INDIANAPOLIS (June 26, 2014) – In response to a subpoena by a City-County Council committee, attorneys representing Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard have told a Marion Circuit Court judge that they can’t find key paperwork related to the city’s selection and lease of the Regional Operations Center at the former Eastgate Consumer Mall.
The council’s ROC Investigating Committee sought 30 sets of documents that were expected to detail the decision of the Ballard administration in 2011 to sign a 25-year, $18 million lease for an emergency operations center and police headquarters on North Shadeland Avenue.
This week it appears East District IMPD officers and Homeland Security staff have moved back into the building, which was shut down last September due to workmanship issues and fire code violations.
“The reason we’re in court is to get these documents and until we get these documents, including you and all the press and everybody out here,” said Councilman Joe Simpson, chairman of the committee, “we will know what took place.”
In a committee and court fight that has now dragged on for months, Corporation Counsel, responding to a deadline set by Judge Louis Rosenberg, answered that it had produced 14 sets of documents, promised to produce four more, provided nine sets of paperwork just this week and claimed it could not find or objected to turning over seven sets of records sought by the subpoena.
“I just cannot imagine why the taxpayers, and I’m a taxpayer and a council person, have to go through this just to get information about what happened with the ROC,” said Simpson.
Among documents crucial to the ROC investigation that the lawyers claim they cannot find are hard drives belonging to city project and contract managers and consultants that have been “wiped” clean of information.
The city also doesn’t have any contracts with an engineering firm hired to work on the project, Drafts of the Development Agreement and audit reports related to expenditures at the center.
Most glaring is the city’s inability to answer the demand for the “contract with the NFL that required the city to have an emergency operations center in time for the 2012 Super Bowl.”
“Defendant has no documents responsive to this Request,” answered the Corporation Counsel.
Former Public Safety Director Frank Straub and Mayor Ballard repeatedly claimed that such a center was a contracted stipulation for Indianapolis’ successful bid to host Super Bowl XLVI.
“The answer is, they should have it,” said Simpson. “I think there is some information about the NFL that we asked for and that we want.
“Or they still exist. They just don’t want to give them to us.”
Ballard’s office has often characterized the Democrat-led committee’s inquiry into the ROC as a partisan sideshow.
“What’s outrageous is you don’t have them,” complained Simpson. “You are city government. You are the gatekeeper of the taxpayer’s money. How we keep records. What we do with the records and for them to say, ‘We don’t have a copy of it,’ something is seriously wrong.”
The city objected to providing files from the Department of Code Enforcement “for all Notices of Violation and Stop Work Orders.”
“This Request is vague, overly burdensome, and not limited with respect to time. DCE has approximately 160 employees, and it would be overly burdensome for Defendant to pull all emails from 160 DCE employees for an undefined period of time,” wrote the mayor’s lawyers.
Current Public Safety Director Troy Riggs told FOX59 News that during construction of the ROC in 2011, Code Enforcement inspectors found multiple violations inside the building yet were advised to not continue their inspections due to questions the Corporation Counsel had regarding the city’s lease with developer Alex Carroll.
Straub signed that lease in late May 2011, specifically without the approval of Corporation Counsel or the city controller.
An inspector for the Indianapolis Fire Department told FOX59 News he never investigated the ROC for a fire suppression system until October 2012, nine months after staff and police officers moved into the building.
Inspector Fred Pervine said he was busy with other projects and therefore unaware of a lack of a fire sprinkler system in the center.
The Department of Public Safety later paid off-duty firefighters more than $70,000 to patrol the building to keep it safe.
Documents long sought and finally turned over on Wednesday, one day before Judge Rosenberg’s deadline, included Straub emails from April 2011, when the director was lobbying the City-County Council for a successful endorsement of the Shadeland Avenue site.
Straub previously dismissed a proposal to place the ROC on the property of the Indianapolis International Airport out of concerns that it would lie in the flight path of arriving and departing planes and be subject to a potential catastrophic crash.
During the last several months, as the ROC was closed for renovations, the city’s Emergency Operations Center was relocated to the airport site.
It was reopened at the ROC as a response to Tuesday’s storms and tornado outbreak.
Corporation Counsel also claimed it could not provide documents regarding the city’s spending on the ROC, including lease payments, utilities, maintenance, improvements and repairs and, among other costs, contracts for consultants.
The attorney for the committee has one week to file a response to the city’s position and then Judge Rosenberg has set a July 10 hearing to consider the evidence and determine if the city should be found in contempt for not fully responding to the subpoena.
During a previous hearing Rosenberg indicated he was anxious to conclude the case and would issue a ruling quickly.
“Patience is a virtue,” said Simpson. “There’s other information they need to get to us and we need it.”