Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Republicans Behaving Badly: Rep. Buyer, Mayor Brainard and Mayor Thoman

This morning's Indianapolis Star contains three separate Republican elected officials involved in alleged misdeeds. First up is Representative Steve Buyer. Now I would really like to defend Rep. Buyer given how much I like his voting record and leadership. But there is no excusing his role in the Frontier Foundation set up in 2003 to offer scholarship to needy students which has raised $883,272 but has yet to help a single student. Rather the whole foundation seems aimed at paying for golf raising fundraisers (FYI, in the fundraising world, golf outings are not generally considered great fundraisers due to their high cost) at lavish resorts.

Buyer defends his role in the paper this morning while the Star editorializes that Buyer's charity needs to start acting, well, charitable. No matter how Rep. Buyer tries to spin it, there is no defense to a charity that raises nearly a million dollars and six years later has not spent a dime on helping students. Rep. Buyer showed bad judgment in the least. I would say, however, that Buyer's foundation is not the only such organization out there. The big scandal out there awaiting the IRS is how non-profits have used their status to bestow benefits and cushy salaries on officers and employees while doing little if anything to advance the cause for which the non-profit was established in the first place.

Next I turn my attention to Carmel and my least favorite Republican Mayor, the big-spending, big-borrowing Jim Brainard. Last night the Carmel Mayor and the city's engineer escaped a reprimand by the Council. The Mayor had purchased a piece of property worth more than $100,000, without council approval. State law requires that there be council approval for the purchase of any property valued over $25,000. The votes fell short 3-4 on the reprimand because the councilors voting against it just concluded that the Mayor just made a "mistake" and no further reprimand was needed.

Wow, I'd like to have those four councilors who voted "No" on a jury should I ever be prosecuted in Hamilton County. The fact is the $25,000 rule is extremely well-known. Mayor Brainard is in his fourth term. There is no way he did not know about it when he authorized the purchase of the $100,000 plus piece of property. He deliberately violated state law. There is no excuse. A public reprimand was the least that should have been done.

Finally my attention turns to Southport Mayor Robin Thoman. Mayor Thoman has been asked to resign by a unanimous vote of the Southport City Council. Mayor Thoman refused. The Council has authorized a fraud investigator to look at the city's financial records.

Like Mayor Brainard, the allegations are that Mayor Thoman did things behind the back of the the city's legislative body. Complaints out of Southport are that Thoman has spent tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars on politically-connected lawyers and law firms while laying off Southport's police force. Council members complain that other expenditures have been made without their knowledge and approval and that they have had difficulty getting information from the City. There are also allegations that Mayor Thoman hid a criminal record when running for office and on his application for a dental license.

I met Mayor Thoman within the first few days of his taking office. I thought he was going to be an "outsider" someone who would disdain the typical practice of mayors hiring hiring politically connected law firms which bilk taxpayers for hundreds of thousands of dollars in inflated legal fees, while kicking back some of that taxpayer money in the form of political contributions and support. My judgment proved poor. Mayor Thoman almost immediately upon taking office began playing the insider game, hiring Barnes & Thornburg and the GOP county chairman Tom John, also an attorney. Complaints out of Southport is that the bills of Mayor Thoman's politically connected attorneys have practically broken city finances.

When I started this blog, I vowed to call them like I see them. When a fellow Republican is out of line, he or she doesn't get a pass because of that person's political affiliation. I don't believe in moral relativism...that conduct of a Democrat that is wrong is somehow right if that conduct is done by a Republican. These three Republicans have committed wrongs and need to be called out by both Democrats AND Republicans. This Republican is doing just that.


Had Enough Indy? said...

I have a different view of Rep. Buyer's performance in office than you - but we agree that his purported scholarship Foundation only helped him golf at fancy resorts. At least the Star article on Sunday got him to admit it was his Foundation; in previous interviews with other papers he denied it. The Frontier Foundation also seems to have had an actively updated scholarship application, but no active scholarship program -- at least from the form 990-PFs they filed with the IRS.

Paul K. Ogden said...


I think where our views intersect is that even though we both have basically different political philosophies, we both believe in good, honest government. Both parties locally are very far away from our mutual goal of good, honest government.

The D's take over and they try to line their pockets with taxpayer money. The R's take over and they try to line their pockets with taxpayer money. For me it's really sad, because with the election of Ballard in 2007 there was a tremendous opportunity for a change in the elitist control of city government. Instead Mayor Ballard simply handed them the keys.

Had Enough Indy? said...

I agree - if you have principles, stand on them. Party first - nope. Fat cats first - nope. The community first - yes.

We used to have statesmen in both parties. Now you'd have to google that word to find out what it means.

Paul K. Ogden said...


It would be hard to overstate how angry some of the more reform minded Republicans are at the Mayor. Ballard promised us during the campaign he was one of us. On election night he promised an end to "country club politics."

Then Mayor Ballard proceeded to surround himself with people who were simply interested in seeing how much they could cash in during the next four years. They have no expectation whatsoever that he will be re-elected. They have sold out not only the Mayor but the entire Marion County GOP. We could have solidified a majority in the county by pushing a reform agenda that separates Republicans from the D's. Instead now it will be decades before voters trust Republicans again to run this county.

Had Enough Indy? said...

Unless, of course, the Legislature can be convinced to remove the at-large seats....

I agree that candidate Ballard bears absolutely no resemblance to mayor Ballard. I'm guessing we'll see a third Ballard in a re-election campaign.

Paul K. Ogden said...

Even removing the at-large seats won't let the GOP hold onto the council in 2011. It would help a bit, but it's not enough. The county is fairly strongly Democrat and Ballard and the Council which has blindly followed him on so many foolish issues, has ticked off the Republican base.

Doug said...

I'm surprised reform-minded activists in Indianapolis aren't in complete despair. With the election of Mayor Ballard, they pulled off an upset of stunning proportions. They ousted an Establishment Democrat with a Republican who had little to no support from the party bosses - he didn't seem to owe anyone (except the reform minded activists) anything. And then, as his oath of office was still echoing, he goes running to the party bosses and the Indy Establishment.

Good luck fighting the good fight, in any case.

Paul K. Ogden said...

Doug, I think "complete despair" pretty much sums up the feeling of reform-minded activists when it comes to Ballard's performance in office. You're right...it was a golden opportunity that he let get away. Your description of what happened is 100% accurate.