Thursday, May 13, 2010
Agreed: Paul Okeson Needs to Resign From the CIB
Over at Advance Indiana, Gary Welsh has an interesting article about the need for Paul Okeson, lead "negotiator" with the Pacers, to resign from the Capital Improvement Board because of conflicts of interest and his total disregard for the interests of taxpayers in his attempt to give the Pacers millions more of his money.
I totally agree. Having Okeson represent the public against the Pacers is a little like putting John Dillinger in charge of counting the money in the the bank vault then wondering why stacks of cash are missing. Okeson, a former Mayor Ballard Chief of Staff who went from that job to one with city contractor Keystone Construction, has made it clear from the beginning that his role on the board is to find some way of getting the billionaire Simons family $15 million more of our tax money...strike that, it's up to $18 milion now.
Worse yet is the dishonest approach Okeson (and CIB President Ann Lathrop) has taken to these negotiations. There has been no demand for a financial accounting from the Pacers. When the CIB saw a public backlash to its plan, it hired a former Indianapolis insider, a hospitality industry activist to prepare a "homer" report to back up what it was trying to do. Even the Indianapolis Star, which is starting to show signs it might regain an investigative edge, wasn't fooled by this approach. In an editorial this morning the Star criticized the attempt to use the insider report (although the Star reported the claims in the report a couple days earlier without question.)
The CIB shouldn't even be at the negotiating table with the Pacers. The team has no leverage to argue for an early termination of the contract. The Early Termination provision in the Conseco Fieldhouse contract would require the Pacers pay a penalty of over $150 million should they terminate it early. (The Early Termination provision doesn't let the Pacers simply pick up and move after 10 years - the team has to be losing money, selling the team and relocating before the team could even break the 20 year contract at which point the penalty provisions apply.)
The CIB and Okeson though have repeatedly ignored the actual language of the Conseco Fieldhouse contract and instead plowed ahead in "negotiations." Now, faced with repeated media questions over the failure to consider the $150 million penalty, Okeson and the CIB apparently now are willing to make the unsupported claim that the Pacers are entitled to a set off of losses against that penalty. Given the horribly written Termination Provision that is one single spaced paragraph over three pages of the contract, who is going to check if it's in there, right?
Okeson has repeatedly shown he doesn't care one whit about doing what's right for the taxpayers of Indianapolis. He cares about giving the Pacers $18 million more of our tax dollars and is willing to misrepresent, ignore and distort the facts to accomplish that goal. Paul Okeson needs to go.