Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Nuvo Calls Out Indianapolis Star For Ignoring "Sleaze" of ACS Parking Deal

It's a shame Nuvo's news editor Austin Considine doesn't have the resources that the Indianapolis Star does. If he did, he'd give that daily a run for its money. On Wednesday, Considine blogged about "sleaze" in the ACS deal and facts the Star conveniently overlooks:
Recent reporting by bloggers and the Indiana Business Journal has underscored another sleazy connection between ACS, the company chosen by the Ballard administration to take over city parking, and — well, the Ballard administration.

The connections between ACS, a Xerox-owned company based in Dallas, and Indiana politics is a subject we've explored here at length (for just one item from of our past coverage, read here). In brief, ACS was a key subcontractor that ran calling centers and other things when Mitch Daniels tried (and failed) to privatize state welfare — a $1 billion-plus deal with IBM that was, ultimately, a complete disaster.

Even after Daniels fired IBM, ACS was kept on as a subcontractor. Critics, including us, pointed to the fact that the head of Indiana's Family and Social Services Administration (FSSA) at the time, which handles state welfare services like food stamps, medicaid, etc., was none other than Mitch Roob — a former high-level executive from ACS. Roob, despite having helped engineer a deal that cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars, got promoted to head of the Indiana Economic Development Corporation.

Now the city of Indianapolis wants to hire ACS to take over its parking meters and some lots and garages for 50-years, in a no-default
contract. It begged a lot of questions to say the least.
Considine then goes on to quote my blog for having pointed out what is public record yet steadfastly ignored by the Indianapolis Star - that Joe Loftus, who is on the public payroll as an adviser to the Mayor and lobbyist for the City, also lobbies for his client, ACS. Cue the sarcastic Saturday Night Live Church Lady line: "How convenient." Loftus was directly involved in the hiring of all the top people on the 25th Floor, including Michael Huber, lead negotiator on the ACS deal, yet now we're supposed to believe Loftus had no influence regarding the selection of his long-time client, ACS, for a 50 year no bid contract. I recall the words of former State Republican Chairman Rex Early's response when asked to accept some BS he was told as true, "I was born at night, just not last night." How stupid does Loftus think we are?

Returning to Considine's blog post he illustrates how in a story in today's online Indianapolis Star, the newspaper went out of their way to avoid mentioning how much money ACS profited from the failed FSSA deal:

...New numbers have emerged with regard to the failed IBM deal, showing that the state spent $500 million on the failed deal, $442 million of which has gone directly to IBM as of the end of August.

Guess where another $59 million has gone? That's right. To ACS. But you'll find no mention of that in The Star. They punted on the issue instead. The Associated Press copy published in the Star buried the detail in the last paragraph, with no mention of ACS by name.


"Nearly $59 million has gone to IBM subcontractors who now work directly for FSSA. "

My impression of the Indianapolis Star is that there is considerable frustration at the daily because the days when the Star dictated what was news in the City is gone. Blogs, publications like the Indianapolis Business Journal and a revived Nuvo news department under Considine, as well as television reporters who are doing more lengthy, investigative pieces made possible by longer local news broadcasts, are usurping the Star's role as newsmaker. That's not to say the Star is dead. They're are a lot of very talented writers at the Star who would love to do hard-hitting, quality news reports. Instead of censoring the news to try to fit an agenda, perhaps the Star editor Dennis Ryerson should turn those writers loose to do what they do best - report the news. That's in fact what IBJ does. IBJ's editorial position does not seem to at all impact the reporting of facts in IBJ news stories. That's as it should be.

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