Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Former State Senator Complains About Indianapolis Mayor and Council President's Failure to Disclose Gifts Worth Millions

Louis Mahern, a former Indiana state senator and one-time candidate for Indianapolis Mayor, pens an interesting editorial in this week's Indianapolis Business Journal:
A typical $110,000 Colts suite comes with 20 tickets for ten games. That makes the per ticket cost $550.   Mayor Ballard’s suite comes with at least 30 tickets.  He also gets a suite at Bankers Life with 20 tickets for every Pacers and Fever game , 12 for every other event and four courtside seats compliments of the Pacers.

....

Since 2008 Mayor Ballard has received nearly a million dollars in free sports tickets.  Shouldn’t he have to report somewhere that he received those tickets as well as their value?

He accepts free memberships at Highland and Woodstock Country Clubs worth somewhere between $5000 and $7,000 a year each.  He does admit to the memberships on an informal addendum to his Economic Interest filing but without any dollar value. 

Mayor Ballard has gone on multiple foreign trips that in aggregate have cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and have been funded by a secretive group of private donors that most likely includes individuals and organizations with business ties to the City.   These gifts appear nowhere on his filing.

City-County Council President Maggie Lewis is the Council’s appointment to the Capital Improvements Board.  As such she receives $11,000 a year in free Colts tickets in the CIB’s Suite at Lucas Oil.  She also has access to free Pacer tickets and free tickets to any event at Banker’s Life including concerts as well as performances like Disney on Ice, Taylor Swift, Paul McCartney and Cirque du Soleil.  Nowhere on her economic interest filings are these gifts divulged.
Council President Maggie Lewis

...

As a member of the CIB Ms. Lewis votes on tax increases, budget proposals and Pacer bailouts.  She is then expected to keep an open mind on these very issues when they later come before the Council.  How is this not a conflict?

Ms. Lewis is the Executive Director of Dove House, a social service provider to previously incarcerated women dealing with addiction issues.  In the past four years Dove House has received over $400,000 in grants from the City.  Inasmuch as a significant portion of Dove House’s funding comes from the City, the level of Ms. Lewis’ salary is somewhat dependent on the City’s grant.

I don’t doubt that Dove House does good work.  But presiding over the City’s fiscal body while a recipient of a City grant does compromise Ms. Lewis’ independence.  None of this is reported on her Economic Interest filing. 

Is it any wonder she agreed so quickly to the Mayor’s $30 million budget cuts?  Checks and balances have come to mean the Mayor writes the checks and the Council balances the ball on their collective nose like the trained seals they have become.

Mayor Ballard can with the stroke of his pen enrich law firms, developers, architects and consulting engineers.

Council President Lewis names committee chairpersons who serve at her pleasure.  She assigns proposed ordinances to committees of her choice.  She sets the agenda.  A mere recusal when relevant votes come up does not cure the conflict.

Make no mistake Mayor Ballard and Maggie Lewis are powerful public officials whose friendship the Colts, Pacers and private contractors crave.  

What are the gifts? What is their value? Who are the donors? Is it so hard?

1 comment:

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