New CIB membership nearly set

December 17, 2009

Marion County Commissioners reappointed Doug Brown on Thursday morning to the Indianapolis Capital Improvement Board, leaving only one seat open on the nine-member panel whose financial troubles this year have elevated its profile.

The reappointment of Brown, a lawyer at law firm Stewart & Irwin PC, is part of a larger reorganization of the CIB, which manages the city’s professional sports venues and the Indiana Convention Center.

This year has been particularly daunting for the CIB, as it grappled to overcome a projected $47 million deficit in 2010. The board has improved its financial health by making $26 million in cuts and by avoiding $25.5 million in debt-service reserve payments.

The largest challenge facing new board members is ongoing negotiations with the Indiana Pacers to keep the team from breaking its lease. That could require the CIB to fund $15 million in Conseco Fieldhouse operating costs.

Under a state law passed in the summer, the terms of all nine board members expire in January, although the law does not prohibit members from being reappointed.

Late last month, Mayor Greg Ballard reappointed Ann Lathrop, an executive in the local office Oak Brook, Ill.-based public accounting firm Crowe Horwath LLP. She will assume the president’s position from Robert Grand. Grand, the managing partner of Indianapolis law firm Barnes and Thornburg LLP, was selected to head the CIB by Ballard last year but won't return in 2010.

In addition, the mayor appointed Paul Okeson, his former chief of staff, who resigned his position to become vice president of business development for Keystone Construction.

The mayor, who picks the majority of the board, also appointed former State Rep. Carolene Mays, hotel executive Jim Dora Jr. and investment company CEO David Shane, and reappointed union leader Jay Potesta.

Outgoing City-County Council President Robert Cockrum has been replaced on the CIB by fellow Republican councilor Michael McQuillen.

Republican caucus members of the City-County Council ousted Cockrum as president on Monday in favor of Ryan Vaughn, an attorney at Barnes & Thornburg.

Vaughn said McQuillen’s experience chairing the Municipal Corporations Committee, which oversees municipal budgets, including the CIB’s, made him a logical choice.

“He’ll be able to contribute right away,” Vaughn said, “because he’s familiar with the finances and the challenges they face.”

The lone seat on the CIB remaining to be filled will be selected by commissioners from surrounding counties. A state law passed this summer allows the counties that contribute food-and-beverage tax revenue to the CIB to appoint a member.

Commissioners from surrounding counties will convene after the first of the year in Hamilton County, because it has the largest population of the six that pay food and beverage taxes.

Sources involved in the selection process said getting representatives from the surrounding counties, excluding Morgan, which does not pay the tax, to agree on an appointment should be made easier by a few candidates who are lobbying for the position.

Besides Grand and Cockrum, the CIB will lose Indiana Health Care Association executive Dorothy Henry, St. Elmo President Craig Huse, IUPUI Vice Chancellor John Short and Somerset CPAs President Patrick Early.

Early has served on the CIB since 1992 and has been the board’s point person in negotiations with the Pacers. Lathrop, however, asked Early to continue in that role although he will no longer be on the board.

Despite the new faces, Lathrop said she's confident the group can continue toward fiscal responsibility

“It will take awhile for us to revisit the history of how we’ve gotten to where we are,” she said. “But I have the utmost confidence in those who have been picked to hit the ground running.”

The CIB’s first meeting of the new year will occur sometime after Jan. 15, when some of the current terms expire.


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