Republican Prosecutor candidate Mark Massa has called on Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi, also a Republican, to step down in the wake of a five-month-long IBJ investigation.
Massa, a former general counsel for Gov. Mitch Daniels and deputy prosecutor in Marion County, on Wednesday announced a series of ethics reforms he plans to enact if elected. Highlights of the plan include a new public integrity unit within the Prosecutor’s Office and a whistle-blower hotline for public employees to report malfeasance among elected officials.
He also said the man he hopes to replace should resign before his second four-year term ends Dec. 31. Massa cited a series of "disturbing published reports" detailing Brizzi's business dealings while in office, including an investment with a prolific defense attorney.
"I believe the prosecuting attorney should inspire public confidence, not public cynicism," Massa said in response to questions from reporters outside the federal courthouse at 45 E. Ohio St.
"I will work simply for the paycheck from the people every two weeks, and I'll work hard to earn it," he added.
Brizzi has resisted calls from former supporters to resign, and he has a personal interest in sticking around: He will be eligible for a public pension if he finishes his second term. With eight years of service, he would be entitled to earn 24 percent of his highest annual salary of $125,000, or about $30,000 per year once he reaches retirement age, by IBJ’s calculation.
Brizzi, 41, said in a statement late Tuesday that he has no plans to resign.
“I have received no communications from anyone concerning a request to resign, period,” Brizzi wrote. “Instead of adding to rumor-mongering or allowing innuendo to substitute for fact, I believe it is in the best interest of our community to focus on real-world issues, such as the safety of our residents and the effective prosecution of criminals.”
Massa promised that, if elected, he would not engage in outside business interests, serve on the board of any for-profit company or accept gifts of any kind.
IBJ.com reported earlier Wednesday that Massa has been talking with Republican elected officials, seeking their support for a call for Brizzi to resign. Marion County GOP Chairman Tom John said he supports and agrees with Massa's request.
The request for Brizzi to step down comes just days after IBJ exclusively reported on Brizzi’s personal intervention last year in a major drug case to offer a reduced sentence to a business partner’s client.
Brizzi insisted on a plea deal for Joseph Mobareki that would be acceptable to defense attorney Paul J. Page, despite objections from both law-enforcement officers and his own deputy prosecutors. Brizzi also directed his staff to return $10,000 in cash seized from Mobareki. A year earlier, Page had arranged for Brizzi to own 50 percent of an Elkhart office building worth $900,000 without investing any cash or co-signing a loan.
If Brizzi stepped down before his terms ends, the responsibility under Indiana law to fill his position would fall to the Marion County Republican caucus, which likely would appoint Massa. If Brizzi were removed from office, the governor would appoint a replacement.
State law spells out a process for impeachment by the Indiana General Assembly should a prosecutor be convicted of a misdemeanor. A felony conviction could lead to removal from office by the Indiana Supreme Court.
Questions about the Mobareki case are only the most recent of Brizzi dealings to attract scrutiny. He has invested in public companies affiliated with Timothy Durham, the target of a federal securities fraud investigation. He bought a stake in the restaurant Harry & Izzy's. And he has invested in real estate deals with John Bales, the real estate broker who represented the Prosecutor's Office in its lease deal.
Terry Curry, the Democratic candidate for prosecutor, said Brizzi’s involvement in outside investments and business dealings sends the wrong message.
“It is clearly poor judgment to enter into business relationships with anyone while you are the full-time prosecutor of Marion County,” Curry said in an interview. “I can absolutely pledge as prosecutor I wouldn’t enter into any kind of outside business relationships.”