By now everyone in Delaware County and outwards has heard the news, Muncie Building Commissioner has been arrested and charged with 33 felonies. He is on unpaid leave.
You may remember when Nichols’ company billed and was paid to demolish four buildings. There were no buildings on these four properties. Several people commented on social media the buildings had been demolished during Mayor McShurley’s administration. She lost to Tyler in 2011.
In an attempt to cover up the fraudulent invoices, Nichols claimed it was a mistake and submitted new invoices. Journalist Larry Riley penned a column citing there were no demolition permits attached to the paperwork. Mayor Tyler took no action.
Reviewing the Board of Public Works none of the 2015 minutes are available as of 2-18-17. According to the indictment, many of the violations occurred in 2015.
Muncie City Board of Public Works approves payment of submitted invoices. The president of BOW is John Quirk and his law firm represents the City of Muncie as well. January 13, 2016, minutes reflects approval of a change order presented on behalf of the City of Muncie for Nichols company Capitol Consulting and Property Management in the amount of $14,000 bringing the total of services billed to $88,950.00. bow-jan-13-2016-minutes-1
Mayor Tyler’s press conference consisted of apologizing to the city employees for the emotional duress they suffered during the FBI investigation. Please note, he did not show remorse for the actions of the city administration. He went on to list all the city’s accomplishments but nothing about the millions in debt the city has incurred. Was he blaming the FBI for investigating Muncie? Looks like.
The mayor said before the FBI began the investigation he recognized there were deficiencies and inefficiencies in the city and had made changes to correct and will continue to correct policies and procedures and consult with their attorneys. Muncie has been represented by the same law firm since 2012 as well using the services of outside firms and none of them recognized the alleged illegal activities by Craig Nichols? No one warned the mayor? The mayor spent six years as an Indiana State Representative, surely he is not that naive.
City attorney Megan Quirk was asked if the city had any conflict of interest ordinances or laws that the city may have violated. Quirk said she was not able to speak to it. She was then asked about it again and replied they had internal audits since 2013 and in 2015 it was passed employees could not work contractural on city contracts. Obviously, there is still work to be done on policies and procedures she said.
Muncie Code of Ordinances (2004) Sec. 30.05. Conflict of interest; penalty. page III:4. Has this section been withdrawn or altered? It appears to provide the policies and procedures Mayor Tyler and Megan Quirk alluded to during the press coference.
Long time employee, Gretchen Cheesman was fired for allegedly approving a $2,000 expenditure. Nichols facing 33 Federal charges is placed on administrative leave. The State awarded the city $4 million in blight funds. Firing an employee with years of experience and knowledge of Federal, State and City laws regarding unsafe buildings and their demolitions – suspicious.
Not to mention the program went through several administrators after she left and it took two years and warnings from the State to get the program off the ground. Some believe the city was hoping to devise a way to funnel some of those monies to Nichols. Cheesman would have hampered that operation.
The mayor blamed the State of Indiana for the city’s delay implementing the program. He claimed the procedure was difficult. Although, several other communities had no difficulty with the grant.
At this point, simply conjecture.
What about the 43% income tax Mayor and City Council passed in 2015? Some of the EDIT funds paid for demolitions. As far as we know, EDIT funds have never been used in this manner. Might explain why the Mayor tacked on an EDIT increase. He blamed the Property Tax Caps for the increase.
What about the Flea Market building being purchased for three times its assessed value? Or the special audit on the MSD? Or the demolition of vacant properties? Or Nichols company fined by the State of Indiana for violations at City Hall? Mayor Tyler had plenty of warning signs which he chose to ignore or never address.
Just what deficiencies has the city addressed if all these have been ignored? Perhaps the mayor should be transparent and provide the people all the changes he has made and the results.
The indictment reports Nichols received payment for demolition for Kitlzeman Energy Park, too.