Thursday, September 8, 2011

Riveting Reading - Advance Indiana Reports From Plowman Trial

If there is a prize for excellence in reporting on blogs, I want to nominate Gary Welsh over at Advance Indiana for his riveting reportage on the Lincoln Plowman trial.

At this point, Welsh has a report for each of the two first days.  Day 1 ("Prosecutors Say Plowman Claimed He Controlled All Zoning Boards In Marion County")   Day 2 ("Plowman Trial Evidence Shows the Sleazy Side of Indianapolis Zoning")

I highly recommend you read them in their entirety.

As everyone knows, former City-County Councillor Lincoln Plowman is on trial for accepting money in return for helping land proper zoning for a strip club.  An undercover FBI agent was posing as the guy who wanted to open up the club.

The case is opening up a view from the inside of the Boards of Zoning Appeals and the Metropolitan Development Commission that I have never seen in the 15 or more years I have worked for my neighborhood group in zoning and variance matters.  It is the seedy side long suspected, though.

Plowman instructs the FBI agent on what is called 'board shopping'.  Variance petitions are assigned randomly to one of the three Boards of Zoning Appeals - specifically to derail board shopping.  But, you never know why a transfer to another Board is really being requested.  Here's this part of Welsh's report [note that references to "Cam" are to Cameron Clarke, who used to be a local zoning attorney, and who was recommended to the FBI agent by Plowman as a good choice for hire in the strip club matter]:
The agent worries that he's going to be spending a lot of money and wants some assurance the zoning matter will be taken care of. "Well, all the Zoning Boards are changing at the first of the year," Plowman said. "But you're going to know somebody?", the agent asked. "Oh yeah," Plowman reassured him. Plowman then said he would focus on just one of the three zoning boards and will "make sure that Cam gets it on that Board." Here's how Plowman explained it would work:
You know, for example, if--uh, there's three zoning boards. Say our friends are on board two--and, and , and your case gets assigned to board one, we need to clue Cam--now, first of all, even though we may have friends on board, zone board two, doesn't mean it'll be a sure thing. But, better. So, if he gets assigned to board one, he'll just say, you, I'm unable to make that day on board one, is there, can we go to board two?
Plowman explains to him that there are five members who sit on each board and three votes will be needed for a favorable zoning decision. "If I've got a couple of my buddies up there, or even if I don't, you know, a month, or a month or two before the--we know we're going to--you know, we'll know, there's going to be a timeline," Plowman explained. "So, a month or two before we go, I'll take one, I'll take them out to dinner, one at a time." The agent wonders if a dinner is going to do the trick. Plowman says it will help to have people testify in favor of the zoning request as well. The agent asks if Plowman's friend Jason Gaines will be able to help out. Plowman explained that Jason, who was sitting on the MDC, would likely be leaving the board at the end of the year because of how much time it consumed, even though "he likes the limelight" of serving on the MDC. The MDC would only hear the case if a re-zoning was required as opposed to a variance, in which case one of the zoning boards would hear the case Plowman explained.
Public trust is a fragile thing.  Public trust in zoning and variance matters is going to take a hit with the revelations coming out of the Plowman trial.


Gary R. Welsh said...

Thanks, Pat. It is a total embarrassment and disservice that the mainstream media outlets are downplaying this trial and giving it little coverage. WRTV is the only TV station that has had a reporter covering the trial. She's new to the station and she noted they buried her story behind several others during their evening news broadcast. The Star has had very sporadic coverage by Carrie Ritchie, who wanders in and out and doesn't seem to be very attentive to what is taking place at the trial at all.

Anonymous said...

The #1 thing that everyone should get from this trial is a pretty good feel for Plowman's abilities or .... .......

Indy4u2c said...

OK, Lincoln is incompetent....and probably rode "the short bus."

Frank Straub created and perpetuated the Culture of Corruption (totally NY-Style) that encouraged Lincoln Plowman's conduct(of corruption)!!!!

Had Enough Indy? said...

I'm going to disagree with you Indy4u2c. I think Plowman exemplifies the corruption that has existed in IMPD/IPD. We had a string of arrests of police officers just a couple of years ago, if you recall.

That is a compelling enough reason for me to want to see an 'outsider' come in to run things and hopefully change the culture. Is Straub the guy? I don't know. But, I hold the suspicion that the officers don't want the culture to change and will fight anyone who tries.

Bottom line, Plowman and police corruption existed before Straub. At least that cannot be pinned on him.

Jedna Vira said...

Someone please explain how "board shopping" is illegal...especially a violation of federal law. Although it doesn't look good and may be immoral, it sure doesn't appear to be illegal. Start reporting facts instead of offering your unskilled opinion. If zoning board shopping is illegal, then half of Indy's attorney's should be jailed for shopping judges.

Anonymous said...

Plowman is a crook. He has been for years. This is just a tip of the ice berg. Lord knows how many innocent Hoosiers he has hurt for a payoff or a fling with a floozie. It is disgraceful. You are right. It should be headline news everyday.

The big question remains. How could Mayor Ballard appoint such a scum dirt bag to head vice? I think this proves him dirty too.

Anonymous said...

Cameron Clark is the brother of former state GOP head and state senator, Murray Clark. You find connections all through this case.

Anonymous said...

Yes it was great reporting, this is one more reason that most of my news comes from blogs! Please keep it up Pat & Gary

From A Fan!

anon said...

If anyone reading this blog doubts the need for the unbiased members of the bza, you only need to watch the video of Board of Zoning Appeals III dated august 25 2009. 2009AP3004.
I was being robbed of everything I owned. I was the victim of a witch hunt, led by my neighborhood organization, WIDC (West Indianapolis Development corp.) and backed by the city of Indianapolis and Eli Lilly. I fully expect that any pursuit of justice in the aftermath of this hearing will be paid for by me, at the hands of the very same entities that brought me the nightmare that I suffered during those three years.
This conspiracy involved many city institutions as well as private ones. Ironically Cameron Clark lost my case to these villains two years prior and I took the case on and represented myself. All attorneys qualified to represent an individual in these matters are already placed on retainer by those performing this witch hunt.
I feel sorry for the thousands of home and business owners who have lost there life savings to the corrupt behavior of these institutions.
The corruption in these institutions runs deep. Without having been the victim of this Nazi style grinding wheel, I would have never believed that the corruption ran so deep.
These entities include but are not limited to my neighborhood organization WIDC, WINC, IMPD, Code Enforcement, IPS, DMD, MDC, Prosecuting Attorneys Office, Health Department just to name a few.
Due to my lack of experience in these matters I had already been placed in the lions pit with most of these institutions during a bogus hearing on may 15 2007 (part 2). 2007AP2001. During this first hearing you will see the spin doctor ( paid for by WIDC, who is backed by Eli Lilly). You can see clear bias by the only female member of the board at the end of this hearing. Though my attorney at the time may have been a little less influential than WIDC and there ilk, he still stated the case that I legally had a right to this LNCU. This fell on def ears.
If I had relied on council to represent me in this matter I would have been bankrupt. Most attorneys in the city would not have brought this scandal to light in the manner that I was forced to do at this 2009 hearing. Any attorney who would represent me wanted tens of thousands of dollars to retain them.
It took me a year to get the city to pick up garbage from the residences located here, after i had won this case.

anon said...

I began watching board hearings and the like on channel 16. Later that year MCANA started making bogus claims about a 19 year veteran member of this board, who was the chairman of board, Alan Rethorford. Considering the fact that he does not go along with these witch hunts, I for one, am glad that MCANA did not succeed.
Most of these neighborhood organizations are participated in by a few individuals with nothing better to do than go on these witch hunts, and are in no way representative of the neighborhood as a whole.
The current mayor is touting his plan to demolish 4000 homes in the city of Indianapolis. I can only cringe at the number of these homes that may have traveled the same path as myself, except they obtained a negative result in their struggle.
The manipulation of the citizens, by the powers that be, pits neighbors against neighbors and manipulates the systems in place to represent us all. Justice in these matters generally boils down to the wealth of the individual who is being tied to the stake. This is a very grim picture for the future of our children in this city as well as our country.
The neighborhood in which my building exist has been targeted by the city, our own neighborhood organization and Eli Lilly. As a result the police have been corrupt in delivering justice to these residents. Multiple homes and businesses have been burned without as much as a peep from our so call neighborhood organization. Code compliance has manipulated laws to help the city take over these properties. The DMD has been manipulative in its role to represent the rights of these citizens. The MDC has taken control of these properties and awarded them to the zealots that initiated the attacks on them. Where do these families go after their homes and businesses have been destroyed by this corruption. Divorce ? Bankruptcy? Separation ? A life of crime ? Do you think that these victims of the system will ever trust our government again ?
I am all for fixing up our city and making it a better place for us all. This behavior is not making our citizens better off, it is disrupting thousands of lives and displacing them. “The least of these” are being trampled on daily. You only need sit at the hearings in the community court F12 to see what the city does to the people who don’t live up to the standards of these zealots.
Our system of capitalism can not function without a lower class. How low that class is can be raised a little by function of government and community. Burning people at the stake will not get rid of them nor help them, it only serves as a tool to move them, demoralize them and imprison them.
These practices are not limited to political parties. Both parties are responsible for the corruption that is taking place.