Friday, August 21, 2009

Notes on the Budget Hearings - August 19

Again - not a list of the important items, just what struck me as interesting.

This one should be subtitled: Down the rabbit hole with Alice. Bizarre, odd, unnerving, curious, weird, and absurd.

After a long evening of budget hearings, the last one, for the Marion County Sheriff's Department, began. Rolled through the presentation and Council questions okay enough. Then it was public comment time. I rose and spoke first. Then, Paul Ogden, identifying himself as an attorney, began to comment on some of the numbers that were stated during Sheriff's Department presentation and also the practice of assigning violent offenders to Jail II in contradiction of the terms of the use of Jail II for non-violent offenders only. This is something Ogden has blogged about just recently -- see here. He later also commented on a contract for inmate phone service between the company providing the service and the Sheriff's Department - the money going into the Commissary Fund, which oddly enough, is not reviewed as part of the Sheriff's Department budget, even though money comes and goes into this Fund from service provided by the Sheriff and to expenses paid by the Sheriff.

Here's how things appeared from my seat in the very back of the room. A fellow in a suit moved to just ahead of the side door to the room, a move common when a person does not want to be missed by the Chairman of the Committee as desiring to speak. Good, I thought. More people giving input. I like it. After a moment, the fellow moved forward to about three feet behind Ogden. Again, not uncommon when the person in line wants to be sure they are seen by the Chairman who this night was Ryan Vaughn. After Ogden's first couple of points were made, this fellow was asked to answer for the Sheriff. He identified himself as Kevin Murray, also a lawyer. He moved very, very close to Ogden. Within inches. It was so close that it was, in animal behavior terms, a threatening distance. Several times he tried to stop Ogden from continuing his comments. He hovered just behind/beside Ogden while there was a second microphone just on the other side of where Sheriff Anderson was seated. A person who tries to bring forward information during public comment time should not be dogged like this fellow dogged Ogden.

see here for Ogden's recap of that night's events

see here for the Channel 16 archive of the hearing -- click on "Public Safety & Criminal Justice, Part 2 of 2 --- Aug 19, 2009" and forward the video to about time stamp 11:30

Take a look at the video and come to your own conclusions. But, for my money, when a member of the public believes that there are things happening in a City or County Department that ought not be happening, they have every right to bring it up when the Council is considering allowing the Department to spend more taxpayer money. And a lawyer for that Department should not be allowed to stand so close or interrupt the speaker as was allowed that night.


Paul K. Ogden said...

Thank you, Pat, for your comments. I have to admit I was surprised by what happened. But that tells me that what I was asking about was hitting a nerve...quite possibly because there was something to hide.

Politics in Indy really needs to be cleaned up. Both parties are to blame.

It would be really helpful if we had people on the council who aren't afraid to ask tough questions. Some on the council, I think really try. But most are just cheerleaders or playing partisan games, not really concerned about what is right and what is wrong.

Thanks again for the comments.

Had Enough Indy? said...

Part of the purpose of this blog is to look at how the comments of the public are reviewed and responded to, even when they are complaints. I see another blog has descended into name-calling in order to divert from the concerns you raised at the hearing.

That night, nobody was taking you or your comments lightly. More like serious as a heart attack.

What I would have liked to hear from either the Sheriff or one of his staff is something to the effect of:

"Sir, we take the treatment of people in our custody very seriously. We investigate each complaint through an internal group much like internal investigations operates within the police force. We are proud of raising the standard of care in Jail I and will not tolerate any of our facilities to ill treat the inmates or violate the rules of who may or may not be assigned there. To that end, we have looked at the complaints you raised and issued a report on each, which we would be happy to provide the Councillors and yourself."

Unfortunately, I didn't hear any response that directly addressed your concerns. And instead, your right to even comment was challenged - not by the Committee, but by the lawyer for Sheriff Anderson.

All that says to me that they do take you and your allegations very seriously. But not as an illumination of healthy ways to improve the system, but as an illumination of things they'd like to see kept in the dark.