Council votes to sue city over Vision Fleet contract
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (June 8, 2015) – City-County Council members voted 23-6 to sue the city over a deal to rent electric vehicles. The lawsuit will challenge the legal validity of the contract with Vision Fleet.
The vote comes after weeks of controversy involving the contract, with a value estimated between $25 and $32 million. A FOX59 investigation uncovered multiple versions of the contract including signature pages that were backdated and inserted into another document. The council’s own attorney claims the city bypassed ordinances, policies and violated state statutes when the deal was signed.
Council members debated the proposal to file a lawsuit for more than an hour. During that time councilors presented two other options that would have delayed a lawsuit but those measures were ultimately voted down.
“This is not political, this is about right and wrong and there’s no question here that this is wrong. It’s wrong on the contract, it’s wrong on how we got into it, it’s wrong that the council didn’t know anything about it,” said Councilman Aaron Freeman.
Last week an audit showed that funds may have been illegally diverted out of a storm water fund to pay for the electric vehicles. A spokesperson for Mayor Greg Ballard admitted the process should have been reviewed by the council but it was not.
“I just want to say for the taxpayers out there we got your back and we’re trying to be good stewards of your money because we raised that storm water sewer to do a good thing for people out there that are getting flooded and stuff like that and this money is being misued, somebody got to go to jail,” said Councilman Joe Simpson.
When asked about the lawsuit a spokesperson for Vision Fleet and Mayor Greg Ballard’s office insisted the contract is legal. Mayor Ballard’s Administration released the following statement to FOX59:
“The Council voted to fully fund Freedom Fleet in 2014. And in 2015b – after the program has operated successfully for a year – a group of councillors who have refused to talk through concerns about the program are instead working to dismantle it through costly litigation. This evening’s vote to sue the administration in an attempt to halt Freedom Fleet is irresponsible and misguided. When one branch of government sues another, taxpayers are harmed. We believe we have a legal contract and intend to continue fleet operations without interruption.”
Vision Fleet’s CEO, Michael Brylawski, wrote an open letter to Marion County residents before the meeting and provided a copy to FOX59. In the letter, Brylawski explains why he believes a lawsuit is not the answer.
“A handful of elected officials have suggested that the only way to resolve these concerns is in court. We respectfully disagree,” said Brylawski.