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Council sues city over public safety lease deal

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The City-County Council is suing the city of Indianapolis in an effort to force officials to produce documents relating to the controversial lease of the Regional Operations Center.

The lawsuit filed in Marion Circuit Court on Tuesday follows a 15-14 council vote April 14 mostly along party lines calling for the court action.

Council members are asking a judge to force the administration of Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard to comply with a subpoena identifying 30 documents council members are requesting that they have yet to receive from city officials.

Specifically, the clerk of the council is suing the city's law office to hand over the documents. The city’s Office of Corporation Counsel has produced some documents, but the overall response was “incomplete and inadequate,” the suit said.

Ballard spokesman Marc Lotter dismissed the suit as a political ploy by council Democrats.

“Lawyers for the city and the property owner [Alex Carroll] on multiple occasions attempted to testify in front of them and they refused to let them speak,” Lotter said.

The dispute stems from an $18 million, 25-year lease that former Public Safety Director Frank Straub signed in May 2011 to occupy 75,000 square feet in the former Eastgate Consumer Mall on the city’s east side.

The center housed about 150 police and homeland security employees until current Public Safety Director Troy Riggs ordered them to evacuate in September after city fire and building inspectors deemed the building unsafe.

The lease calls for the Department of Public Safety to pay $57,000 a month in rent for the first 10 years and $63,000 a month for the final 15 years. But the space occupied by the department has remained vacant since the evacuation.

A council investigative committee formed in October wants to know why the department entered into an “allegedly unfavorable long-term lease” and is trying to determine whether information provided by the department about the lease was complete and accurate, according to the suit.

Among the council’s questions listed in the suit:

— Why did the department choose the Eastgate location?

—  Why did construction on the space start before receiving building permits and council approval?

—  Who negotiated the deal on behalf of the city?
 

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  • Crony Capitalism
    If Crony Capitalism was in the dictionary, there would be a picture of Mayor Ballard next to it. Shame on Ben, Evan Bour and other partisan Republicans for turning a blind eye to the rampant corruption that is occurring in our city government, while railing against cities like Chicago and Detroit for their corruption.
  • Meanwhile...
    the Ballard administration looks to save money by cutting or eliminating pension contributions for City workers: http://www.ibj.com/city-controller-floats-idea-to-change-retirement-plans/PARAMS/article/47304 It's sad to see the workers and the citizens lose money while the campaign contributors and former politicians and staff members get fat feeding at the public trough. It's beyond time to make local government transparent and clean it up.
  • To whomever wrote this post by "Ben"
    To Ben or whoever wrote this: Why would it be in the interest of good government and all voters and taxpayers to have the entire Council ignore not having access to the information regarding this expensive long-term lease because they are the same party as the Mayor (regardless of which party has control)? It seems it is your view that the details of city commitment to bad real estate should remain secret. This is protecting people who may be self-dealing and involved in illegal actions defrauding the rest of us---Republicans and Democrats. The magnitude of the tax dollars here is shocking and the Mayor ought to release all relative documents right away to protect his reputation---and Republican Council members ought to urge this as a matter of course. Good government transcends party affiliation!
  • Playing Politics
    The Democrats are not "playing politics" on this issue. Both parties should be demanding that the City produce what are public documents that anyone should be able to obtain through an open records request. It is shameful that so many Council Republicans are stonewalling the investigation. Didn't our party learn anything from Watergate? When there is possible wrongdoing, welcome an investigation and lay the cards on the table. Don't actively participate in a coverup.
  • I agree Ben
    It was so much nicer when Republicans had the City-County Council and the Mayors office. Much less fighting and more getting the work done as needed to move our city forward. Guess with the At-Large seats being removed in 2015 we wont have to worry about Libertarians throwing the election and votes away.
    • Again IBJ change the comment boards
      The comment boards need to be changed so you can have your own identity and account. The impersonating of me by this troll needs to stop. #Growup.
    • Libertarians.....
      I blame them. In the last election, many of them voted for our fantastic Mayor, and then voted for Libertarians for the city council. If we had those votes, we wouldn't have to deal with this awful city council. So awful.
    • Transparency
      I don't understand how a request for information like this is partisan politics whether it would come from either of the parties. This lease looks to be bad business practice and has tones of corruption and every Council member ought to be concerned. Why does the Ballard Administration think its a good idea to withhold this information from the public? Is it good government not to be forthcoming about this irregular deal that has the taxpayers on the hook at a time many needs go unfunded?
    • 50 years/25 years
      Ballard administration signs leases with little or no thought. Leasing the parking meters for FIFTY YEARS and now we have to rent them form Xerox to use for charge stations. Lease a building for 25 years that is deemed unsafe and blame someone else for politics is just trying to shift the spotlight away from Ballard.
    • Not political
      Holding accountable the bozos who signed off on this deal is not playing politics. Obfuscating to protect one party is. It's high time the citizens get to see how this happened and why much-needed funds are being wasted.
    • Very Inefficient use of resources
      Why shouldn't the council be able to review the documents? And why are the pertinent documents being withheld? What is more political than Ballard saying the council has no right to see the lease? There must be something to hide. Is it illegal or were errors made?
    • INDY WATERGATE - Simply Produce the documents
      No one needs to here Ballard's minions ramble at a meeting. One needs to see how this contract was originated, who were in the lines of approval and why. This certainly appears as though it was not undertaken in the best interest of Taxpayers especially when the Taxpayer as the Tenant has vacated the property for health and safety reasons and we taxpayers are still making monthly payments. Certainly seems at a minimum incompetently executed and possibly far worse. These clowns forget they are PUBLIC SERVANTS!
    • Disgusting
      The Democrats in this city are disgusting. Playing political games like this will just ensure they will become the minority party on the council come 2015.

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