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A Big Test for Ballard

There’s is an old adage that past is prologue, that if you want to know what people are going to do in the future, you should look at what they have done in the past.  That same adage applies to the Ballard administration and the scandal involving the Land Bank which landed two city employees and three others on the receiving end of a federal indictment for wire fraud and bribery.

 The case is pretty simple, the U.S. Attorney’s office filed charges against 29-year old Reggie Walton and 27-year old John Hawkins for a scheme where they are alleged to have arranged sales of abandoned properties to not-for-profit which in turn sold the properties to a for-profit group which in turn gave Walton and Hawkins a cut of the proceeds.  Even more disturbing is that Walton is accused of being a silent partner in a not-for-profit that was also allegedly involved in the scam.

The city has suspended Walton and Hawkins indefinitely without pay.  It is at this point where the administration’s critics are chomping at the bits for a Watergate/Benghazi type scandal.  The only way they will get their wish is if the administration gives it to them, which I doubt.  The city already took the first step in dismissing the two alleged wrongdoers.  In a statement released yesterday they thanked the U.S. Attorney for his work and reminded the media that they toughened the city’s ethics rules as well as whistle blower protections.

While statements are good, it will always be actions that ultimately matter.  One of the things I look at it how things were handled with the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police department.  If you recall a few years ago, it seemed that every other day there was an officer somewhere behaving badly and his or her actions besmirched the good names of the officers who came to work and did their jobs and didn’t engage in activities like drunk driving or shaking down suspects.  The administration didn’t hide or cover up the bad apples, it went through the painful public process of cleaning up IMPD and it is a much better place now than it was before.

The same applies with current controversy involving the Land Bank.  If the administration is smart, it will launch a top down review of the entire operation and see where exactly the breakdown took place and how did Hawkins and Walton manage to allegedly engage in their activities without anyone internally finding out.  The U.S. Attorney did say they were notified via a whistle blower, but that person was not a city employee. One challenge will be convincing state lawmakers to change the current loophole in the law which allows not-for-profits to purchase abandoned homes and quickly sell them once they have been acquired. A bill was introduced in the legislature, but died.  So the city will have to examine what safeguards can be put in place once property is no longer under its control.

The City of Indianapolis is like any organization with thousands of people working for it.  It is unrealistic to not expect there to be a few bad apples in the bunch.  The challenge for leadership is how do they deal with the bad apples once they have been discovered and what policies do they put in place to prevent any other apples from going bad.  We will find out in the next day or so exactly how the Ballard administration plans to do that.  If past is prologue, it may not be a pretty process, but it will the city will be a better place for it being done.

  • Dave

    Who authored the original & enabling, non-profit fast track acquisition legislation? It would be useful to know whose idea that was.

  • pascal

    The Glass House occupiers ought not be so quick to throw stones? I thought I had remembered something about this scam but I didn’t know enough about it to know how it worked. But, just in case people think this was not known long ago, I think the following should be knowledge more public and credit and discredit be awarded. “Erika,

    Good article on the abandoned homes problem. I have a long-time friend who is trying desperately to bring hundreds of thousands of dollars (if not millions over time) to Indianapolis to fix up those homes and has been stymied by bureaucracy, favoritism and cronyism. We’ve even spoken to a couple of city councilors, talked to the CDCs [one CDC told him they could help get houses BUT only if he uses one of their board members to do the fix up].

    So, yes, investors will buy and fix up the homes. But it seems they can’t – or can’t without the right connections. There is also a rumor that a home was recently purchased outside of the formal legal process and that Reggie Walton at the Indy Land Bank might have gotten his hand smacked for it; but, I can’t confirm what really happened.

    If you’re at all interested in a follow up to this story I can put you in touch with one of the frustrated parties as well as point out legislative changes that are desperately needed. I’m told the CDCs can lock up homes indefinitely even with no budget or repair schedule.

    Sincere regards,

    Sean Shepard Now, I didn’t catch the date of this missive and can’t even vouch for it other than I have always found the author reliable (even when he does not agree with my every jot or tittle). Most of us have jobs and we hear all sorts of rumors but we used to depend upon the media to perform a watchdog function rather than a lap dog function. So, if this is evidence, one might ask just why it is that Mayor Ballard is being taken to task by the lapdog when his own kennel seems to need some housekeeping. Please do look into these matters and begin writing more informative pieces? Just my opinion, but being scooped by little Joe in terms of effective action isn’t much to brag about or to give your paper much room to sling rocks at the Mayor. On his part, might want to ask why he didn’t get a copy of the letter or the prosecutor either for that matter. (Of course, I don’t know that they didn’t but I think I have given you a TIP which any decent reporter worth their salary would instantly pursue). IN ADDITION, ABDUL WAS TIPPED TO THIS IN AUGUST 2012? BUT, don’t recall it being even mentioned, here, or in the CHEAT SHEET.

  • Ramon

    Abdul, still shilling for Ballard. For several months, local bloggers and media outlets have been reporting on this problem in great detail. It is strange that Ballard never once was concerned enough to ask questions. Perhaps he knew the answers so he didn’t want to be in the position of officially knowing what was going on in his administration. I also find it very sophomoric that you refer to Hogsett as Little Joe. Coming from you, you should be more sensitive to those men who are not of average height.

  • tim117

    He didn’t “ask questions” of a guy (Hawkins) who used to be a “special assistant.” Methinks this may go to the top

  • CircleCityScribe

    There is soooo much wrong here.
    -Junkets out of the country.
    -Multi-million dollars cricket field being built here!!!!
    -City pools that close at 6 p.m. in the heat of summer.
    -Police at lowest staffing levels in modern history
    -Goofy wasted money on dangerous and annoying bike lanes everywhere, even on major thoroughfares, where the speed limit is 45 MPH and no bicyclist with a brain should be riding on.
    -Towing Contract with a California firm…that was lobbied for by the prior employer of our Mayor’s Chief of Staff.
    -Frank Straub…and there still hasn’t been an audit of where the money went!
    -Explain that Chicago contract for Straub’s “Regional Operations Center” that was signed without review by Corporation Counsel, after Frank Straub fired the attorney for The City and signed it himself, despite several irregularities and building code violations.
    -The Mayor Ballard Super Bowl ring???? -And The Colts get taxpayer paid boards and suits in our Stadium for which they make money from sales/advertising
    -$1800 in Pacers tickets for our Mayor, and the Pacers’ owners got how much of our money for their team in various forms???
    -The Gulen-sponsored charter school operated by Concept Schools, Inc., a Chicago organization. A little more than six months after being rejected by the state charter school
    board, Concept Schools presented a new application that was approved by Ballard’s charter schools
    office.
    Something smells stinky.