Thursday, August 12, 2010

IDI Gets Curious Contract for 2009

I was kicking the tires on the City's new contract database, when I stumbled upon a curious contract between Indianapolis Downtown Inc. and the Department of Public Works in 2009.

For those unfamiliar with this new feature of City government, it has a copy of every contract with a City or County department, going back a couple of years. You can access the database by clicking here and typing the word "public" in the password field and click "login".

The search dialog box will pop up. To play along at home with this IDI contract, you can enter "5955" in both of the boxes to the right of "contract number". If you haven't used this site before, you will have to download some software in order to view the contract.

In 2009, IDI landed a contract for $120,000 from Indianapolis Department of Public Works.

The contract is for "Consulting Services" (with 3 pages of specific action items) and the agreement declares that the term shall be from January 1, 2009 through December 31, 2009. The total amount was not to exceed $120,000, which was to be paid out in 12 equal installments of $10,000.00 "after receiving appropriate invoice and status report".

To get quickly to the good part, those playing along at home should take a look at page 9, which has all the signatures. What caught my eye were the dates -- Dave Sherman, Director of DPW, signed the contract and the Board of Public Works authorized it, both on November 11, 2009, and Tamara Zahn, President of IDI, signed November 9th, 2009. With less than 2 months to go in 2009, a contract was inked down for the entire calendar year.

So, you know I filed an open records request to see all of the supporting documents and invoices.
One invoice, only, was submitted for $120,000, dated November 13, 2009, which was approved for payment six days later. Provided to me also, were 12 'Activity Report's, one for each month, including one for November and December, neither of which could not have been completed before payment was asked for and received.

These activity reports are not limited to those items performed to fulfill the contract. They include attendance, presumably by anyone associated with IDI, at any meeting - neighborhood, board, committee, or legislative hearing. It includes work done by subcontractors; mentioning every time a planter was planted, weeded, or inspected for insects and plant diseases. It includes preparation for the IDI board meeting and going to said board meeting. It includes calls made to code enforcement, DPW, or parks to attend to some matter discovered by someone at IDI, or their subcontractors. The reports list the bike patrols and meetings with public safety officials. It even lists time spent on crafting and submitting an application for a 2010 crime prevention grant (which they ultimated obtained). etc. etc. etc.

Most interesting, though, was the inclusion of items reflecting the pursuit of taxpayer funds for IDI's operations. Under the action item category "2009 City/IDI Contracts" in each month's activity report we have the following (I have highlighted the most interesting items in red):

a. Department of Metropolitan Development: Attended commission meeting.
b. Department of Public Works:
i. Met with K. Walker, M. Williams and D. Fishel for bimonthly update.
ii. Attended board meeting.
c. Indianapolis Local Public Initiative Bond Bank: Attended board meeting.
d. IndyParks: Attended board meeting.

nothing mentioned

a. Department of Metropolitan Development: Compiled and provided completed projects report from 2002-1st quarter 2009 to J. Byrnes.
b. Department of Public Works: Met with M. Williams and D. Fishel to update contract activities and payment.
c. Indianapolis Local Public Initiative Bond Bank: Attended monthly board meeting.

b. Indianapolis Local Public Initiative Bond Bank:
i. Attended board meeting
ii. Provided Downtown Economic Indicators to K. Taylor.
iii. Oriented J. Goss, board representative.

a. Presented 2008 Economic Indicators to City-County Council Economic Development Committee.
b. Addressed Dept. of Public Works and Parks contracts and funding.
c. Attended Indianapolis Local Public Initiative Bond Bank board meeting.

a. Received signed 2009 DMID contract and purchase order.
b. Attended Bond Bank and IndyParks board meetings.
c. Met with D. Reynolds, Controller.

a. DPW: Reviewed proposed reduction in current contract.
b. Indy Parks: Met with L. Purcel and P. Pinko.
c. Indianapolis Local Public Initiative Bond Bank: Attended board meeting.

a. Resolved contract status with Mayor’s Office.
b. Attended Metropolitan Development Commission meetings.
c. Attended Indianapolis Local Public Initiative Bond Bank board meeting.
d. Provided contract information. Discussed 2010 replacement funding with Mayor’s Office.

a. Attended DPW and Bond Bank board meeting.
b. Met with Mayor Ballard and P. Okeson to discuss 2010 funding.

a. Attended Department of Public Works board meeting.
b. Attended Indianapolis Local Public Improvement Bond Bank board meeting.

a. Department of Public Works (DPW): Attended board meeting to support approval of revised 2009 contract.
b. Indianapolis Local Public Initiative Bond Bank:
i. Provided market information to D. Requiz.
ii. Attended board meeting.
c. Met with D. Wu, Mayor’s Office, to discuss Downtown issues and opportunities.

Attended Indianapolis Local Public Initiative Bond Bank board meeting. Oriented B. House, new IDI board member, representing Bond Bank.

There is no mention of any other contracts between the City and IDI for 2009 in the City's new database except for the contract discussed here and one for $142,144 with DMD (Department of Metropolitan Development). That one was signed by IDI's President, Tamara Zahn, in January, by DMD Director, Maury Plambeck, in March, and by City Controller, David Reynolds, in April. The June entry "DMID" could be a simple typo.

I could not find any mention of the Indianapolis Bond Bank at all in the contract database, so it is possible that IDI had a contract with them during the year. IDI certainly seemed to spend a bit of time with Bond Bank personnel and attending their board meetings.

But the most interesting of this discussion thread in IDI's activity reports, is the contact with the Mayor's office regarding an apparent reduction in IDI's expected proceeds from it 2009 contract with DPW, and its efforts to secure funding in 2010. Reading between the lines, one could conclude there was a good little tussle going on in City government over taxpayer subsidies for IDI.

The very fact that 2009 IDI/DPW contract wasn't signed until November, with payment issued shortly thereafter and not in accord with the schedule put forth by the contract, says that the contract was nothing more than a ruse to funnel taxpayer money to IDI. The least they could do, though, is not make it so obvious.


Unigov said...

Wow, excellent catch.

Had Enough Indy? said...

Serendipity works.

Gary R. Welsh said...

It's amazing that Tamara Zahn holds on to her job and her six figure salary. You won't find a single downtown business owner that has a good thing to say about her. She must have shit on someone. She certainly can't justify her existence otherwise. Thank Steve Goldsmith for foisting her on us.

Anonymous said...

Keep looking and digging = you will find more of these curious contracts.

Paul K. Ogden said...

"Reading between the lines, one could conclude there was a good little tussle going on in City government over taxpayer subsidies for IDI."

I have trouble believing anyone in the administration is opposed to handing over money to IDI...some councilors, yes, administration officials, I wouldn't think so.

This is great reporting. This reminds me of what I reported about the Bond Bank Board President Dillon's contract with the Bond Bank. Dillon waited until the end of the year to turn in invoices. Some of the invoices were about his attending meetings nine months or so earlier. If you thought subitting months late invoices for $400K
on a part-time consulting contract would have raised red flags, you'd be wrong. Of course the Bond Bank paid them.