Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Indianapolis Council Republicans Block Investigation of Regional Operating Center

Over at Advance Indiana, Gary Welsh has a lengthy story about goings on the Indianapolis City-County Council's ROC Investigating Committee.  Gary's story has a clip of an exchange between Republicans and Democrats on the committee in which Republicans voted to block giving Council attorney Fred Biesecker the authority to subpoena documents from Corporation Counsel and Alex Carroll's company that entered into the lease with the city.  The later is represented by Republican political operative David Brooks.
Councilor Ben Hunter

Both Brooks and City Legal are refusing to provide documents that was involved in the ROC deal.  Republicans on the committee hemmed and hawed suggesting that the subpoena was not in the right form.  Wannabe attorney Ben Hunter said during the meeting that he did a "Wiki search" and found the document was not in the right form.  Actual attorney Aaron Freeman also suggested the subpoena was in an improper form and would be quashed by a court.   I can't figure out if Freeman was  blowing smoke or if he actually doesn't understand how subpoenas work in civil cases.  Republican councilor Marilyn Pfisterer then started talking about focusing instead on getting the original lease document.  It is not quite clear if she thinks the copy they have is somehow fraudulent.  Regardless by a 5-5 vote the subpoena was blocked.

Some observations.  First of all, there is no specific format that has to be used for a subpoena, despite wannabe Attorney Hunter's suggestion.   Second, Attorney Biesecker wasn't presenting to the committee the subpoena, but rather a request that he be authorized to issue a subpoena for documents.  Third, I'm not so sure a court would have the legal authority to quash a subpoena issued by a legislative body.   Finally, I must say Fred Biesecker is a very impressive attorney.  No matter the political nonsense going on around him and the cheap shots at him personally, he always does his job in a very objective, dispassionate manner.  The Council is lucky to have him.

But here is something important that I didn't hear anyone on the Committee address. When the city is a party to a document, that document is a public record under the open records law.  A subpoena shouldn't even be needed to get the city to turn over those documents.  Any reporter or member of the public should be able to obtain those documents.  Even as to the documents solely between Carroll's company and non-public entities (such as Fifth Third Bank) as to the deal, there is another open records law that makes those documents public.
Councilor Aaron Freeman

Buried in Welsh's article is a comment deserving of closer examination. 
Someone ordered the destruction of all video recordings of the Board of Public Safety during which Straub made presentations concerning the ROC agreement. 
Haven't found that yet on the video, but that could be a crime.

I totally agree with Gary's summation:
The Republicans' decision to block this investigation leads me to conclude that they have concluded within their internal discussions--after they booted the only independent-thinking member from their caucus, Councilor Christine Scales--that serious criminal wrongdoing took place and they are doing everything they can to prevent those facts from coming to light to prevent harm coming to Republicans in the 2015 municipal election. It's time for professional prosecutors in this town to step up and do what they should have done months ago and start hauling these stone-walling public officials before a grand jury where they will have to testify under penalties of perjury. Perhaps the Republicans on the council don't care that tens of millions of our public tax dollars were pilfered in this fashion, but this Republican sees it quite differently and expects that those responsible for allowing this to happen are held to account for their actions or inactions. It's obvious if this investigating committee is going to have any success, then it will be necessary for the Democratic-controlled council to adjust the membership on the committee to give the Democrats a majority of the membership rather than an even split as it currently is. It's obvious the Republicans have no intention of carrying out this investigation in good faith. The council leadership should start by booting Ben Hunter from the committee, who the Republicans should have had the good sense not to appoint to the committee from the outset due to his obvious conflict of interest. 
We Republicans need to be better than this or we don't deserve to have the Mayor's Office or a majority on the Council.  In the meantime, the Democrats should replace one of the recalcitrant Republicans on the committee.   Better yet, it's time for Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry to get involved.

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