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:
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.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.