Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Indianapolis Council Republicans Blocking ROC Investigation is Brought to an End

Last night the ROC Investigating Committee, with its new 11th member, Beech Grove Democrat Frank Mascari, was finally able to break the 5-5 tie on the bipartisan investigation committee so as to finally be able subpoena documents relating to the one-sided Regional Operations Center deal.  For four months the Republicans had blocked the investigation, making every excuse imaginable why the Council's counsel Fred Biesecker shouldn't have been able to obtain documents that are public and anyone should have been able to obtain.

Councilor Frank Mascari
Watching my fellow Republicans stonewall for months while spouting a phony desire to want to get to the bottom of the ROC deal has been embarrassing.  Obviously GOP leadership has picked the Republicans on the council who would take blindly take marching orders, which is undoubtedly why more independent-minded Republicans Christine Scales and, to a lesser degree,  Bob Lutz have not made an appearance on the committee.  A particularly noteworthy performance last night was that of southside Republican councilor Aaron Freeman who proceeded to have a fit when they no longer had the votes to stonewall the investigation.  He picked up his stuff and left before the meeting was over.

I said it before, and I will say it again. There is no excuse - NONE - for City officials refusing to produce public documents.  It is sad that the GOP councilors are participating in what appears to be a coverup.  Didn't we Republicans learn anything from Watergate?  Often the coverup is worse than the underlying offense.

Speaking of coverup, last night Gary Welsh of Advance Indiana reported on the bizarre settlement agreement the City quickly reached with the ROC landlord, Alex Carroll, last December when the Council decided to investigate this matter:
..The bad news is that the reason Republican committee member have stonewalled production of the documents the past few months becomes crystal clear after viewing the unconscionable settlement agreement the city's corporation counsel entered into with the landlord late last year on December 10, 2013 after the ROC Investigating Committee had been formed and began its work in November.

Under the terms of that troubling settlement agreement, the City agreed to reimburse the various business entities owned by Carroll (401-Public Safety, LLC, Lifeline Data Centers, LLC and Lifeline Construction Services, LLC) approximately $120,000 for several items, including insurance on the building ($9,000), improvements to the leased premises ($40,000), reimbursement of maintenance expenses ($35,000) and data line use ($34,000). The City gave the landlord ninety days to complete a punch list of unfinished items (until May 2014 for some items) that should have been completed before the City's employees ever began occupying the premises prior to the Super Bowl in January 2012. The City assumed responsibility for obtaining permits for all work required to be done to complete the punch list of items and agreed not to unreasonably withhold approval of any work completed by contractors hired to perform the work. The agreement freed up the rent money being escrowed by the lender to be released to the landlord and made clear that the original lease would remain in full force and effect.
What I find interesting is that the only signature on behalf of the extremely one-sided settlement document is Andrew Seiwert, Corporation Counsel for the City of Indianapolis.  He is the attorney for the City of Indianapolis.  He is not the client.  When matters are in litigation, final settlement documents are almost always signed by the parties and possibly signed by the attorneys as well, but the attorney almost never signs without the client.  In this case there was no litigation, and thus no appearance by attorney on behalf of the client in a court case that would give him the authority to act on behalf of his client.  I am not sure what authority Seiwert would have to sign a final settlement document on behalf of the City.  I am not aware of any ordinance that gives Corporation Counsel the authority to enter into contracts (which is what a settlement agreement is) on behalf of the City of Indianapolis.


Ghostwriter Judiciary said...

I'm not so sure about your last point, Paul. Unlike the Attorney General's Office which is separately elected, Corporation Counsel are appointed employees by the City.

Paul K. Ogden said...

Yes "Bill," they are employees of the City who have not been given any authority to sign contracts on their own. What authorizes Seiwert to sign this contract as opposed to other contracts the city enters into? The fact he's an attorney is not enough. By that logic, Seiwert could sign any contract and bind the City.

The Mayor can sign contracts, the Mayor's designee can sign contracts on his behalf, and certain city officials can sign contracts if authorized to do so by state law or local ordinance. I am not aware of any power Corporation Counsel has to sign contracts to bind the City.

Now if the case had progressed to litigation, then he would by virtue of appearing in the case have the authority to enter into a settlement on behalf of his client. But even then, almost every settlement I've ever seen or been involved in has the parties signing the document, not just the attorneys. Of course, in this case there was no litigation.

Ghostwriter Judiciary said...

How do you know they haven't been given authority to sign contracts?

Paul K. Ogden said...

So, Bill, you think there is a document out there that authorizes people who work for Corporation Counsel to sign contracts on behalf of the City? It's possible, but it is not likely.

Ghostwriter Judiciary said...

You assume there has to be a document for the person to have authority. One could argue that as employees of the legal division, they have implied authority as agents to sign contracts. The making of contracts is a legal function and it seems obvious that they would have such authority.