Ballard set to shake up CIB with staff moves

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Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard plans a major reorganization of the Capital Improvement Board’s leadership, including appointing a new president to replace Bob Grand, the mayor’s office said Tuesday morning.

CIB Treasurer Ann Lathrop will become board president, replacing Grand at the helm of the organization that oversees the city’s professional sports stadiums and the Indiana Convention Center.

Ballard’s spokesman, Robert Vane, said the mayor will replace four CIB members in total, shaking up an agency that has been grappling with a multimillion-dollar budget shortfall.

Lathrop, who served as Indianapolis city controller under former Mayor Steve Goldsmith, is an executive with Oak Brook, Ill.-based public accounting firm Crowe Horwath LLP. Grand, the managing partner of Indianapolis law firm Barnes and Thornburg LLP, was appointed to head the CIB by Ballard last year.

Lathrop told IBJ on Tuesday morning that she accepted Ballard’s invitation to take over the CIB last week after Grand asked the mayor not to renew his board appointment. As leader of the CIB, Lathrop said she has four priorities for 2010: continued financial stability; growing revenue; opening the expanded Indiana Convention Center; and finalizing “next steps” with the Indiana Pacers in determining future funding of costs at Conseco Fieldhouse, where the team plays.

In addition, the mayor’s chief of staff, Paul Okeson, who plans to resign from his position this week to become vice president of business development for Keystone Construction, will join the CIB’s board and spearhead the city’s negotiations with the Pacers.

Chris Cotterill, the city’s corporation counsel, will become the mayor’s new chief of staff. Cotterill’s chief deputy, Samantha Karn, will take over as corporation counsel, Okeson said.

“I am very much in agreement with the mayor’s philosophy on this [CIB reorganization],” Okeson said. “Do it right, not necessarily just fast. Be expedient, but make it work right. If we can identify the best path to the long term, that’s the goal here.”

Ballard also will appoint former State Rep. Carolene Mays, hotel executive Jim Dora Jr. and investment company CEO David Shane to the board, and reappoint Jay Potesta, a union business manager.

In 2009, the CIB’s financial challenges forced it to slash a $78 million annual budget to just $51 million in actual expenses, Lathrop noted. More cuts could be in store next year, since the recession, as well as declining downtown hotel bookings, are likely to further reduce the CIB’s tax revenue. Lathrop’s challenge will be to keep the CIB’s books in the black without harming the city’s convention and tourism industry.

“What we do not want to do is cut to a level that it starts to impact the ability to book [the Indiana Convention Center],” she said. “That is essential. We have to keep services at a level where people want to continue to come here as a destination. That is the balancing act.”

The mayor appoints the majority of the nine-member board. The City-County Council and Marion County Commissioners each appoint one member. A state law passed this summer allows commissioners from surrounding counties that contribute food-and-beverage tax revenue to the CIB to appoint a member.

The cash-strapped CIB made $26 million in budget cuts this year in an effort to shore up a projected $47 million budget deficit.

Vane said Ballard believes it’s important to have a cross-section of talent on the CIB’s board, whose appointments last two years. Vane said some of the previous members, like Grand, were ready to move on.

Vane said Ballard wanted “some fresh eyes” at the CIB as it prepares to scrutinize responses to its public “request for information,” which are due today. The RFI solicited business proposals to potentially privatize operations and management of Lucas Oil Stadium, the Indiana Convention Center and, perhaps, Conseco Fieldhouse.

“The previous team wrestled with a tough, tough set of issues and did a great job,” Vane said. “Now we’re looking beyond those issues and looking to set the CIB up for the next strategic quarter century.”

Ballard plans to formerly announce the staff changes Tuesday at a 2 p.m. press conference.

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