As TVSA director, Maultra had been responsible for ensuring telecom law was followed and had urged Indianapolis to charge telecom fees for the use of rights-of-way as other cities had done. The rights-of-way fees were worth millions.
Maultra's position though brought him into conflict with Barnes & Thornburg partner, Joe Loftus, who is on the city's payroll to advise the mayor and lobby the legislature for the City. Loftus though had, and still has, another client, AT& T. In a previous year, Loftus had appeared before the General Assembly, as a lobbyist for Ameritech (which became AT&T) on HB 1376 that limited cities to "recovery costs" from utilities for use of rights-of-way. While his position pushing for a bill that helped his utility client avoid paying fees to municipalities was an obvious conflict with his representation of Indianapolis, Loftus didn't let a little thing like ethics get in his way. Loftus succeeded in getting the bill passed. Even though Indianapolis can still get "recovery costs" under existing law, the City doesn't even try to collect the money, a situation that Loftus and his AT&T client like.
If rights of way fees weren't going to be collected, Maultra thought at least AT&T and other telecoms should comply with existing law on other matters. Logan Harrison, a city attorney who had been recruited by Loftus from Barnes & Thornburg, told Maultra that his boss, then head of Corporation Counsel Chris Cotterill, had ordered him not to pursue compliance issues against the telecoms, including AT&T. Cotterill is also a Barnes and Thornburg alumnus recruited by Loftus. Indeed sources say Loftus hires everyone who works at Corporation Counsel.
By 2009, Loftus had gotten tired of Maultra and launched a scheme to get rid of the TVSA director by eliminating his position in the 2010 budget. Ryan Vaughn, a Barnes & Thornburg attorney, and now council President, cast three separate votes to eliminate Maultra's position. Vaughn made no effort to recuse himself despite the fact that his law firm's client, AT&T and its lobbyist Joe Loftus, Vaughn's boss, was behind the effort to get rid of Maultra.
Although it escaped under the media's radar, Maultra on December 26, 2009, filed an ethics complaint against Loftus, Harrison, Cotterill and Vaughn. To recap, Loftus and Vaughn are presently attorneys at Barnes and Thornburg. Cotterill worked also worked for B&T while Harrison previously worked for Ice Miller and clerked at the Attorney General's Office before he started working at City Legal. So who investigates the complaint? Samantha Karn, herself former Barnes and Thornburg attorney who was also recruited by Joe Loftus and who by then had been elevated by Loftus to head of Corporation Counsel.
Karn summarily dismissed the complaint. In her opinion, Karn reaches the incredulous conclusion that as a lobbyist, Loftus was not an "official, appointee or an employee" of the City. I can only suppose that Karn is unaware that Loftus is on the City's payroll to the tune of $115,000 as "special counsel" to the Mayor, a fact that the Indianapolis Star has reported.
Karn states in a footnote the disingenuous nonsense that it is actually Mayor Ballard who hired Cotterill and Harrison. Of course, technically that is true...but she is all too aware of Ballard is merely a rubberstamp for whoever Loftus chooses. Loftus is the one who made the decision to hire Cotterill, Harrison, and Vaughn.
Karn, like Cotterill, is yet another example of the type of inexperienced attorney Loftus prefers for leadership positions at City Legal. When appointed corporation counsel last year, Karn only had five years experience, just like Cotterill did when he was appointed. Harrison had only only three months experience as an attorney before being hired by Loftus at City Legal as Assistant Corporation Counsel, with the job of drafting city contracts and advising city agencies on legal and ethical issues.. Jonathan Mayes, who had previously been head of litigation at City Legal, only had two years of legal experience. Loftus knows perfectly well that older, experienced attorneys are likely to question his dictates while younger, inexperienced attorneys like Cotterill, Harrison, Karns and Mayes, are more likely to do exactly what Loftus tells them, even if doing so violates the law or the ethics rules that attorneys and city employees must uphold.
The handling of Maultra's termination and his subsequent ethics complaint epitomizes how Loftus and his Barnes & Thornburg gang do business. They don't win by being right about the law. They win by putting decision-makers in key positions, making them indebted to them, then pulling their strings whenever they need a favor. In this scenario, Loftus pulled the strings of everyone involved - Cotterill, Harrison, Vaughn and Karn - to get Maultra canned and the subsequent ethics complaint dismissed.
The need to follow ethical guidelines and avoid conflicts of interest only apply to "other" people not to the Barnes and Thornburg crowd who run our city government. Isn't it time we cleaned the corruption out of city government?
Pictured from top to bottom: Joe Loftus, Chris Cotterill, and Ryan Vaughn.
Correction: I received bad information about Logan Harrison having worked at Barnes & Thornburg so I made a correction. However, while perusing his on-line resume, I was shocked to find he only had three months experience as an attorney when appointed Assistant Corporation Counsel. No one who is an attorney for three months has anywhere near the experience to handle the duties Harrison identifies that he does for the City in that resume:
- Responsible for drafting, implementing, and managing contracts for nine city agencies
- Advise Indianapolis boards and agencies on day-to-day operational issues, real estate acquisitions/transactions/leasing, disciplinary matters, benefits, compensation, public purchasing, budgetary, employment issues, messaging, and policy initiatives
- Responsible for compliance with all local, state, and federal laws and regulations Draft ordinances and resolutions for agencies and present policy analysis to city agencies
- Oversee, implement, and advise agencies and boards regarding state and city ethics compliance, public access, and public records
Advise and create solutions to consolidate agencies, boards, commissions and/or abolish irrelevant government/bureaucracy