes, desperately needs experienced individuals around him who won't hesitate to give him honest political advice that challenges that of a Bob Grand, Joe Loftus and others who know their way around the 25th Floor and seem more interested in helping their clients than looking out for the Mayor's political future. Chris Cotterill does not appear to be the experienced, unconflicted advisor Mayor Ballard desperately needs.


Patriot Paul said...

This is a slap in the face of Hoosiers who just rallied against conflicts and perceived conflicts of interests. Did they not hear us? Apparently, it will take more than rhetoric to convince them that business as usual should not prevail.

Downtown Indy said...

If ever there was a department that SHOULD have an outsider brought in, this is it.

OK, so there's no guarantee it wouldn't be another character like the one we just got for the airport, but really, the inbreeding in city operations is beyond comprehension.

jabberdoodle said...

I have to say that I think Chris Cotterill very well might be one of the 'good guys' in the Ballard administration.

In two matters of importance to neighborhoods, he listened and ended up taking the actions that were beneficial. One was to continue to insist that the Pinnacle billboards come down, after the long legal fight waged by the Peterson administration. The other was to beef up the staff of attorneys in his office who prosecute code violations in order to release the logjam that was occurring at this step of the process.

In the couple of conversations I've had with Cotterill personally, I took him to be a person who listens actively and whose opinion can be changed with a good argument.

He'd be a good pick for Chief of Staff in my book.

Paul K. Ogden said...


The chief problem with Cotterill isn't that he's not a "good guy." It's the lack of experience.

City Legal has gone down a lot of foolish roads under Ballard, which I attribute to the inexperience of City Legal.

More importantly though to the issue at hand is that experience gives you is the ability to stand up to older, more experienced individuals. Do you really think Cotterill will stand up to Bob Grand or Joe Loftus? It doesn't mattter how good of a guy he is, he simply does not have the experience to do that. I'm not saying that he wouldn't be capable of doing that down the road. But, he simply doesn't have the experience right now to stand up to those in the Mayor's administration that do not have the Mayor's best interests at heart. I can't think of a bigger role that a Chief of Staff has than that.

jabberdoodle said...


I'd say that its up to Ballard to stand up to Loftus or Grand - the two names most often uttered in response to the question "who is the real Mayor of Indianapolis?".

And, at the end of the day, if Cotterill is the next Chief of Staff, one of us will be surprised at his abilities. I think he could rise to the occasion. But, one can only really wait and see what happens.

Veering off topic a bit... It crossed my mind today about the Mayoral succession priority set back in the Peterson administration. Isn't the Chief of Staff next in line now? Not trying to give you heartburn, just wondering.