Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Abdul Does It Again

I want to take my hat off to the hardest working member of the media in town. Abdul never takes a story or press conference at its face. He is always willing and able to look into things closer to get a full understanding. Additionally, I think that he may be smarter than about every Democratic member of the City-County Council.

Monday, the Democrats on the CCC tried to find a way to hit Brizzi a week before the election. Below, you will find Abdul's investigation into what happened and why.

Council Wars; Chapter 1.5 (The Rest of the Story)

There's some new information coming to light today on the Indianapolis City-County Council Democrats' move to see whether they can sanction Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi over what they allege were misleading statements regarding the early release of James Stewart, one of the defendants of the Hamilton Avenue murders.

I confirmed through several sources today that prior to Monday night's Council meeting, Democrats circulated copies of Democratic blog Taking Down Word’s posting that accused Brizzi of grandstanding on the issue. The post had been up for several days but failed to gain traction in the traditional media. Council Democrats and Brizzi had been at odds all summer long over the jail overcrowding issue.

In addition, Councilmember Ron Gibson was purported to make several disparaging remarks regarding Brizzi during the caucus and was extremely gleeful at the prospect of sanctioning Brizzi. Brizzi appointed a special prosecutor this summer to look into whether Gibson should have been indicted over a confrontation he had with a Marion County Sheriff's Deputy at Indiana Black Expo outside a local nightclub. Gibson was charged with several misdemeanor offenses, including battery and public intoxication.

To further add to the story, Brizzi is also looking into whether any laws were broken regarding 300 East, the bar/restaurant located in the Carson Center on Fall Creek. The wife of Council President Monroe Gray is one of the investors in the bar. And at Monday night's meeting, Gray signed off on Council Attorney Aaron Haith looking into whether Brizzi could be sanctioned.
In addition to the Brizzi issue, Democrats also ordered Haith to investigate whether they could sanction the Township Assessors for not providing them with assessments necessary to complete the budget this year. There may be some problems here. According the Indiana Department of Local Government and Finance, the Marion County Assessors are not alone. Close to half of the assessors in Indiana do not have the assessment in to their county boards and councils.

DGLF officials say the Council did not need the assessors' information to complete the budget. Instead, they say officials could have maximized the county's assessment to get the necessary tax rates and then later come back and lower their estimates once they had the actual figures. A position maintained by Lawrence Township Assessor Paul Rickets.

However, overarching in this debate is whether the Council has any authority to sanction Brizzi or any other official. A check into the Indiana Attorney General's Office revealed no legal opinions since 2001 that stated local government bodies could sanction other co-equal branches of local government.

I was able to find all this out in a couple hours. If it was this simple for me, people who specialize in local government should know this as well. What is more disturbing in all this is that it appears partisan politics (poorly done in my humble opinion) has reared its head one week before an election. At the very least Democrats should have checked to see if they had the authority to sanction other officials before announcing an investigation. Secondly, both Monroe Gray and Ron Gibson should recuse themselves from any matter involving the Prosecutor's office as they both have connections involving the prosecutor and alleged criminal conduct in Gibson's case and possible criminal activity in the case of 300 East. At least that way, things wouldn't look so blatant.

What likely happened is that some individuals in the caucus were so excited about getting Brizzi is they forgot someone would follow up on all this. Maybe they should consult me next time.


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