Monday, May 17, 2010

Councilor Ryan Vaughn Brings Brizzi-Style Ethics to the Council

Make no mistake about it. Were it not for Councilor Ryan Vaughn's job as Barnes & Thornburg attorney and lobbyist for B&T clients, he would not be President of the Council today. He certainly has demonstrated no political skill that woudl warrant his rise to the position. Vaughn was pushed to the top so that Barnes & Thornburg would have as much control over the Council that the law firm has over the Mayor's Office.

Vaughn's job on the Council includes protecting the interests of B&T clients. You can bet that B&T is selling to its clients, and prospective clients, the political influence the firm wields by having an attorney of the firm running the city's legislative branch.

In the water/sewer utilities sale, Councilor Vaughn is once again showing he will ignore ethics rules in order to defend the interests of his his firm's clients. Gary Welsh of Advance Indiana outlines the conflict of interest Ryan Vaughn has deliberately ignored:

City-County Council President Ryan Vaughn continues in his efforts to ram through a plan to transfer the utilities currently owned by the City of Indianapolis to Citizens Energy, a public benefit corporation owned by the residents of Marion County, in a deal that forces the utility to pay $263 million to the City to finance pork barrel projects supported by Mayor Ballard and the Republican-led council, and that forces on Citizens a one-sided operating agreement that allows the client of Vaughn's law firm (Veolia) to continue operating the water utility. ....The Democrats have asked that more time be spent studying the deal, which has been before the council for all of about 60 days. "How can you vote not to continue to talk about the deal?" Vaughn, the conflicted Republican leader is quoted as telling the Star's Francesa Jarosz. The real question is why Vaughn is even speaking out about the deal since his law firm's client stands to continue making more than $40 million a year managing the water utility.

Make no mistake about it, if the council votes to approve the transfer and the $170 bond issue to fund the pork barrel projects tonight, the deal has moved beyond the control of the council and is exclusively within the hands of Mayor Ballard, who has demonstrated his desire to do whatever bidding he can do to further the interests of Barnes & Thornburg's clients rather than the public interest. Mayor Ballard's administration has already said it will borrow $140 million to fund its pork barrel projects prior to next year's election regardless of whether the utility transfer deal is approved using PILOT revenues from the sewer utility. Jarosz continues to ignore the blatant conflict of interest with which Vaughn is confronted despite the fact that council Democrats raised it at a hearing of the Rules & Public Policy Committee last week. ...
Ryan Vaughn worked in Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi's Office. Vaughn has apparently learned a thing or two working for Carl Brizzi. Like Brizzi, Vaughn is ignoring any appearance of impropriety and conflict of interest in leveraging his position for selfish interests. Vaughn's defense that he is not a B&T partner is laughable. His job at B&T is to promote the interests of the law firm clients, including Veolia. Imagine if Vaughn took a position against Veolia's interests. The fact that he couldn't do as a B&T attorney demonstrates that he has a conflict of interest in voting on any issue involving Veolia.

With Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi soon to fade from the local political scene, Ryan Vaughn becomes the poster-child representing what is wrong with Marion County GOP politics. Mired in a significant minority, Republicans cannot continue to win locally emulating the ethical and conflic of interest problems that plagued Democrats when they ran Indianapolis government. One good thing about the upcoming election disaster (for Republicans) of 2011 is that Vaughn's reign as Council President will end and his fading into political obscurity will begin.


Marycatherine Barton said...

I would bet good money that Ogden is right about Vaughn's stay as Council President.

Nicolas Martin said...

My first estimation of Vaughn was formed when I noticed that, in a non-election year, his email address was (which it still is). Few things are more detestable than a person defined by his political ambitions.

Citizen Kane said...

Watch the end of the May 17, 2010 council meeting when Vaughn dismisses Brian Mahern's very legitimate comment that announcing that the PILOT theft was a public hearing, without it being shown as a public hearing on the agenda, prevented people from attending and speaking, since they would have believed there would be no purposed in doing so.

Frankly, I was incensed watching it. Of course, there was no public comment, no one expected that there would be a chance for any. Despite the inappropriate procedure, the Council, of course, went ahead and voted, as if public notice of a public hearing was irrelevant.