Another legal battle for Mayor Ballard's office

Vision Fleet deal issues reminiscent of Covanta


"Feedom Fleet" is the name of the fleet of cars Visions Fleet is contracted to provide to the city of Indianapolis. - SUBMITTED PHOTO
  • submitted photo
  • "Feedom Fleet" is the name of the fleet of cars Visions Fleet is contracted to provide to the city of Indianapolis.

The same day the city-county council voted to sue Mayor Greg Ballard over the validity of a contract, the company at the center of that contract stepped in with some legal action of its own.

Vision Fleet, under their holding company's name Indy-Vision Funding I, LLC, filed a notice with the Marion Superior Court asking for a declaratory judgment through mediation to settle a dispute between the council and the mayor's office. Vision Fleet officials claim to be the injured party caught in the middle. The council, the mayor and the city are all listed as defendants in the case.

Through an agreement reached with Ballard, Vision Fleet provides and maintains fully electric and hybrid cars for the city, known as the "Freedom Fleet." Vision Fleet began integrating the cars into the Indianapolis fleet in 2014 with a goal of 425 cars in use by early 2016. Currently there are 153 cars in use. The departments using the vehicles include the Department of Public Works, the Probation Department, the Department of Code Enforcement, the Fire Department, and the Police Department, excluding patrol officers and others who might be in a high-speed pursuit.

The attorney for the city-county council quickly filed a motion to dismiss stating the case doesn't fit the requirements under the law cited as the validation for Vision Fleet's request. The law, Indiana Code 36-4-4-5, determines if a particular power or duty exercised by a city is executive or legislative in nature. The council argues that the issue with the city's contract with Vision Fleet isn't a matter of jurisdiction, but rather the legality of the contract in how it was reached and the monies used to secure it.

Vision Fleet's actions point to a company trying to save the $32 million in business it is receiving with the contract. The company is working under the assumption that the contract is and will remain valid once a five-judge panel determines in mediation which branch of government has the authority to make changes to the contract.

For the city-county-council, the issue centers around deals, especially purchases, made without the council's consent or public input and unauthorized money transfers to pay for it. Since the agreement includes the purchase of vehicles for the city, including the police department, local law requires those purchases to be bid out and vetted by the council, not reached in agreement with the mayor's office. Their lawsuit claims that since the purchase or rent of the vehicles in question was not put through a bidding process as dictated by ordinance, the contract is invalid and Vision Fleet's efforts to save it are moot.

The motion to dismiss was filed this week so the court has not had the opportunity to rule.

It is not an unfamiliar scenario from the mayor's office. Deals made in private with too many questions of "can he really do that?" once the details are made public and end up in court.

Remember Covanta?

While the deal made with Covanta was technically an amendment made to an existing contract with the facility, that amendment did include the creation of a new recycling facility – something that typically is placed out for bids and discussed publicly. The terms of that contract once a bid was accepted would also be something up for council discussion. Although it is not the city-county council suing the mayor's office over the agreement, the lawsuit was filed by two recycling materials companies and a private citizen, specifically because of the monopolizing terms of the contract. The case remains in litigation in the appellate court.


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