INDIANAPOLIS – Attorneys representing the Ballard administration have a little over a week to explain to a Marion Circuit judge why the city can’t or shouldn’t turn over key documents related to the lease and construction of the problem-plagued Regional Operations Center on Indianapolis’ east side while a city county council committee wants the man who signed the deal to come back to town to answer questions.
For the first time, the possible destruction of documents related to the 25-year $18 million bargain has been raised in court.
Before Judge Louis Rosenberg, the Office of Corporation Counsel argued the ROC Investigating Committee is, “almost accusing the city of a crime in the destruction of documents.”
“That’s the $50 million question right now,” said Councilman Joe Simpson, chairman of the committee. “I would hope they exist because if they don’t, what type of records are you keeping in this city?”
The committee has issued a subpoena for dozens of records. That request has been met with limited success. The committee then sued in circuit court to force compliance with the subpoena.
One count of the committee’s lawsuit maintains it is, “a Class D felony to recklessly, knowingly or intentionally destroy public records…”
In the city’s response, Corporation Counsel wrote, “Defendant further denies it has violated either state law or Indiana Code.”
The city goes on to deny it has failed to fulfill the committee’s subpoena, it has no knowledge of the lease and loan agreement, argues that the judge has no jurisdiction in the case and that the ROC Investigating Committee is not entitled to the paperwork under the state’s Open Records act.
The city’s response comes as the public is learning for the first time why city code and fire inspectors were forbidden from investigating the building and documenting its problems while under construction.
“There was such a rush to get in for the Super Bowl and there was such a big event as the Super Bowl coming here that they were moving fast and a couple of things were missed,” said Public Safety Director Troy Riggs who inherited the building after the resignation of his predecessor Dr. Frank Straub. “During the work on the ROC and the Emergency Operations Center that Code Enforcement had been in, was looking at the Emergency Operations Center, but saw some other things they thought they potentially had issues with. They alerted, I believe, the Department of Public Safety, which alerted the attorneys so Legal started working on that issue and while they were working on the lease and working on some of these issues I do not believe Code Enforcement was allowed to go back in at that time.”
The lease with developer Alex Carroll that apparently raised red flags with Corporation Counsel was signed in the spring of 2011 by Straub without the approval of city attorneys or the controller.
“(The inspectors) were told not to go back in until they worked out the legal issues,” said Riggs.
The committee has now issued a letter to Straub requesting that he return to Indianapolis to testify about the ROC deal.
“You are a key witness,” reads the letter written on behalf of the committee by Simpson. “We would, of course, prefer to have you come to Indianapolis and appear in person before the committee.”
The committee offered to pay Straub’s expenses from Spokane, Washington, where he currently serves as the chief of police but fell short of issuing a subpoena for the man who was central to the Ballard administration’s decision to rush the opening of the ROC and EOC before the Super Bowl.
“We can issue a subpoena in Marion County for Straub,” said Simpson, “but as long as he is not in Marion County it doesn’t go no farther than the boundary and so when these documents do come in we’re going to be reaching out to Straub and ask him because he’s the main character to come back here.”
Judge Rosenberg has given the city until June 26th to file a response to the committee’s lawsuit.
“I want to get going on this,” said the judge.
Oral arguments and a timely decision are set for July 10th.
The Ballard administration has dismissed the investigation by the democrat-majority committee as political pandering.