Paying for Secrecy

Indiana doesn’t have money for adequate infrastructure repair and maintenance, or for preschool for at-risk children, or …well, you know the drill. There are all sorts of things normal citizens expect their state government to do only to be told by our elected overlords that the money isn’t there.

But there’s always enough money to pay the lawyers to defend our lawmakers’ misplaced priorities or ethically indefensible actions.

Did Indiana’s Governor refuse to resettle Syrian refugees, despite the fact that under long-settled law, he doesn’t have the legal authority to make that decision? Let’s have the Attorney General defend him in the inevitable lawsuit, and then appeal the (equally inevitable) adverse verdict.

Is the Environmental Protection Agency trying to bring 19th Century environmental policies into compliance with the realities of 21st Century problems? Sue the EPA and insist that Indiana won’t go along.

And don’t get me started on the entirely  voluntary participation of Indiana in several culture war lawsuits aimed at derailing equal rights for LGBT Americans. We do like to keep our AG busy!

Most recently, we learn from the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette (not from the Indianapolis Star, which is too busy reporting on the “beer beat” and obsessing over the broom guy to cover city or state government) that

Hoosier taxpayers have paid $160,000 in legal fees to shield Indiana House and Senate communications from public view in just eight months.

The final tab will be higher because the most recent tally from the Indiana Auditor’s Office doesn’t include a bill covering the March 17 oral argument before the Indiana Supreme Court.

“That’s a lot of money,” said Kerwin Olson, executive director of the Citizens Action Coalition. “It would have been a lot cheaper just to honor the public records law.”

“Follow the money” is a time-honored mantra that can mean many things. But one thing it almost always means is that people allocate resources based upon their actual priorities.

Indiana may not “have money” for preschool, or road repair, or environmental protection, but we seem to have unlimited resources to protect the perquisites of the powerful…

36 thoughts on “Paying for Secrecy

  1. I thought there was a budget surplus in Indiana? Didn’t someone report that recently? What are they saving that money for?

  2. Interesting how it is the lawyers that take the focus of the blame. You should consider the fact that the only game that isn’t totally rigged is a jury trial. There the public has a chance. Everything else is fixed, influenced & slanted in favor of the Establishment through Arbitration, etc. Once we lose the right to a jury of regular folk, as it is now with problems with our bank accounts, products, employment & contract abuses, there will be no recourse. Just saying.

  3. Does the State Attorney General’s Office hire outside counsel to handle this self inflicted workload? If so, at what cost? And what lucky law firm gets this plum job knowing that their client does not expect them to win, just keep the flames of bigotry and injustice going so that the constituents of the Republican Party continue to support them? Or maybe it is all an inside job.

  4. ^^^ A little overly sensitive? I think the criticism is directed toward those who run the government prioritizing the legal battles over their own pandering and politics rather than actual services that would benefit the public.

  5. That being said, having participated in party politics, up close it resembles a jobs and networking club for attorneys more than anything else.

  6. I’m quite sure the source of much of the trouble is the fact that those in charge pay little attention to the issues they agree to and pass into law until faced with the dilemma of court hearings. Then they refuse to back down and drag the issue through the courts. It isn’t their money being spent on the defense.

    As Records Secretary for the Metropolitan Development Commission during Goldsmith’s (yes, there’s that name again); administration, his appointees and those who remained from the Hudnut administration just passed anything that was put before them. By the time they began questioning Warren Tyler’s rising contract figure and began calling me to find out who he was, they had already allowed his appointment by Goldsmith to “study Indianapolis public housing”, he had been illegally appointed interim director of DMD while living in Columbus, Ohio and working as vice president of a bank there.

    Yes, AgingLGrl, we have all seen the reports of our wonderful budget surplus; just sitting there to look good on Pence’s overall record as Governor while ignoring deteriorating conditions throughout the entire state. And J. Michael, Indiana residents have no input regarding the majority of issues at hand. We basically learn about them after-the-fact. Admittedly, too many of us ignore the “fine print” when mention is made public of some of the issues beforehand…but too many issues are not made public for us to voice an opinion or contact our legislators.

  7. No consequences, no responsibility for the AG, Governor et. al. Hell, they can just blame Obama and most voters will accept it at face value. The state of Indiana is rotting from the inside out and up and down the entire political spectrum. Look at the current candidates; look at Dan Coats. When I’m being positive, I tell myself that we have to be near the bottom, but I’m never sure….

  8. They probably do all of this in hopes of finding their own Roy Moore somewhere on a bench in Indiana. Whe needs law, if the judge is on your side?

  9. There must be a way to recover this money from those who committ political malpractice. Would a law stand up to challenge if it had language to the effect of “any elected official who knew, or should have known, that said action would result in more than $100000 unneccesary expenses to the state will be fined not more than . . .”

    Of course in this case, some conservative law firm would probably step up to do Pro Bono work for the administration, in return for the usual legal corruption.

  10. Shelia, so glad your pain and suffering hasn’t diminished your enthusiasm for exposing the truths.

    And hope you’re healing well.

  11. Secrecy? I’m not so convinced of that. Reading that Indiana doesn’t have money for adequate infrastructure repair and maintenance, I’m drawn to viewing the Indiana Dept of Transportation’s website and its link describing the current INDOT projects. As far as I can ascertain, there is no secrecy re: our statewide infrastructure plan. It’s here at http://www.in.gov/indot/div/construction/

  12. One of the biggest problem with conservatism as either a business or government worldview is that it focuses on current savings which often come at the expense of investment. That is compounded by the election of political celebrities rather than states people with the capability of doing the job rather than the motivation of enhancing personal wealth.

    I just can’t point to any success in business or government that the conservative worldview has ever achieved.

    Why some people keep falling for it can only be explained by cultural cognition.

  13. Pete, you touched upon a relevant and timely term when you wrote about “the election of political celebrities”. Political candidates with high name recognition are the bane of our national leadership. We in the US are stuck on viewing a Presidential election as little more than a popularity contest much like voting for the high school prom king or queen.

  14. From what I’ve seen in the news Indiana can be very proud of having a governor with nearly perfect hair for the job. But apparently his capability ends at the roots.

    I’m thinking that that limitation out weighs his benefits.

  15. Brian Bosma actually made a public statement to the effect that Hoosiers “want” to protect the privacy of their elected officials. Communications about the public’s business are not private, and what do Legislators have to hide, anyway? I think we know.

    Your points are excellent, as usual. Oh, and let’s not forget that Geoffrey Slaughter is the one billing $400+ per hour (paid for by taxpayers) to prevent the pubic from obtaining information about what their elected officials are doing and he is also one of the 3 finalists for a spot on the Indiana Supreme Court. Am I the only one bothered by this?

  16. BSH; as reported recently in the Star, the cost of the final leg of unnecessary I-69 will be more than the total of the so-far completed legs and apparently there are still residents in the way of the completion. Pence will be releasing as much of HIS budget surplus as is needed to complete Daniels-Pence Boulevard. The cost to taxpayers is only part of this debt; the countless people uprooted from homes, farms, businesses along with the destruction of remaining wetlands, wooded areas and killing off wildlife…further endangering our already polluted environment. Does this mean more legal fees to remove the final inhabitants from the finalization of this unnecessary roadway; probably.

    Louie; noon news today reported that ACLU and Planned Parenthood have both filed suit against Pence’s abortion bill. It is unprecedented and unconstitutional. Again; Pence will find/uncover the funds to pay these legal fees because he CAN; just as he could and did push through and enact that bill into law.

  17. JoAnn, I suspect the only reason you mention the cost of the final leg of I-69 is simply because you live in Indianapolis, have always lived in Indianapolis, and will never live anywhere else than Indianapolis. Hence, you speak with tunnel vision. Indiana is larger than Indianapolis.

  18. BSH; I have lived in a small Indiana town, in two small Florida Gulf Coast towns, 1 block outside Cleveland, Ohio, in Las Vegas, Nevada, near downtown Indianapolis and in Indianapolis suburbs. What does that have to do with the cost of the last leg of I-69 which was reported in the Indianapolis Star a few days ago as being higher than the total of all other legs of I-69? I didn’t invent the accusation that the cost is higher or have any part of the decision making. The facts speak for themselves. What is your point?

  19. BSH: I neglected to include living in Triangle then Fredericksburg, Virginia, while my husband was in the Marines stationed at Quantico. Of course that slipped my mind because it was more than 60 years ago.

  20. Any state with the cheapest of tax rates can (technically) run a surplus if they cheap out on education, live with a crumbling infrastructure etc., then brag about it. This is an outdated view. The first thing I used to look at when moving was the library system in the target venue. Corporations these days are not impressed with low taxes when they have to subject their workers to bridges that may fail (remember the I-35 disaster in Minnesota?), poor education, medieval laws of social conduct etc. If I were a CEO, I would skip Indiana and go to a state where taxes might be higher (but for good reason in terms of services offered). The adage of “you get what you pay for” has application here.

  21. Good article Sheila. Fiscal conservatism isn’t that conservative when it comes to fighting losing legal battles.

    Have to ask: I do not oppose extension of I-65, BUT if Indiana doesn’t have the money to maintain current highways and bridges, why build more that we can’t afford to maintain? Put another way, if I can’t afford to repair my leaking roof, should I build another room onto the house?

  22. JoAnn, the point is that Indiana, the State of Indiana, erected a speed bump to progress over 40 years ago. A small group of people in Indiana have kept their heels dug into anything they could find that would halt the completion of I-69.

    Approximately 40 years ago, I remember an out-of-the-blue conversation with my late husband and a few of his co-workers, all recent graduates of different university programs of Regional/Area Planning and all recent inductees into the American Institute of Certified Planners, where the topic of I-69 was open for discussion. Not one of these planners had lived in Indiana, had family ties to Indiana, but interestingly the conversation included something I will never forget.

    From 40 years ago, I remember the consensus statement being “We will not live long enough to see I-69 completed because it will be halted by some backward people living in some place like Indiana.” Lo and behold, how prophetic the statement from 40 years ago.

  23. Nancy, I’m fairly sure you intended to write you do not oppose the extension of I-69, not I-65. Actually, the I-69 issue at hand is not an extension, but rather is the final few miles to complete, to join the existing I-69 from north to south.

  24. The state also has money to employ a Public Access Counselor who provides “advice, assistance and education concerning Indiana’s public access laws to members of the public and government entities. The Office also publishes advisory opinions regarding access to public records and Indiana’s Open Door law.” And is this person independent of the government entities he interacts with and interprets for the rest of us? No! The Public Access Counselor is a gubernatorial appointee. In other words, a political crony who makes sure things aren’t too transparent.

  25. @Gerald E. Stinson, rather than your old school idea of looking for an area with a good library system, you’d be better off looking for an area with a full and robust manner of connecting to the Internet, a connection to the Internet that is both affordable, fast, and reliable.

    As per education, with the exception of two inner city public school districts, IPS and the Gary Public Schools, all public schools in Indiana are up and running at top speed. Don’t dismiss all the public schools in Indiana as failing simply based on the media’s excessive reporting on two inner city public school districts. Indiana is larger than Indianapolis.

  26. BSH; one primary reason given for construction I-69 those 40 years ago was to shorten the trip between Indianapolis and Evansville by 20 minutes. This was touted as good business. My good friend, Chief Financial Officer for Circle Centre Mall for 15 years, was originally from Evansville, her family lived there so she traveled between Indy and Evansville frequently. Her family also traveled here from there; they were all against wasting money on I-69. Can’t remember what her son did for a living but her daughter was an attorney who finalized the negotiations and contracts bringing the United Airlines Maintenance Hub to Indianapolis International Airport. One of Mayor Hudnut’s many accomplishments Goldsmith managed to undo. You may consider me, a high school dropout with a GED, among those backward people you referred to but the people I knew and worked with in City Government from 1972 – 1994 were intelligent enough to balk at wasting our tax dollars to save 20 minutes for a few select travelers.

    Your second paragraph is evidence of this state outsourcing business that long ago and a vital argument against it. Daniels and Pence at the state level managed to overthrow what we “backward people with our heels dug in” have fought against. Well; they got their way and we will be paying for it for decades to come.

  27. JoAnn, you speak from partisan words, and frankly I’m not interested in your old partisan thoughts. You speak from ‘talking points’ put forth by some politico or some old backroom political hack.

    I-69 is an Interstate Highway that is incomplete because some backward, backwoods folks in Indiana dug in their heels years and years ago and decided they’d halt progress, by damn, they’d halt progress using any reason they could find. I’ve read and heard all their reasons for almost 40 years, and I am tired of the reasons.

  28. BSH; I was an Independent voter till recent years when the GOP drove me away in fear; I worked for 20 years in Republican government. The CFO of Circle Centre Mall was a dyed-in-the wool Democrat who was head of single family housing in HUD, working in Washington, D.C., directly with President Kennedy. She then worked with President Johnson. After telling him to “kiss her ass” for lying to her, she she walked out on that cushy job, moved back to Evansville and later became CFO of Circle Centre Mall working hand-in-glove with Republican Mayor Bill Hudnut. Where, pray tell, is my partisan view? An Independent voter working in Republican government with a Democrat; all with the same view. Republicans, Democrats, Independents and people who never left home to register or vote were against I-69 for many reasons along with businesses forced to relocate…or just close their doors.

    You may be tired of our reasons but; you got your way and your highway and we will all keep paying for it. Be happy and drive safe.

  29. “Paying for secrecy” is not something Who’s Yer auditors are going to resist. So many words have come along that are jargon anywhere that students have to memorize for spellings, not for telling to the engineer on an INDOT project bid execution. “Infrastructures” weather and erode, same as each of us. In fact, engineering was the preferred pre-law college scholarship area until 1960.

    Ayn Rand was popular among the ROTC fellows deciding their military-SAT destinations then, along the best extra money band cities : Presumed Innocent

    “There’s no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren’t enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws. Who wants a nation of law-abiding citizens? What’s there in that for anyone? But just pass the kinds of laws that can neither be observed nor enforced nor objectively interpreted—and you create a nation of lawbreakers—and then you cash in on guilt.

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