Council sues city over public safety lease deal

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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