Council braces to confront Mayor Ballard on public safety

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (April 13, 2014)—City-County councilors will face off with Mayor Greg Ballard Monday night on public safety issues regarding gunplay in Marion County and the administration’s often repeated pledge of “transparency.”

A split victory is expected.

Democrats want to send the council’s attorney to Marion Circuit Court to seek a judge’s order forcing the city to comply with a subpoena issued by the Regional Operations Center Investigating Committee.

The ROC Committee, controlled by democrats, wants full documentation on the administration’s decision three years ago to sign a 25-year $18 million lease for public safety facilities at the former Eastgate Consumer Mall on North Shadeland Avenue.

The troubled facility was over budget, delayed, riddled with shoddy workmanship and now stands empty as a fire hazard.

Contractually the city continues to pay developer Alex Carroll $57,000 a month rent while waiting for improvements before moving East District IMPD officers, specialty units and public safety employees back into the building.

The committee has been able to recover some but not all of the documents detailing the deal from the developer, its own files and the Office of Corporation Counsel. Other documents are incomplete or have not been provided.

“ROC committee is a political sham” says Mayoral Spokesman Marc Lotter. “Council democrats don’t want information, they are putting on a political show.”

Sources tell FOX59 News that contracts, agreements and e-mails are either missing or never existed or were destroyed.

The Indiana State Police is investigating the ROC but has yet to determine if there was criminal intent.

“It’s not illegal to sign a bad lease,” one source told FOX59 News.

Committee and council democrats have grown impatient with the administration’s slow response to last November’s subpoena.

“Something needs to give and the information has not been given to our chairman,” said Council President Maggie Lewis. “I think its important that the administration understands that you have to respond to a subpoena. The council has requested this information over and over and we’re just not getting the supporting documents, so, at this point, we have to go outside our scope and ask for someone else to make it a requirement that they give us that documentation.”

Councilman Joe Simpson tells FOX59 News that his committee reserves the right to serve a subpoena on former Public Safety Director Frank Straub, who signed the deal without corporation counsel or controller approval, to seek answers to the ROC lease agreement.

Straub is currently the police chief in Spokane, Wash.

The council will also debate whether to expand a gunfire ban to all of Marion County.

Parts of Indianapolis, under what is referred as the “former IPD service district,” has always been under a gunfire ban. When the merged Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department expanded its service area to virtually all of Marion County, the gunfire ban was also expanded. Mayor Ballard issued an executive order rolling the ban back to encompass only the former IPD service district. Residents along such formerly un-inhabited stretches of land, such as along the White River, complain that the bullets and shotgun pellets from hunters often fall near their homes. The proposal before the council would re-expand the gunfire ban to the rest of Marion County not including Lawrence, Speedway, Beech Grove and Southport.

Lewis said these two issues come before the council at a time when democrats have found the mayor more willing to engage in public safety discussions with the majority party.

“For this year, for the first time, I am really having more conversations with Mayor Ballard.”