Friday, June 29, 2012

TIF Study Commission Wraps Up Its Work

With the 10th and final meeting, the TIF Study Commission wrapped up its work last night.  The vote was 5 to 2 to adopt proposed recommendations along with a very lengthy report that distilled the testimony presented.   To summarize this herculean effort effectively, I will cut this into three parts - the Commission itself, the ideas and facts collected, and the recommendations.

The 8 Commissioners were Councillors Steve Talley, Brian Mahern, Ryan Vaughn (and his replacement Jeff Cardwell), Auditor Billie Breaux (and her proxy Richard Hunt), State Representative Bill Crawford, MDC President Ed Mahern, City Controller Jeff Spaulding, and Bond Bank Director Deron Kintner.

All came to the table with their own perspectives, and the give and take was on the highest level - all to the gain of the public in this process.

The presentations were mostly in plain English, yet had an academic rigor to them. 

All of the meetings can be found archived on the WCTY webpage (click here and scroll down to the last category, "Special Events").  The 10 meetings are listed there.  I added up the time for all of the meetings and it came to 24 hours.  You can find all of the documents that formed the presentations on the TIF Study Commission webpage, organized by date.

Needless to say, all of the information from this 24 hours makes a thick document - even when distilled.  The draft of the Executive Summary has been posted online.  I'll put up a link to the final document when it is posted, as well.  The final document without the appendices comes to 86 pages.

I cannot finish this roundup of the Commission without paying respects to two members of the Council Staff.  First, Leslie Williams took copious minutes, which can be found on the TIF Study Commission webpage.  I think the amount of work involved in taking the minutes of a meeting, especially long ones, is often undervalued.  I know that is a job I studiously try to avoid doing in organizations because of the number of hours actually required. 

Second, Hope Tribble, the Council's CFO.  I cannot begin to guess at how many hours Tribble put into this Commission - along with doing her regular job.  It appeared to me that she invited the guests, set the agendas, provided presentation and agenda materials to all through email, got super quick responses to questions fielded through email, and wrote (and likely re-wrote numerous times) the report that is being issued by the Commission. She most assuredly was the secret weapon for this Commission and a key reason why it functioned at the high level it did.

From the last two meetings it was clear that there were two camps assembled on the Commission.  All seemed to agree to more transparency and more documentation for why a TIF District should be set up.  The camps were apparent when the discussion turned to recommendations that would put limits or more oversight on the use of TIF funds or would place time limits on the life of an existing TIF District.  The majority wanted to rein in the use of TIF dollars, provide more oversight, and limit the lifetime of existing TIFs so that more of these property tax dollars could flow to the various units of government to provide the services that have been strained due to the property tax caps that were implemented a few years ago.  The minority wanted to retain the 'flexibility' that the Ballard Administration now has in determining on what to expend any excess TIF funds and maximize the options for future Mayors to reactivate dormant TIFs - all with an eye to being nimble enough to remain competitive with other municipalities that compete for the same businesses.

The work of this Commission is the finest example of good government that I have witnessed in my years of closely watching Indianapolis' government.  Everyone who attended had to have learned something new, if not a lot of stuff that they did not realize before.  The meetings are archived on WTCY for review and the report is being finalized for release.  The recommendations of the Commission will need to be reviewed and acted upon by the Council, the Mayor, the MDC, and the State Legislature.  So, this is not the last you'll hear of the TIF Study Commission's work.  Like a rock thrown into a lake, the ripples will be around for some time to come.

Excellent job.  Well done all.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Ballard / Vaughn Reneging On Promise

An abrupt reversal has been announced on the fate of ladder truck 21 that currently services Councillor Christine Scales' district.  Lame duck Director of Public Safety, Frank Straub, is the nominal decision-maker on this matter, but it seems more likely that Mayor Ballard and/or new Chief of Staff Ryan Vaughn are the ones actually at the center of this change of policy.  Paul Ogden over at Ogden On Politics has blogged on this recent development (see "Councilor Scales Calls Mayor Ballard Out on Failure to Live Up to Commitment Regarding Keeping Ladder Truck 21 at Northside Station")

Last year it was announced that Washington Township IFD Station 21would lose its ladder truck.  Many residents became concerned and involved their Councillor in the effort to keep their ladder truck and the protection it afforded their families, homes and businesses.  Scales led the charge by immersing herself in national fire protection protocols, best practices, and best standards.

The combined effort worked out well and Mayor Ballard, personally and through his then Chief of Staff, Chris Cotterill, promised that funding for ladder truck 21 would be provided at least through the end of 2012. Vaughn knows all about it, having gotten Cotterill to reduce the promise to writing.  Knowing that their word did not include any funding beyond 2012, Scales continued to ramp up her information base regarding fire equipment placement, response times, and more.

The June 20 announcement that the ladder truck would not be left at Station 21, but removed on July 1, left little time for the community to mount an effective and vigorous campaign to reverse the reversal.   That was probably deliberate.  The way our City budgets work, there is nothing special about July 1.

Scales shot back, sending out three documents that review the importance of keeping ladder truck 21 in place.  I have uploaded them to Google docs ("What do ladder trucks do", "The decision last year to remove ladder truck 21 was fought by firefighters", and "Councillor Scales statement").

Scales notes that Washington Township has more tall buildings than anywhere outside of Center Township, there are only two White River crossings which limits response times, and the current construction on the Allisonville Bridge with its attendant super-congestion makes this an ill chosen time to remove the ladder truck 21.  She also mentions that she had many private conversations with knowledgeable firefighters who side with her on the need for this truck in this location.  And, she asserts that the City could be opening itself up to a lawsuit should it make good on this latest threat and actually remove the truck.

From the public perspective, this looks bad for Ballard and Vaughn.  Even if you find yourself in positions of power, your word is still your honor.  The commitment made to residents and firefighters should be followed through to completion.  If there is any entertainment of not funding this truck at Station 21 in 2013, then it should be thoroughly discussed with the affected community prior to a final decision.  AND the reasons for that decision should be fully explained to the community.

Mayor Ballard still likes to say his is an open and transparent administration.  Yet, there is little evidence of that.  It is instances like this one that makes a running joke of using Ballard and 'transparency' in the same sentence.  Hopefully, the Mayor will follow through on his word, leave the ladder truck where it is, and pursue real dialogue and real transparency with the residents and firefighters affected by Station 21.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Public Comments Requested On TIF Study Commission Report

The final report of the TIF Study Commission, included recommended TIF policies, is now available in draft form (click here).  The last meeting of the Commission will be this Thursday, June 28, beginning at 6 pm in room 260 of the City-County Building.

While public comments will be taken at this meeting, prior to the votes on the various recommendations, it is requested that any suggestions for changes be sent to Hope Tribble,, prior to Thursday so they can be weighed for inclusion.

The recommendations are listed on the last pages of the executive summary - the link to which was provided at the top.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Key Indiana Court of Appeals Decision - Airport Zoning Authority Lies With City, Not Airport

In a key decision with wide-ranging implications, the Indiana Court of Appeals has sided with Zionsville in a dispute with the Indianapolis Executive Airport over who has the authority over zoning matters on airport owned property.

In an article posted today, IBJ reporter Scott Olson, says that the airport is run by the Hamilton County Airport Authority, even though a portion of the property lies within Boone County. 
Zionsville’s dispute with the airport’s operator, the Hamilton County Airport Authority, began in 2008 when the town annexed Union Township.

Hamilton County purchased the airport, which is located on East State Road 32 just within neighboring Boone County’s eastern border, in 2003.

Boone County Commissioners and the Boone County Area Plan Commission had allowed the airport authority to govern land use at the airport by creating a special airport district under the county zoning ordinance.

But, in February 2010, nearly two years after the annexation, Zionsville officials notified the authority that it needed approval from the town’s planning department before obtaining construction permits.
The Airport Authority took the matter to Court in Marion County, and that Judge decided in favor of the Authority.  Now, on appeal, the decision has gone the other way.
The Indiana Court of Appeals’ opinion was written by Senior Judge Randall Shepard, who retired in March as chief justice of the state’s Supreme Court.

“The Indiana Supreme Court has held that a general unit of government maintains zoning authority within its boundaries, even as to other general governments,” Shepard wrote.
Here in Marion County, the Indianapolis Airport Authority does its own zoning - with no public input mind you.  They do whatever they feel like, without regard to neighbors and their property values.  Take for example the hideous container storage use on the airport's north side in an area previously used for airport parking.  The effect of this eyesore on abutting private property is apparently of no concern to the Airport Authority.

With this ruling now in place, Indianapolis should restore its sole jurisdiction in zoning matters over at the Indianapolis Airport so that the Airport is forced to be a better neighbor, and so residents and private property owners can get a fair hearing - as opposed to no hearing at all.

Monday, June 18, 2012

A Clip From the Latest TIF Study Commission Meeting

As we await the draft report of the TIF Study Commission, my thoughts continue to return to the comments of one the very last presenters to the Commission - Brad Beaubien, Director Ball State College of Architecture and Planning, Indianapolis Center.  This one speaker stood out in the clarity of his remarks and the meaty interchange it sparked with the Commission members.  Many of the core ideas that have been revealed and reviewed by the group over these last couple of months are contained within this one segment.  If you would like to see a copy of Beaubien's presentation documents, click here.
from May 31, 2012 (embedded from WCTY archives):

Friday, June 15, 2012

Broad Ripple Parking Garage - $8 Million 'Value'

Cory Schouten's, IBJ reporter, latest revelations about the Broad Ripple parking garage and its new flood proofing scheme, got me looking over the permits that have been requested.  From the City's online permits feature, it appears that the flood proofing plans have been approved (FLD11-00216), the improvement location permit has been issued (ILP12-00845), and the structural permit(STR12-02419) awaits approval and issuance. (for those who know how to navigate this feature of the city's website - click here and input either the address 6280 N. College or search for the individual permits by the numbers I listed above)
What caught my eye was the "estimated value" line in the Application Information section of the structural permit.  This information would be supplied by the applicant, not the City.

$8 million dollars is the estimated value of this parking garage.  Not the oft repeated $15 million number.  And, this $8 million dollars would include the new flood proofing designs that were so onerous that the developer said it would kill the project.

The City taxpayers, through the up-front proceeds from the sale of the parking meter assets, is paying for this garage to the tune of $6.34 million.  We were told there would be 350 parking spaces and no more than 20% of the building devoted to retail and other uses.  The permit weighs in with 349 parking spaces, but the full first floor being retail (or 33% of the building) devoted to non-parking functions).  You will recall that the supposed need was for the parking spaces, not more retail.  Schouten reports that 100 of the spaces are actually required for all that retail, netting the taxpayers 249 spaces.

What to make of the $8 million "estimated value"?  Three possibilities leap to mind.  First - the taxpayers of Indy are paying $6.34 million, or the very hungry lion's share of the price for this garage/retail building.  Even if the per square foot construction costs of retail were equal to that of parking spaces (which I trust is no where near true), the cost of the parking spaces would be $5.33 million.  So, we have paid too much for what we are getting.  We have been led to believe that the costs were closer to $15 million by our City leaders, so our contribution would part of $10 million in costs for the two floors of parking.

Could the developer be so bad with money that he would spend $15 million and only create $8 million in value?  Possibly.

The last thought is that this $8 million value just might be what gets into the database for assessed values for property tax purposes.

I don't know what the costs truly are.  I have outstanding open records requests for just that information from the City.  But, the Ballard administration's self-proclaimed transparency is still not evident in its divulgence of public documents through City Legal.

Until further information is provided by the City, we are left with at least three possibilities - the taxpayers are paying more than their share of the building - the developer is very bad with money - or the true value of the new garage is deliberately being low balled.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Big Night At Rules Committee

The City-County Council Rules Committee will be taking up some big issues tonight, including partner benefits for City/County employees, and an ordinance banning blackballing of hotel workers who preveiusly worked for a temp agency. 

While most people attending will be interested in one of those two, I do want to make mention of an additional proposal that,if passed, would seek a half million loan from the state and then increase your taxes in 2013 to pay it back.  Hmmm...
Prop 168 does not say what purpose the half million would serve, just that it would be deposited in the City's Cumulative Capital Development Fund.  According to the budget for 2012, this fund was estimated to have over $3.7 million fund balance at the end of this year.  They used this fund to handle some of the property tax circuit breaker credits, eating into the over $8.8 million beginning balance. (see p 82 and 33 of the pdf) So why they need to feed this fund with a loan and add to our taxes next year is not clear.

Prop 179, sponsored by Councillor Brian Mahern, would establish a new requirement for a hotel to qualify for its annual operating license from the City.  No hotel would be able to enter into a services contract if that contract contained a stipulation that the hotel could not employ a person who had previously worked for the services agency.  This practice traps people in the employ of these temporary agencies and their attendant low wages with no benefits.  The hotels were quite happy to hide behind the skirts of the maids and other hotel workers in petitioning for more and more taxpayer funds to flow to the ICVA and the CIB - then unceremoniously cut these workers' jobs in favor of these black-hearted outsourcing agreements.
Prop 213, sponsored by Councillors Mansfield, Adamson, Barth, Hickman, Lutz and Hunter, would make various benefits available to City and County government employees who are in domestic partnerships. To qualify, the couple would have to be living together for at least one year and file a Domestic Partnership declaration the Human Resources.  The benefits provided to the partner would be the same as those now afforded to a spouse of an employee - such as health insurance and pension benefits - and family/medical leave would be provided to the employee for situations arising with their partner.  Should the domestic partners cease being a couple, HR would have to be notified immediately.  All benefits provided to a partner would be taxable to the employee.

On Prop 213, all I can say is - about time.  The State refuses to allow same sex partners to marry, stripping these couples of many legal rights married couples take for granted.  The least we can be as a City is progressive enough to provide equal benefits for partners as we provide to spouses.

The agenda for the Rules Committee lists 8 items.  The meeting will begin at 5:30 pm in the Public Assembly Room.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Public Access Counselor Sides With Airport on Open Door Law Complaint

Yesterday the Indiana Public Access Counselor issued his opinion on my complaint that the Indianapolis Airport Board violated the Open Door Law in initiating a lawsuit without a meeting to take a vote and without an established policy giving the Board President the authority to unilaterally make this decision.  I spoke with Joe Hoage, the PAC, today, to try and get some clarification of the opinion.
I have uploaded the opinion to Google Docs, as I don't see it posted on the PAC website yet.

A little background on what has happened at the Airport since I filed the complaint and since they were notified by Hoage of that complaint on May 10, 2012.  (See "Airport Board Did Not Authorize Lawsuit On Fast Park Zoning" for information about the complaint itself.)

Since receiving word of the complaint, the Airport Chief Legal Office, Joseph Heerens, signed an engagement letter with Doninger Tuohy & Bailey LLP to file and litigate the lawsuit on May 11.  Then, on May 17, both Heerens and Airport Authority Executive Director, Bob Duncan, signed an amended letter of engagement setting a $70,000 limit on the professional services contract.  On May 25, the Airport Board voted unanimously to support the lawsuit.  The posted agenda for that meeting did not, however, contain mention of this vote so that interested parties could attend and make their opinions known.

The crux of the PAC opinion is that as a general rule, the law does not mandate that any Board hold a meeting in order to initiate a lawsuit.  In fact there is a chilling court decision that says that decisions can be made in executive sessions; the same executive sessions were taking a vote is illegal.  It is his opinion, as well, that there is a policy allowing the Executive Director of the IAA to enter into personal services contracts for less than $150,000 without prior Board approval and that allowed the engagement of the law firm. He also puts value on the late board vote saying:
I would note that to clear up an impropriety, or perceived impropriety; the Board conducted a vote on May 25, 2012 in an open, properly noticed public meeting where the Board unanimously ratified the initiation of the legal action.
Heerens comments omitted  the fact that the May 25 meeting agenda does not mention the issue coming before the Board for a vote.  So, that action does not really meet any standard for proper notice and does not embrace any openness with respect to the public.  And I would have to disagree strenuously with the PAC that it clears up any impropriety.  The impropriety is not that the Board would have voted unanimously before the lawsuit was filed, the impropriety is that it did not vote and thus blocked the public from having input before the decision was final. 

The fact that they gave me 5 minutes to comment AFTER the lawsuit was filed seems to mean a lot to Heerens.  It is a sad day for public input into the affairs of government when those in power don't get the idea that input is only valuable when it has a non-zero chance of affecting the outcome of a decision.
Heerens is not unique at the Airport.  We often see this detachment from any respect for the public's opinion and the true meaning of transparancy.  He just was the one who wrote it up.  Here is his take on how all this AFTER decision posing elevates the IAA Board above all reasonable expectations:
Not only did the IAA board act in a manner consistent with the above-referenced Advisory Opinion 08-FC-136, it went above and beyond by taking several additional steps in order to ensure that this matter was handled in a fully transparent manner and that the general public was informed and made aware of the litigation in question.
Just days after the Petitions were filed, President Wells took the opportunity to publicly announce and report, at an IAA public board meeting, that the IAA had filed this litigation challenging the MDC Approval.  At the conclusion of his public comments, Mr. Wells also announce that Complainant had requested, and was being granted, five (5) minutes to address the IAA board on this particular subject.  In her public comments, Complainant indicated that the Decatur Township Civic Council was opposed to the Petitions and requested that the IAA withdraw or dismiss them.  Complainant, along with several of her colleagues, also provided certain documents to the IAA board for its consideration.  No on else offered public comments or asked to be heard.
Again I must reiterate that the Airport Board is granted by State Law the right to sue and be sued.  They have not delegated that authority, through establishment of a policy, to the sitting President of the Board.  Thus, they must make that decision through a vote at an open meeting.  I am not deterred in this interpretation.  I am staggered that a Board of such importance does not have a policy establishing a mechanism for Board decisions between Board meetings.  Every non-profit on whose Board I have served has just such a mechanism. 

As for that chilling court opinion that decisions may be made in executive session, even though there may be no vote taken - the minutes of the Airport Board's executive sessions pretty much show no decision was made regarding this lawsuit in that venue either.  In November and December's Executive sessions, yes the Board did discuss allowable matters under IC 5-14-1.5-6.1 (b)(2)(B)
(2) For discussion of strategy with respect to any of the following:
(B) Initiation of litigation or litigation that is either pending or has been threatened specifically in writing
In the January 20 and February 17 meetings, no such discussion was noted in the minutes.  The MDC hearing was held on February 15.  The March 23 meeting, after the filing of the lawsuit, again notes IC 5-14-1.5-6.1 (b)(2)(B) - discussion of strategy regarding litigation.  So, no discussion of lawsuits took place in the time frame most interesting for this lawsuit.  Heerens, in his comments, carefully avoids saying that they did.  He gets very general on this saying only:
While the IAA has not historically secured the vote of its board before initiating litigation, IAA board members have regular opportunities to be advised on, and to discuss, recommended proceedings, threatened and pending litigation, and the strategy about on in connection therewith.  These discussions occur frequently in executive sessions throughout the year, as permitted by the ODL.  See, Indiana Code 5-14-1.5-6.1(b)(2)(B).  For example, at this time there are nine (9) pending lawsuits involving IAA, and these matters are discussed, from time to time, in executive session.
In our conversation, the PAC noted that it is not in his purview to opine on whether the Airport Authority Board was required to hold a meeting to decide if this lawsuit should be filed.  Given that big caveat, I cannot fault him from arriving at the position he did.  But, that is the crux of my argument that the Board violated the open door law - because they have the sole authority to sue and they did not delegate it to any Board President, nor did they make such a decision in an executive session without taking a vote.  The very fact that AFTER the airport was apprised of my complaint they even saw the first draft of a letter of agreement with the outside lawfirm handling the lawsuit, and a week later got a version signed by the Executive Director, and the very fact that AFTER the airport was apprised of my complaint they took a vote in a public meeting - all speaks to the fact that they did not do things right the first time and were bailing themselves out as best they could.  And, it looks like it worked.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Is This How The Professionals Do It?

It would make me extremely nervous to hire a lawyer and let him work for me for two months before having a written agreement as to his billing rate.

Maybe that's just me.  The Indianapolis International Airport hired a whole firm to represent them and went two and a half months before finalizing the terms of their arrangement.

From an open records request, I received four iterations of a letter of engagement of Doninger Tuohy & Bailey, LLP, by the airport.  This is the law firm the airport hired to file and support its lawsuit against the MDC, trying to kill off a Fast Park facility on a prime location within Ameriplex.

According to Brian Tuohy in an email to airport Chief Legal Officer, Joseph Heerens, he began doing work for the airport on March 1, 2012, which would be two weeks after the MDC hearing that the airport is now suing over, and two weeks before the lawsuit was filed.  As time passed, Heerens would inquire of Tuohy in multiple emails as to when he would get the letter of engagement.  March came and went.  No letter.  April 23 saw a court hearing before Judge Michael Keele.  No letter.

On May 3, Tuohy emailed a draft engagement letter to Heerens for discussion.  Attorney rates were noted in the text as $150.00 to  $325.00 per hour.

On May 11, an unsigned version of the engagement letter, with a start date of February 17 and an attorney hourly rate of $75.00 to $175.00 was sent by Tuohy to Heerens.

An identical letter of engagement has Heerens' initials and a May 11 date for that signing.

On May 17 a revised engagement letter dated the same day was sent by Tuohy to Heerens.   This was signed by both Heerens and interim IAA Executive Director, Bob Duncan, on May 18.  This version included a start date of March 1 and a limit of $70,000 for fees and expenses.

Well, at least it got done before the airport received an invoice.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Mike Wells, Indy Airport Board President, Misled Press and Public on Airport Finances

On May 14, 2012, almost all local news outlets reported that the Indianapolis International Airport lost $31.3 million in its operating fund in 2011.  Mike Wells, President of the Airport Board, was prominently featured, talking about how the airport must improve its non-airline revenues, most notably through protecting on-airport parking proceeds.  On May 24, the $31.3 million loss figure was repeated when the media reported that three top executives of the Airport had been laid off to save money.

On May 25, [correction: the internal memo was sent on May 15, 2012] Airport CFO Marsha Stone, sent an internal memo to all airport employees, refuting the notion that the airport is in "financial trouble" - instead laying out how the airport actually saw a real net operating profit of $74.9 million in 2011.

Wells got the story aired all over town that the airport is facing financial problems.  By doing so, he misled the press and the public about the true nature of the airport's situation.  But, was his real target for the misinformation Judge Michael Keele, who is considering the Airport's lawsuit against the MDC that aims to derail plans for a Fast Park facility on a prime site in Ameriplex?

Here are links to the news articles (with the exception of those printing AP reports and/or IBJ reporting):  IBJ (Chris O'Malley - May 14 - May 24)  Indy Star (Dan McFeeley - May 24, 25)  WRTV (Norm Cox on May 14 and general story on May 24)  Fox59 (Kjerstin Ramsing May 14 and general story on May 24).

I have uploaded a copy of the internal memo sent by Marsha Stone, so you can review it in its entirety.
Stone begins by blaming the media for the misinformation getting published.  She says:
You may have noticed recent news stories referring to supposed "financial trouble" faced by the Indianapolis Airport Authority.  Driving these stories is the format in which our financial reports are required to be presented by various accounting rules and the difficulty the media and others have in analyzing and reporting on them.
She goes on to explain that the loss is merely a "paper loss".
In our 2011 audited financial statements, the IAA reported $167.8 million in operating expenses - but $106.2 million of that was a "paper loss" that is based on the depreciation, or loss in estimated value, of property.  IAA's annual depreciation expense also includes this charge for property we (IAA) didn't even have to pay for, such as the FedEx sort facility.  Yet when our tenants build such improvements on our property, we must record them as an IAA asset, and annually record their depreciation as an IAA expense.  However, losses attributed to a depreciation involve no change in the Authority's cash levels.
An analogy would be if someone gave you a new car as a gift, then pointed out that you faced an immediate "loss" due to its depreciation.  Even though you spent nothing on the car and saw no loss in cash, you could be said to have suffered from an "operating loss" on the car's annual depreciation.
Stone goes on to note that, outside of on paper, there was no loss - but actually a $74.9 million PROFIT.
Looking at our operating expenses for 2011 excluding depreciation, they totaled $61.6 million.  Comparing that to our operating revenue of $136.5 million, you can see we earned a $74.9 million operating profit excluding depreciation, meaning the IAA generated positive cash flow.  In fact, we recently made a $20 million early payment against our debt principal, which will save us $1 million per year in interest payments.
So, Stone's scapegoat is an uninformed media who do not know how to properly read an annual report.  But that doesn't pass the smell test.  All of the media outlets mentioned above simultaneously talked about the supposed financial woes of the airport all while getting the get-tough message from Mike Wells.  No, Wells got the reporting he wanted.
The question is, who was Wells' real target for his misinformation campaign?  The media?  Well, they bought his story, and published it.  The public?  Well, they read it and absorbed the idea that the airport is navigating a rough patch that requires considerable effort to reverse.  But, there may be one particular individual in the public who was a prime target for the incorrect status of the airport's finances.

The reason I say that is because of how I ended up with this internal memo.  I did not get it from an employee trying to feed me the tip.  I got it as part of the response to an open records request I made for all correspondence between representatives of the airport and representatives of Doninger Tuohy & Bailey, the law firm representing the airport in its lawsuit against the MDC, the lawsuit that hopes to keep the Fast Park facility from being built in Ameriplex.
The airport's Chief Legal Officer, Joseph Heerens, emailed a copy of the internal memo to Brian Tuohy, who is the lead attorney in the lawsuit.  It is possible that the two had an off-topic chat about the news reports of financial woes at the airport and Heerens sent the internal memo to Tuohy for its gossip value.
More troubling and equally plausible is the idea that the news stories were planted so the presiding Judge on the lawsuit would read them in the papers or see them on TV news and come away with the same misimpression of the airport's finances as everyone else.  The email to Tuohy could then have been pertinent to the case as a way to keep Tuohy from verbalizing the erroneous information directly to Judge Keele and thus violating legal ethics.
Whatever the motivation, Mike Wells' credibility, and frankly that of the entire Indianapolis Airport Authority, is shot.  I don't have any idea what information Mayor Ballard has received regarding the airport's profits or losses.  If he has been fed the same lies as the press and the public, then he has no moral recourse but to remove Wells from the Airport Board.  If he knows that Wells is lying to the press and the public, then he has but one political move to correct his image; and that again is to remove Wells from the Board.

The Airport Authority is a municipal corporation of Indianapolis - it is a unit of local government.  The President of the Board, one Mike Wells, who certainly knows his way around real estate depreciation, misled the press and the public about the state of airport finances - happy to let everyone think the airport is losing money hand over fist, when the reality is that it is making money hand over fist.  This is no small error - it is the most cynical manipulation of the press that I have ever seen.