Sunday, July 25, 2010

Council Committee Chair Refuses Public Comment on Pacers' Deal

I had plans last week to attend the meeting of the Municipal Corporations Committee meeting. The Capital Improvement Board had been summoned to come before the committee and to explain the need for the Pacers deal and what was involved in the $33.5 million giveaway.

In preparation for the Tuesday meeting, I put together a power point handout consisting of ten pages where I went through and did a legal analysis the Early Termination provision in the 1999 Pacers contract. I also included at the back of the handout a few pages of the contract which showed where I obtained the information.

My legal analysis, which was picked up by the Indianapolis Business Journal, has never been challenged by anyone, including attorneys from the City or the CIB. That analysis showed how the two penalty formulas in the contract worked and that the penalty was in fact $130 million not the "about $20 million or so" penalty that CIB officials had represented to the public and the media.

During the almost hour long presentation to the committee, several councilors, including committee chair Barb Malone and Democrats Jackie Nytes and Dane Mahern, repeatedly asked Paul Okeson, CIB Treasurer and chief "negotiator" on the Pacer deal, what the penalty would have been if the team had exercised the early termination option. Okeson kept avoiding the question, saying he wasn't an attorney and it was unclear what the penalty would have been since the team could set off loans and losses against the penalty.

Let's assume the unlikely scenario that Okeson truly did not know what the contractual penalty was. Why in the world would someone go into negotiations and not know the most critical factor affecting the leverage the Pacers might to insist on renegotiating the contract?

After the nearly hour long conversation, Chair Malone asked if there was any "public comment." I got up to talk. When Malone saw it was me, she apparently suddenly realized I was about to publicly contradict Okeson's testimony with verifiable facts from the contract. Malone suddenly changed her mind about public comment. I pleaded for just two minutes to address the committee and she still refused.

Lest anyone think this was all Barb Malone, I clearly saw Councilor Nytes shaking her head when I asked for two minutes to address the committee. Nytes had been the most persistent asking legal questions about what the penalties were under the current contract. Yet when presented with an attorney who had done a legal analysis of the very contractual provision she had repeatedly asked about and not been given answers, Nytes did not want to hear the information. Her supposed anger at the Pacers $33.5 million giveaway appears and questions regarding what the penalty would have been apparently was nothing more than an act.

It's a shame that our elected councilors, as well as the major newspaper in town, the Indianapolis Star, go out of their way to remain in the dark when it comes to the facts regarding the ability of the Pacers to walk away from their contract. The penalty was $130 million.

At the conclusion of his presentation, Okeson said that it was not well-known that the Simons actually had an offer to move the team. Yeah, right. Okeson, the CIB and City officials defrauded Indianapolis taxpayers to the tune of $33.5 million. The Pacers, facing a $130 million penalty, were going nowhere.

13 comments:

Downtown Indy said...

And yet, they allow 'Crazy Larry' to rant for several minutes anytime he steps up to the microphone.

Indy Student said...

I've said it before, and I'll say it again. The leaders of this council do not care to hear what the public thinks. This was most obvious to me during the guns-in-parks debate where it was a dozen or so supporters who spoke (with many more in the crowd) and two who spoke against it, and the committee took the back door and vote to "table" rather than an up or down vote.

Had Enough Indy? said...

We need to get hold of a copy of the Council rules of procedure. If public comment is solely at the discretion of the chair, then the public needs to push for a change.

Advance Indiana said...

This is just another one of the reasons, Paul, why I will make sure useless councilors like Barb Malone are defeated in the next election. She wouldn't be on the council if it weren't for the grassroots activists who swung the at-large races for 3 of the Republican candidates. She didn't deserve to win. She was the worst of the four candidates by far. She isn't even really a Republican. She tried to run as a Democrat and they told her to get lost. She probably didn't want to allow public comment because she couldn't wait that long until her next drink. Didn't she get let go from her state job?

Advance Indiana said...

I should add that Tom John deliberately made no effort to field a strong slate of at-large candidates in the 2007 election or a strong mayoral candidate because he had made a deal ahead of time to quietly assist Bart Peterson in his re-election bid. The tax revolt in 2007 didn't erupt until after the May primary when it was too late to get stronger candidates. Tom John only campaigned for one of the at-large candidates and that was Kenty Smith, who was also pretty useless councilor. He didn't even last a full term. Ed Coleman got pissed off and bolted to the Libertarian Party. None of the Republican at-large candidates will win in 2011.

Advance Indiana said...

That's Kent Smith, not Kenty.

Indy Student said...

Who was the one At-Large Republican who lost?

Think Council Rules can be obtained via an e-mail request or do I need to file a public records request?

HOOSIERS FOR FAIR TAX said...

They are like pro wrestlers and their posturing, an act.

Advance Indiana said...

Michael Hegg was the only at-large Republican candidate who lost. He was also the only decent candidate of the four. He worked his butt off for Ballard and got shit on like so many of us.

Citizen Kane said...

From the Revised Code of the City of Indianapolis - I assume that this applies to the committees also, but I do know for sure - See Section (a) 4. below. But the bottom line is that they do not care what we think. Is it worth filing a complaint with the State Public Access Counselor?

Sec. 151-47. - Addresses to the council by others than members.

(a)

No person other than a member or officer of a council shall be permitted to address a council during its meeting except as provided in this rule as follows:

(1)

The president may recognize any distinguished guest under "introduction and recognition of guests and visitors" and permit a two-minute response to the introduction;

(2)

The president may permit any city or county officer or employee to address the council in response to a question or request for information by a member of the council; such person's response shall be limited to two (2) minutes;

(3)

Any member of a council desiring that someone be heard that is denied the floor by these rules or the president, may move to allow such person to address the council. The motion shall state the person to be heard, the subject to which the discussion will be limited and the time to be granted the speaker. The motion shall require a second; it shall be privileged and immediately put to vote without debate. The motion shall be carried only if receiving a vote of a majority of the members of the council. If the motion is carried, the person shall be permitted to address the council in accordance with the motion;

(4)

If an item of business before a council is one for which a notice of public hearing has been given, the president shall inquire before stating the question whether members of the public desire to be heard on that item. If any person indicates a desire to be heard, the president shall recognize such person. The committee of the whole council may, by majority vote, impose reasonable limits upon the time and number of persons to be allowed to speak.

(b)

Any member of the public having been properly granted the privilege of the council floor for purposes of offering comment or testimony on a particular proposal or issue before the council must speak to that issue. Any member of the council, having been recognized by the president, may question the relevancy of comment or testimony being given by members of the public by asking the president to rule on the germaneness of such comment or testimony. The president may also rule on germaneness without request. All such decisions of the president may be challenged and sustained or overruled by a simple majority vote.

(G.O. 68, 1988, § 6; G.O. 144, 1993, § 1)

Sec. 151-58. - Parliamentary authority.

All meetings of a council and its committees shall be conducted in accordance with the procedures set forth in "Robert's Rules of Order, Newly Revised," except where a different procedure is required by state law, this Code or other ordinances of the city-county council. A majority of the members of the council shall decide all matters of procedure not covered by the authorities stated in this section.

(G.O. 68, 1988, § 6)

Citizen Kane said...

Sec. 151-47. - Addresses to the council by others than members.

(a)

No person other than a member or officer of a council shall be permitted to address a council during its meeting except as provided in this rule as follows:

(1)

The president may recognize any distinguished guest under "introduction and recognition of guests and visitors" and permit a two-minute response to the introduction;

(2)

The president may permit any city or county officer or employee to address the council in response to a question or request for information by a member of the council; such person's response shall be limited to two (2) minutes;

(3)

Any member of a council desiring that someone be heard that is denied the floor by these rules or the president, may move to allow such person to address the council. The motion shall state the person to be heard, the subject to which the discussion will be limited and the time to be granted the speaker. The motion shall require a second; it shall be privileged and immediately put to vote without debate. The motion shall be carried only if receiving a vote of a majority of the members of the council. If the motion is carried, the person shall be permitted to address the council in accordance with the motion;

(4)

If an item of business before a council is one for which a notice of public hearing has been given, the president shall inquire before stating the question whether members of the public desire to be heard on that item. If any person indicates a desire to be heard, the president shall recognize such person. The committee of the whole council may, by majority vote, impose reasonable limits upon the time and number of persons to be allowed to speak.

(b)

Any member of the public having been properly granted the privilege of the council floor for purposes of offering comment or testimony on a particular proposal or issue before the council must speak to that issue. Any member of the council, having been recognized by the president, may question the relevancy of comment or testimony being given by members of the public by asking the president to rule on the germaneness of such comment or testimony. The president may also rule on germaneness without request. All such decisions of the president may be challenged and sustained or overruled by a simple majority vote.

(G.O. 68, 1988, § 6; G.O. 144, 1993, § 1)

Sec. 151-58. - Parliamentary authority.

All meetings of a council and its committees shall be conducted in accordance with the procedures set forth in "Robert's Rules of Order, Newly Revised," except where a different procedure is required by state law, this Code or other ordinances of the city-county council. A majority of the members of the council shall decide all matters of procedure not covered by the authorities stated in this section.

(G.O. 68, 1988, § 6)

american patriot said...

>>Is it worth filing a complaint with the State Public Access Counselor?

All he can do is place them on double secret probation, the office has no teeth to bite with. A local reporter filed a complaint about a town violating the bid opening laws for public contracts, the PAC said yes they are wrong but it's just a procedural matter. Well, speeding is a procedural matter since you are only going faster than what the signs say and you didn't cause an accident, so why pay a fine?

Paul K. Ogden said...

I'm sorry I missed these comments while I was away on my trip.

By the way, I meant "Paul" not "John" Okeson.