Thursday, September 26, 2013

There Needs to Be an Independent Investigation of the ROC Deal

Tracing the tentacles of this deal are madding.

I refer to the deal made to lease space in the old Eastgate Mall for a Regional Operations Center - in time for the 2012 SuperBowl.  The ROC was to be used as the heart of surveillance for the public gatherings - Homeland Security, IMPD, IFD central commands combined with federal agencies in one spot away from the action downtown.

The latest tentacles to be revealed were broadcast during last night's WTHR 11 O'clock news.  Sandra Chapman did an interview with Alex Carroll, owner of the facility.  He discloses that there was a secret deal with the City that involved a sizable up front payment to him, and that the City was responsible for drafting the lopsided lease agreement that puts all of the maintenance burden on the taxpayers.

Gary Welsh, over at Advance Indiana, did an excellent job of recapping the interview and putting what is known about the whole deal in perspective.  Previously, Paul Ogden described how lopsided the agreement is and that representatives of City Legal and the City Controller refused to sign off on the lease - leaving then Public Safety Director, Frank Straub, on his own (see here and here)

There must be an independent investigation of this deal.  All business conducted on behalf of the public must be made public - there can be no secret deals.  What is disclosed to the public must be accurate - officials cannot say they are making lease payments when they are paying off a loan directly.  The City may not take out a loan.  The City cannot float a bond without disclosing what that bond is to be used for and what dedicated revenue stream will repay it.

At this point it is unclear IF there was a secret deal, IF there was a sizable upfront payment and how much that was, IF there was a concerted effort to keep information from most of the Council and the public, IF there is a bank loan or a bond, and IF campaign contributions were part of the big picture.

The lease was put forth as Prop 102, 2011 with no lease details.  It originally was for 210,000 square feet, but that was reduced to 76,000 square feet before passage by the full Council on May 16, 2011.  The sponsors of the proposed lease were Councillors Ben Hunter and Mary Moriarty Adams.  The Eastgate Mall is in Hunter's district, but almost in Adams'.  At the time, Hunter Chaired the Public Safety Committee and Adams was the senior Democrat on that committee.

Below I have embedded a portion of the April 12, 2011 meeting of the Admin & Finance committee meeting - the first of two committee meetings to consider this lease.  This portion begins after Homeland Security Director Gary Coons' half hour presentation on what a ROC would be and why one was needed.  The embedded portion are the questions that the Councillors had.  Jon Mayes, Deputy Director, Special Counsel for the City responded to the questions.  It is instructive as to how little information these committee members were given initially.  Look for Councillor Barbara Malone's question of whether there any upfront fee for renovation of the facility and Councillor Jackie Nytes inquiry as to whether construction had already begun on the facility.

The answers by Mr. Mayes include that this was to be a 20 year lease, with no upfront money and all construction and renovation costs amortized in the lease payments.  Those payments were to be $1.2 million per year.  The Proposal was amended later and his statements may only refer to the introduced situation.  Construction had already begun on this site by the time the committee was given Prop 102 to consider.

There needs to be a full vetting of exactly what the arrangements were, who authorized them, and how honest everyone has been in divulging the details of that arrangement.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I can't believe that this odious deal would not escape the scrutiny of either the US Attorney's office or the Marion County Prosecutor. Come on guys, step up to the plate. Evan in a corrupt city like Indy, this deal reeks and stretches the limits of credulity.