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New sleaze in the parking deal; Indy Star whines

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  • Image via Wikimedia Commons

Recent reporting by bloggers and the Indiana Business Journal has underscored another sleazy connection between ACS, the company chosen by the Ballard administration to take over city parking, and — well, the Ballard administration.

The connections between ACS, a Xerox-owned company based in Dallas, and Indiana politics is a subject we've explored here at length (for just one item from of our past coverage, read here). In brief, ACS was a key subcontractor that ran calling centers and other things when Mitch Daniels tried (and failed) to privatize state welfare — a $1 billion-plus deal with IBM that was, ultimately, a complete disaster.

Even after Daniels fired IBM, ACS was kept on as a subcontractor. Critics, including us, pointed to the fact that the head of Indiana's Family and Social Services Administration (FSSA) at the time, which handles state welfare services like food stamps, medicaid, etc., was none other than Mitch Roob — a former high-level executive from ACS. Roob, despite having helped engineer a deal that cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars, got promoted to head of the Indiana Economic Development Corporation.

Now the city of Indianapolis wants to hire ACS to take over its parking meters and some lots and garages for 50-years, in a no-default contract. It begged a lot of questions to say the least.

But more shady connections have emerged. Blogger Paul Ogden, an attorney and former deputy attorney general, explained:

Joe Loftus, a partner at Barnes & Thornburg, is on the City's payroll to render advice to the Mayor and lobby for the City. He also represents ACS the company that received the parking contract. (If you look up the city's lobbying registration's website, it's right there.) Loftus sits in on regular meetings with the Mayor.

Yet, The Indianapolis Star's Dennis Ryerson is calling the uproar a bunch of "noise." "There are no dishonorable entities here," he writes. "The administration of Mayor Greg Ballard is hardly a cesspool of political patronage."

Ogden goes on nicely to point out the fact that emperor Ryerson is wearing no clothes:

The sad truth the Star wants to selectively present the facts, apparently to support a particular political agenda. The Star's editors get nothing short of angry and frustrated when bloggers, the Indianapolis Business Jouranal and television reporters don't shy away from objectively reporting facts, a job that used to be a function served by the Star. [...]

One would think the Ryerson's Star would be all over pointing out this conflict. Nope. Not a word from the Star. In fact, the Star has done no detailed reporting on the ACS parking contract. Rather it's been the Indianapolis Business Journal, television news reporters and, yes, blogs, which have exposed the details in the parking contract.

As has NUVO. Come on, Paul, where's the love? :-)

I'll add to Ogden's observations, though, to point out another, more recent example from the Star regarding ACS. New numbers have emerged with regard to the failed IBM deal, showing that the state spent $500 million on the failed deal, $442 million of which has gone directly to IBM as of the end of August.

Guess where another $59 million has gone? That's right. To ACS. But you'll find no mention of that in The Star. They punted on the issue instead. The Associated Press copy published in the Star buried the detail in the last paragraph, with no mention of ACS by name. Here's that last paragraph:

Nearly $59 million has gone to IBM subcontractors who now work directly for FSSA.

If the Star's editors had wanted to clarify, they could have. They didn't. Sorry, Mr. Ryerson, for creating more "noise."

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