Monday, June 3, 2013

Louis Mahern Makes Compelling Case for Full Disclosure of Gifts to Ballard and Lewis

In this week's IBJ, guest columnist Louis Mahern makes a remarkably compelling case for Mayor Greg Ballard and City-County Council President Maggie Lewis, to disclose all of the gifts they get.

If the following statement doesn't make you sit back, nothing will:
Since 2008, Ballard has received nearly $1 million in free sports tickets. Shouldn’t he have to report somewhere that he received those tickets as well as their value?
Wow !  I knew he got tickets, but that's a load of tickets.  If Mahern's figures are over 5 1/2 years, that's $181,000 a year in TICKETS.  A lot of feting can be done with that budget, and none of it has to come from Ballard's campaign coffers.

Still the public has a right to know this and it should have to be disclosed on Ballard's annual "Statement of Economic Interest" form (aka 'conflict of interest' form).  Here is the meaty part of his disclosure from 2013 gifts:
Ballard mentions that he attends sporting events and that the City often gets tickets to other events from the CIB.  He does not actually disclose the number and value of the tickets he gets.  Of course, since Ballard already has a suite at the BLF, why accept 2 Pacers tickets worth $1824 from IPL? Gary Welsh, over at Advance Indiana, has already exposed the huge undervalue of the Super Bowl ring, which Welsh shows is really more like $5000.
Back to Mahern's IBJ column - Not only were the tickets not fully disclosed, but memberships in country clubs, and his frequent, free, foreign jaunts are also not disclosed to the public.  You will recall how Ballard says his administration is transparent.  Well, here's a great example of how opaque they really are.
Mahern moves on to Lewis' gifts of tickets from the CIB and her employer's (Dove Recovery House - for which she serves as Executive Director) dependence upon annual grants from the City's Crime Prevention Grants.  The Councillor's 2013 Ethics forms are online as a single, lengthy, pdf.  Lewis' are pages 89-93.  She does disclose her employer's name and nowhere does the form require disclosure of her employer's City funding.  The tickets to sporting and other events are not mentioned by Lewis.  A scan of Councillor's forms show that some do disclose tickets and others do not.  But, we know for a fact that Lewis does get tickets from at least the CIB.  In answer to question 6 of the form:
Except for Campaign Donations, Subject to IC 3-9-2 and Reported in Accordance With Law or Gifts From Persons Including Family Members With Whom You Have an On-Going Social Relationship Not Related to Service on the Council Which are not Subject to Reporting on this Form, Did You Receive any Gifts, or Other Items, Valued Over $100, or in the Aggregate Over $250, in the Prior Year From any Person or Firm that Does Business With or Seeks to do Business with the City or County or Which Seeks to Influence Council Action?
she simply checkmarks "No".

The public has a right to know how much our elected officials get in gifts from admirers and influence seekers.  In fact, I'd like to see Departments heads also have to disclose gifts.  The Council and the Mayor like to tell the public that they have strong disclosure and ethics statutes, but Mahern has shown us that they either have weak statutes or they ignore what they have at will.
As Mahern concludes:
Make no mistake: Ballard and Lewis are powerful officials whose friendship the Colts, Pacers and private contractors crave.

What are the gifts? What is their value? Who are the donors? Is it so hard?


Anonymous said...

You claim Lewis' form is from 2013, but the signature clearly states it's from 2011. Did she make a mistake, or did you?

Had Enough Indy? said...

Good catch. I clearly made an error in interpreting the link "ethics forms for 2012" as being those submitted this past January to cover gifts and jobs held in 2012. I'll inquire tomorrow about those from the Council office.

This batch of forms, however, when you look through the dates when signed, appear to cover gifts and jobs held in 2011. Lewis' form is sign 1-18-11 (most others I see were signed in January 2012) so either she erred in the year, or it covers 2010 and was somehow collected up in the wrong batch of forms.