INDIANAPOLIS (April 7, 2014) – A City-County Council committee will vote Monday night to force the Ballard administration to comply with a subpoena for documents related to the problem-plagued Regional Operations Center on the city’s east side.
“We want to get the documents,” said Joe Simpson, chairman of the Regional Operations Center Investigating Committee.
Simpson said his committee would vote to direct council attorney Fred Biesecker “to go to court to get the court order which I consider, to me, that is a little bit crazy that we have to go to court to get this.”
Biesecker told FOX59 News that, pending approval of the full council April 14, he will present a complaint to enforce a legislative subpoena to a Marion Circuit judge.
The attorney called the “unprecedented.”
Simpson said the committee received partial compliance to its subpoena seeking more than 30 sets of documents detailing the site selection, construction and financing of the ROC on North Shadeland Avenue at the location of the former Eastgate Consumer Mall.
From its rushed opening in the winter of 2012, the ROC had been plagued with workmanship and construction problems. Former Public Safety Director Frank Straub approved the site and the construction.
Current Public Safety Director Troy Riggs inherited the building and presented the developer, Alex Carroll, with a punch list of more than 100 items that needed to be resolved. Riggs ordered the building evacuated last September due to lingering fire safety concerns. The city is hopeful that the ROC will be reopened when the flag drops on the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race in late May.
Currently, the ROC is housed in temporary facilities at the Indianapolis International Airport, a location that was, ironically, deemed unworkable by Straub during a meeting of the council’s Administration and Finance Committee on April 26, 2011.
ROC Committee members will view a videotape Monday of that meeting as Straub strikes the airport site from consideration because it would have been in the flight path of air traffic landing and taking off from the airport.
Jim White, the former emergency management director who proposed the airport site and was later removed from his position, will present a PowerPoint presentation on the decision-making process that led to the airport proposal and the selection of the final ROC location.
In the winter of 2010, as a courtesy to the owner of the Eastgate property, Marion County Emergency Management Director Jim White toured the site on North Shadeland Avenue.
“I thought there was just no way we could get into that building in the time frame we were looking at and it was going to take an extensive amount of renovation for us to make that an emergency operations center,” said White.
“The thing that struck me was I had just returned from Iraq within the last 14-15 months and it reminded me of some of the buildings I saw in Iraq.
“The roof leaked. It was obvious there was water in the basement. There was a lot of trash in the basement. There were just a lot of things that just didn’t make it suitable for an EOC.”
White’s new boss was Public Safety Director Frank Straub who arrived on January 1, 2010. White showed him around a proposed site at the Indianapolis International Airport which Kite Realty would build to the city’s specifications, including pre-existing security, covered parking and electrical plug-ins for public safety vehicles. The Indiana Department of Homeland Security signed on, said White, and approved funding based on federal grants. Surrounding counties pledged their support, too.
“If I remember correctly, it was less than $20,000 a month at the airport,” said White.
Straub, less than four months after his arrival from White Plains, New York, turned down White’s suggestion.
“Its my understanding that Mr. Straub told whomever that he didn’t like that facility because it was in the flight path of airlines landing at the international airport,” said White.
White was later fired. Straub began the search for a new ROC location. In April of 2011 he told the council’s Administration and Finance Committee that the airport site was inappropriate because of its proximity to jet flight paths. Instead he signed a lease agreement, without controller or corporate counsel approval, to pay developer Alex Carroll $60,000 a month for a total of $18 million over the course of 25 years to put Homeland Security, East District IMPD officers and several specialty units in the former Eastgate Mall.
Last September Straub’s successor, Troy Riggs, alarmed by shoddy workmanship, a punchlist of more than 100 items yet to be completed and an eminent fire hazard, moved more than 100 employees of the building to temporary headquarters, all the while continuing to pay rent on a location the city deemed to dangerous to occupy.
Many of those employees have been relocated to an EOC at the Indianapolis International Airport which is, ironically, situated below the flight path jets landing and taking off on the city’s west side.
FOX59 News has learned that Indiana State Police have conducted a criminal investigation into the construction, leasing and financing of the Indianapolis Regional Operations Center on the city’s east side.
That investigation has not yet uncovered any criminal wrongdoing of the ROC, which has been riddled with construction, operational and financial problems since the start.
Tonight, the City County Coucil’s ROC investigating committee approved a request to go to court to force Mayor Greg Ballard’s administration to produce documents related to the center’s approval and leasing.
The full council will take up the resolution next week.