Marion County Jail’s new home could be in jeopardy

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (Dec. 18, 2014) -- The proposed future home of the Marion County Jail could be in jeopardy after Democratic city-county councilors raised a red flag Thursday.

Questions are being raised after the release of emails between former city officials who worked on the troubled Regional Operations Center, or ROC.

The ROC opened in the former Eastgate Mall ahead of the Super Bowl, as a place to make residents safer. However, just a year later it was evacuated after the building was deemed unsafe.

A City-County Council committee has been investigating the circumstances surrounding the ROC's site and lease. Democratic councilors even went so far as to take the city to court, resulting in the release of the emails.

"It shows a pattern. It shows a disregard for the process," said Councilor Joe Simpson.

The emails seem to reveal that it was Mayor Greg Ballard, not former Public Safety Director Frank Straub as previously thought, who pushed for the east side location.

"Drove by Eastgate, I'm a visionary (but) I thought it was horrible. It will be a long time before they get (that) space to look good," Straub said in one email.

"Mayor heard rumor (ROC) won't be at Eastgate. ... Mayor wants it at Eastgate," the mayor's former chief of staff said in another email.

"For whatever reason, Eastgate is still being kept in play by the Mayor's Office," Straub later said.

The larger issue, though, is that the mayor is seeking council approval to build a massive Criminal Justice Center that will replace the outdated Marion County Jail and courts. It needs to make a March 31 deadline for funding.

FOX59 asked Democratic councilors, who hold the majority, if that deadline seemed feasible.

"I think we will look at it a lot closer," said Councilor Monroe Gray Jr.

"What I’ve heard so far about the justice center, (it) seems to be following the same pattern with the financing, not giving us information. ... I can't imagine that's going to work," Simpson said.

All but one Republican councilor left the meeting early, saying they believed it was a purely political move.

"It's like we're dragging this out forever. ... I don't get it," Republican Aaron Freeman said.