Democrats charge conflict in parking meter deal

Local Democrats are questioning whether a lobbyist who represents both the city of Indianapolis and the company the city chose to receive a lucrative parking-meter operations contract might have influenced the selection.

Joe Loftus, a partner at Indianapolis-based law firm Barnes & Thornburg LLP, is the city’s chief Statehouse lobbyist and also is registered to lobby for Dallas-based Affiliated Computer Services Inc.

The city last month entered into a 50-year agreement with ACS in a deal city leaders are promoting as a way to modernize meters and generate at least $400 million in revenue for road and sidewalk improvements in areas near the meters.The deal still needs final approval from the City-County Council, which delayed a Sept. 20 vote on it.

Critics have said the deal would restrict the city’s flexibility when it comes to urban planning while raking in lots of revenue for ACS—perhaps as much as $1.2 billion, according to an IBJ estimate.

Marion County Democrats on Tuesday charged in a press release that Loftus is “apparently using his contract with the city to enrich other clients, most specifically ACS.”

When reached by phone Wednesday morning, Loftus acknowledged he has lobbied for ACS “for years,” but said he was not involved in the negotiations from either side.

“I’ve been doing this for 30 years,” he said. “Nobody’s ever attacked me like this. That’s not acceptable.”

Loftus further said he’s never discussed the parking deal with Mayor Greg Ballard and pointed to an ethics ordinance the mayor led that requires anyone contracted with the city to disclose other contracts.

But Ed Treacy, Marion County Democratic Party Chairman, argued that the appearance of a conflict is serious enough to question the entire parking proposal.

“[Loftus] may not have talked to the mayor directly, but he surely is communicating to his staff,” Treacy maintained. “A lot of stuff can be done by innuendo.”

City spokesman Robert Vane said he is confident that no conflict exists.

“I know from my conversations that he never spoke to the mayor about the parking deal,” Vane said. “Mr. Treacy is a career lobbyist. It’s a little curious for him to be throwing stones.”

The proposal to lease the city’s parking meters would require ACS to bring 200 jobs to Indianapolis for at least seven years.
City officials this week began touting that part of the agreement, as the deal increasingly becomes a subject of heated debate.


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