Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Marion County GOP Chairman Tom John and His Conflicts of Interest

The issue came up during John Keeler's tenure as Marion County Republican Chairman. Should a county chairman also be a lobbyist? Keeler had signed a "gag agreement" with his firm, Baker & Daniels, that as Republican County Chairman he would not criticize the administration of Democratic Indianapolis Mayor Bart Peterson. That was a condition for the law firm to get city legal work.

The issue is rearing its ugly head again with present GOP Chairman Tom John. On Monday, Council Republicans drank the political Kool-Aid, voting to aid Herb Simons' ownership of the Pacers with $10 million more of our tax dollars. The Simons family and Pacers are, of course, represented by Barnes & Thornburg, which in addition to running the 25th Floor, also employs the Council President Ryan Vaughn who pushed hard for the Republican caucus to support the deal for his firm's clients. Next up also presents other conflicts of interest: the ACS parking deal and the North of South (No-So) project.

Despite the public expressing almost solid opposing to the 50 year, no bid ACS parking contract, it continues to be pushed. ACS is also a Barnes & Thornburg client. B&T partner, Joe Loftus, who is on the payroll as counsel to the Mayor and lobbyist for the City, also, conveniently, lobbies for ACS. Vaughn was also listed in state records as lobbying for ACS...that is before he had those records changed. Despite clear conflicts of interest, Vaughn has indicated that he is going to vote for the deal because it's so important for his law firm...sorry, I mean, his "constituents."

The ACS deal though involves another conflict of interest. The law firm of Ice Miller supposedly drafted the contract and did the initial legal work. One of the attorneys at Ice Miller identified as working on the ACS deal is none other than Tom John, the County Republican Chairman. The contract says the City will pay Ice Miller up to $500,000, even if the Council votes the plan down.

Undoubtedly other legal work involving ACS will be on the horizon. Tom John and his law firm stand to profit should the deal pass the Council. But given the deal's terrible unpopularity, what are John's responsibilities as county chairman? Doesn't he owe a duty to the county GOP that he doesn't push for an unpopular deal that will hurt Republicans at the polls?

With regard to the No-So project, Tom John's conflict is even worse. He is listed as a lobbyist to the Mayor for Buckingham Companies, who the Mayor has backed a loan for using $86 million of our property taxes. This is for a project that is deemed too risky for every lender who has looked at it. Once again, Tom John the lobbyist will be pushing for a deal that is almost certainly not in the interest of the Republican Party, including those Republican councilors who will be voting on the project. Do any of those Councilors dare oppose John on the deal and perhaps get "Fishburned," i.e. having the county chairman recruit and fund a candidate to run in the primary against the person who dared oppose him?

If Tom John wants to lobby the City and do legal work on City projects that come before the Council, that's perfectly fine. He just needs to resign as county chairman. Until he does that he has a huge conflict of interest in representing his legal clients and the Republican Party. His continuing to wear both hats while threatening and twisting arms of Republcian elected officials until they agree to commit political suicide, is nothing short of unethical.


True Conservative said...

I keep reading blogs about attorneys who have conflicts of interest. If an attorney truly believes that another attorney has a conflict of interest then that attorney has an ethical obligation to file a complaint with the Indiana Disciplinary Commission. Correct?

Cato said...

No. True Conservatives don't believe that people should always run and tattle to the government.

The government cannot solve all of our problems and it should not be regarded as the first stop in any dispute. The current Republican use of the government as a well-oiled "gotcha" machine that dispenses regular punishments is a hard left idea that needs to end.

The profession should be able to regulate itself, and Paul is bringing an issue to the legal community to discuss. Hopefully, Tom John will respond to reason.