Wednesday, May 22, 2013

A Lot of Questions Arising

Yesterday's raid on City Hall by the FBI was attention grabbing, to say the least.  The arrest of two City employees, one who ran the Land Bank (Reggie Walton), and one who had worked as a special assistant to Mayor Ballard himself (John Hawkins) and more recently as an aide to Walton, demonstrated how high up the alleged scheming crept.  Of course, the investigation continues and the recent cacophony of shoes dropping could continue apace.

U.S. Attorney, Joe Hogsett, held a press conference yesterday afternoon, part of which you can watch atop Jon Murray and John Tuohy's IndyStar article, and which I have embedded below.  If you can't watch all 5 minutes, I suggest tuning in at minute marker 4:15, where Hogsett sends a very clear message to those for whom corruption is a companion, beginning with "the era of corruption is over".
There are many things in this world I do not understand, but today I want to mention a few arising from yesterday actions and inactions.
Why do officials sell out for so little?  One of the charges alleged against Walton is that he took a $500 bribe.  It is almost heartening that the FBI believes the total take for all 5 people arrested may have topped $100,000.  Still, why would folks put themselves in line to go to prison for non-life-changing sums?
I suspect the answer lies in the culture of corruption itself and the individuals involved - some of whom may have more good than bad in them, but a powerful ability to rationalize their actions as just part of the game of 'public service'.  We all talk about the powerful folks putting certain folks into office so that the real gravy train of millions continues to flow to a handful of well connected individuals.  I look forward to the day when those people's fancy offices are subject to a warrant search.  But, for those lower on the food chain, the idea that the cracks in public policy should be exploited, not fixed, surely must fall out of the culture set by the big dogs.
I further have to wonder why any of the alleged sales of City-owned properties continued AFTER the IBJ article, written last November by Cory Schouten, exposed the Land Bank actions.  In fact, here is how Schouten's article began:
Reggie Walton sat down at his desk on the 20th floor of the City-County Building a few days after he signed off on the deal, and the thought hit him.

I just made someone a millionaire.
Once the light of day was shed on the Land Bank policy of selling without restrictions, one would have thought that a) restrictions would be placed on sales of City-owned property in the future and b) any corrupt practices would stop due to the exposure.  But, evidently not.  No restrictions were placed on either the policy or the corrupt practices.

On to the press reaction to Mayor Ballard's absence yesterday.  Reported by the Star this morning, is the fact that the FBI informed the Mayor's office Monday night, of its intention to execute a search warrant Tuesday morning.  Ballard and his administration had time to work out how to proceed on Tuesday.  Hiding all day was their answer.  This hiding, by our duly elected but frequently gone Mayor, seems to have stepped over a line for some in the media.  I'm happy that they had a line to step over, but I am kind of stunned that they didn't notice his absence from any real governing heretofore..

So, what's the recent count?  Two City Councillors.  One City attorney who worked as a business partner of a Prosecutor.  A Deputy Prosecutor.  A Code Enforcement Officer having cars towed, crushed, and sold for metal.   All those found or plead guilty.

Hopefully Hogsett and the Public Integrity Working Group will continue the joyful sound of dropping shoes; and do so until even those in high places trading power for millions, will take pause and wonder if its worth it to continue bilking the Citizens of Indianapolis.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Community and Economic Development is like the wild wild west - everyone is a gunslinger doing there own thing. There is no supervision, review, double-checks or standard procedures (other than for cranking out resolutions and contracts). HUD rules and NSP rules are not followed, etc. Rules that are followed are bent, twisted and snapped when the "right" person comes along. Of course, who is a major player? - Keystone.

There is a systematic problem and it rises to the top. As you indicated, the first thing that should have happened after the IBJ article would have been an independent audit of the Land Bank, the establishment of procedures and the reassignment of personnel. Instead nothing was done, so when it is clear that no one gives a sh.., there shouldn't be any surprise when people start traveling down the slippery slope.

Also, the crass appointments of people to positions due to their connections to pardoned felons does not make a good HR policy and does not lead to good results - ever. And DMD has just been infected with another of the mayor's flunkies - one of the most untalented people imaginable is now supposedly going to set policy for DMD.

As always, follow the money - and remember that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.