« May 10, 2006 | Main | May 12, 2006 »

Preliminary ICJI Story Hits The Wire: Suspect Grant Suspended After WISH Investigates

Moneylove_1Looks like the ICJI story is going out statewide, thanks in no small part to some excellent reporting by WISH-TV in Indianapolis. The house of cards begins to fall:

"The state has suspended payments on a $417,000 grant agreement signed last year by a Daniels administration official who is under review by the state inspector general, a television station reported Thursday.

"The Indiana Criminal Justice Institute had already paid $80,000 to McKenna Consulting on an agreement signed last fall to start a program called Saving Kids of Incarcerated Parents, Indianapolis television station WISH reported. A $110,000 payment to McKenna was intercepted and contract operations have been suspended, the report said.

"The agency's executive director, Heather Bolejack, was placed on paid administrative leave by Gov. Mitch Daniels on April 25 upon the recommendation of Inspector General David Thomas. State officials have declined to give any details of the investigation.

"The criminal justice institute's board has scheduled both private and public meetings for Friday, with the agenda's listing discussions of personnel matters. An agency staffer told The Associated Press that the meetings are regarding Bolejack.

"WISH reported that it checked with several state and private agencies, including the Department of Correction, and that none of them knew of any activities by Saving Kids of Incarcerated Parents."

Toll Road Lawsuit: This Is Why Paying Attention In English Class Matters, Kids

SemicolonThe court battle began today in South Bend over the state's plan to lease the Indiana Toll Road. It's possible that this is the first time in state history that so much has depended on the meaning of a semicolon:

"A judge began hearing arguments Thursday on whether those suing to block the Daniels administration from leasing the Indiana Toll Road to a private investor must post a $3.8 billion bond.

"Both sides were presenting oral arguments over the meaning of a semicolon in the definition of 'municipal corporation.'

"The hearing before St. Joseph Superior Court Judge Michael Scopelitis is the latest step in the challenge to Gov. Mitch Daniels' attempt to lease the toll road to a private operator for 75 years. The lease, included in the governor's 'Major Moves' plan, would be the nation's largest highway-privatization deal.

"The state wants the challenge ruled as a public lawsuit, which could force the plaintiffs to post the multibillion-dollar bond for the amount the state could lose if the project doesn't move ahead as planned.

"'A $3.8 billion bond is a suit killer,' Steve Bonney, a West Lafayette farmer who is among those who filed the lawsuit, said earlier. 'There's no way we could get that kind of money. Even 10 percent would be $380 million.'"

Tossed For Ripeness Or Tossed For Politics: Masson's Take On Neal's Column

Boot_2Doug Masson has generated a healthy discussion over on his site with an intelligent analysis of Andrea Neal's column about voter-imposed term limits in yesterday's Star. Neal seems to think that the likes of Garton and Budak get the boot because they've been around too long. In other words, the voters were just plain sick of seeing their names on the ballot. Sayeth Masson:

"The Republican Party in Indiana is becoming less and less friendly for social moderates and libertarians. If you are in favor of a government that stays out of your pocketbook *and* out of your bedroom, today’s Republican Party is not for you. This is not the Republican Party in which I was raised. This is not the Republican Party of Teddy Roosevelt, Eisenhower or Rockefeller. It’s not even the Republican Party of Goldwater or Reagan. It’s something else. The theocratic wing of the party is taking over. They want an end to abortion. They want their version of Jesus Christ in the classroom, the courthouse, and the State House. If science conflicts with their preconceived notions, they want it out of the public discourse. Evolution must be diluted and placed along side Bible-friendly pseudoscience. Medical opinion on the beginnings of human life must be put aside in favor of religious dogma. Sex education must be abstinence only, even if it’s ineffective. Gays must be condemned, not tolerated, and certainly not treated as equals."

Call A Plumber! Abdul Reports More Rumors About ICJI Personnel Issues

Axe_1Abdul's got an ICJI update posted on his blog. He's reporting "...that more bodies could hit the floor over at the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute. Agency Director Heather Bolejack is already on paid administrative leave pending an investigation into improper activities allegedly involving travel and no-bid contracts. Now the agency's Board of Trustees will meet Friday to discuss "personnel" matters. Sources within the Institute tell me three to five more employees could face disciplinary action. Stay tuned."

We will, Abdul. In fact, you can bet all eyes will be watching One North Capitol, the Inspector General and the Governor tomorrow afternoon.

Evansville Station Questions Big, Flashy INDOT Highway Signs

IndotINDOT faces some questions from an Evansville television station about the usefulness and fiscal appropriateness of their big highway signs, which are supposed to -- but often fail to -- display current road information. Merci beaucoup for the linky-poo, TDW field correspondent extraordinaire:

"Are we getting a big enough bang for our bucks? Some people who've written to NEWS 25 over time don't think so. So we decided to question INDOT about their signs.

"There are those dots again! A blank screen, and those scrolling dots.

"Roger Mahoney, who drives along the Lloyd Expressway everyday, says, 'You finally get to where you don't even look at them anymore because it's obvious they don't keep them up to date.'

"He said, '99% of the time, all you ever see is that blinking corner. That's about it, so you don't even look. I want my money back.'

"We've noticed the signs, too. Signs that are most often blank. A transportation official we talked to said the signs have been underutilized in the area. Signs like these usually have a bigger impact in more metropolitan areas.

"So we decided to find out more about them. NEWS 25 asked Indiana transportation officials for more information about their network of electronic message boards. We learned INDOT has 50 such signs across the state. There are 11 in the Evansville area, which includes Vanderburgh, Warrick, Gibson and Posey counties.

"We also wanted just how much tax money is used to maintain the signs. An INDOT official said she was unable to locate an amount, but we've learned that thousands of dollars of tax money is spent on the signs."

We find it odd that INDOT can't tell the public how much these signs cost. Isn't this new crew supposed to be fiscally smart?

Guv Takes Aim In The Middle East: You Tell Us What's On His Mind

DanielsshootingWe love it when people forward the Governor's campaign updates, but we were perplexed by the one that arrived today. It was the second "Notes from the Middle East" dispatch from his trip to Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan. That's fine. We thought it was nice that he went, given that many of our troops have been over there for quite a while, and it's probably a boost for them to get to meet the Governor, no matter which party he represents. But really, that trip was, like, a month ago, and we'd venture to guess most Hoosiers have forgotten all about it.

Maybe that was the point of sending the dispatch, which clearly was not written by the hacks at GOP headquarters (it actually made sense and flowed well) but which might distract the party faithful from all the scandal and upset in state government right now.

Anyway, we're not big fans of the war, but we definitely dig the troops and their willingness to serve this country, so we don't have much to say about the content of the note. But we did want to pass along the photo above, which deserves a few caption suggestions from the blogosphere.

Here's hoping he was thinking of TDW when he pulled the trigger.

BREAKING NEWS: ICJI To Hold Closed-Door Meeting Late Tomorrow Afternoon

IcjilogoIn the spirit of open government, the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute is holding a closed-door hearing followed by a public meeting near the end of the day tomorrow to discuss suspended executive director Heather Bolejack and other personnel issues. Of course, the only public warning they gave was posting the following notices on their office window. Just so happens, though, that Girl TDW works eight floors below, and it's amazing what 20 cents will buy you these days.

No word yet on other people or issues that may be on the the executive session agenda, but remember that if they take a vote on something, the Board has to do it publicly. Which means yours truly might be having a late Friday night dinner.

Anyway, have a look, and feel free to share your thoughts about the openness of this administration. Since it seems to be the topic du jour.

Download cjinotice5.12.06.pdf

Download cjiagenda5.12.06.pdf

Luecke Responds To Guv's Sound Bend Bashing; St. Joe GOP Won't Change Tune

Trash_1South Bend Mayor Steve Luecke made news last night responding to the Guv's negative comments about Luecke's city. Nice to see that the St. Joseph County GOP Chair is still siding with Mitch Daniels on this one. It's like they really, really want to solidify the anti-Daniels, anti-GOP hatred up there:

"'In his speech, the governor suggested that South Bend appears to be stagnant and falling behind and not doing the things it needs to do,' said Luecke. 'I think we've had great investment here, both in the Blackthorn area, with new retail investment in the south side, downtown, we're clearing parcels in the Studebaker and Oliver Plow sites to open up land for new investments and seeing interest in those spots.'

"St. Joseph County Republican Party Chairman, Chris Faulkner, sides with the governor and thinks South Bend isn't rising to it's potential.

"'I think the governor may have said what everyone else is thinking and that's, 'why don't we have answers, why don't we have real jobs in South Bend?' It has so many natural advantages with the river running right through it, University of Notre Dame, a museum, Century Center, you have all these natural assets. So when you talk about economic development you kind of shake your head and say 'what's wrong,'' said Faulkner.

"Mayor Luecke says 'what's wrong' is the governor spoke to soon.

"'If instead of popping in and out of town for a fundraiser he had actually taken the time to tour South Bend and tour some of the things that we're doing, we'd have the opportunity to show some of the things that are happening and we think South Bend is a leader in,” said Luecke. “I'm afraid the governor has been sadly mis-informed about some of this. Maybe his staff needs to talk to him a little more about some of the things that are going on.'"

Search TDW