Perhaps many of you may be wondering how Muncie got herself embroiled in a massive FBI investigation. Most of us can agree it was the electing of Dennis Tyler and his cohorts on City Council. How did he get elected? He lost in 2003 yet won by nearly 1,000 votes in 2011. Mansfield and McShurley carried about the same number of votes in 2007 and in 2011 Tyler gained votes. McShurley hovered at the ’07 total. 214 really knows how to get out the vote, or AVBs.
214 Democrats were desperate to control the city once again. So their campaign to win began on 1-1-08 and as they pledged a “clean campaign” Tyler was ready to be mayor. He was ready to give the county all the 911 accrued monies. Ready to place his best bud’s son in a position of power and chomping at the bit to control the most lucrative department, Muncie Sanitary District.
You may be thinking what’s all this have to do with the FBI? Just a little background info, that’s all. Ready for a journey?
One of two critical informants whose tenacious persistence led to the FBI’s fight against public corruption in Muncie is willing to be identified and I have permission to congratulate them in public for their heroism on behalf of the community.
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The other one is, of course, Les Marsh, and he’s never made a secret of his involvement. Indeed his bull-in-the-china-shop approach is a magnet for attention, and he’s never shied away from letting adversaries know he’s after them. Les is a Muncie native and I’m going off memory here. I think he graduated from Central in the 1960s and enlisted in the U.S. Navy for a hitch. After getting out, he served as a police officer in either Gaston or Eaton. His father had been a cop. But when Mick Alexander got elected Delaware County prosecutor in 1978, Les became Alexander’s chief investigator.
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Not sure for how long, some number of years and I’m sure he learned lots. At some point, the pay for a public servant just wasn’t enough, and Les caught on at BorgWarner, probably in the mid-1980s. He stayed at the transmission plant for about 25 years, and then through some buyout procedures was able to retire 10 years ago, at which time he started attending more public meetings, including those of the Muncie Sanitary District board and city Board of Public Works. Sometimes meetings of the Delaware County Commissioners. I’d run into him at all three places.
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He was often a loud critic at meetings and ask challenging financial questions. His ire really got roused when then-county attorney Mike Quirk on-the-record called Les some pejorative term. Can’t remember what. Maybe a “blowhard” or that Les was “full of it.” At about that time, Quirk also was Delaware County Democratic Party chairman. Later, he became attorney for MSD. Still later, though fairly quickly, Quirk relinquished all three positions, mostly because he, himself, had become too much of an attention-attracting distraction.
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Les made himself well known asking MSD for copies of invoices, and then reporting to the board what he found. For example, in July of 2013, Les said that a $14,000 sewer project earlier that year ended up costing $137,000 thanks to change orders. He was aghast. He said one reason is because a contractor charged $265 per foot for all sizes of pipe from 8-inch to 24-inch. The board president politely thanked Les for his comments.
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Which isn’t to say they didn’t take decisive action: the next meeting, MSD attorney Quirk proposed a new public records policy to the board. He told the board they had “recent requests” from citizens that were “seemingly unreasonable.” At his request, the board began allowing 25 free copies of documents to citizens and charging 15 cents for each page after that. Wonder if they tried to charge the FBI when the feds raided their offices and made off with records?
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The other critical informant is Stephen Ballman. Ballman’s another Muncie native who graduated high school here, like Les in the 1960s, and afterward earned an associate’s degree in accounting. He worked for a bank for a short time, and hated the work, and found a position at Ontario Corp., which then operated a large smelting forge on West Jackson. He was a non-union inspector for several years.
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Ballman then hired on at the Muncie Sanitary District in 1979, learning many of the operations over years and eventually becoming head of maintenance. He liked his job, and remained apolitical even as MSD itself got more politicized, especially under Mayor Jim Carey’s years. At some point, Steve thought he was mistreated as an employee, badly so in his eyes, and he sued the Carey administration in federal court. He won, and got $5,000 plus attorney fees, and a guarantee of no interference with his job. Carey and the Democrats were not happy.
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But from 1992 until 2008, the Democrats were out at City Hall, and MSD became less of a political football. When Dennis Tyler became the first Democrat mayor in 20 years, regaining tight control of MSD became a priority. Tyler could replace one MSD commissioner right away, and pressured another, a city banking executive, to resign, and Democrats took control. Steve knew a major reorganization would come and Democratic Headquarters favorites would take over. He always had got along well with Bill Smith, who served on MSD’s board under most of the Republican mayors until Sharon McShurley wouldn’t reappoint him. Tyler brought Smith back and he’s currently president. Steve offered to retire, but Smith didn’t want him to.
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Somebody did, because shortly after his offer to retire, Smith and the city’s new Human Resources director came out to Steve’s Kilgore Avenue office to tell Steve he was out. Steve retired after all. But he worried about the kind of mismanagement that he feared would be brewing: Tyler’s board appointed unqualified cronies to top positions, raising their pay dramatically on top of that. That was their first step. Bid-rigging their second. Steve then found himself willing to help the FBI sort out the corruption once it surfaced. Now thanks in part to him, two of those unqualified people are under indictment. Presumably more to come.
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The community should be profoundly appreciative of both Les and Steve’s tireless work.
[Share with anyone interested.]
The long and winding road
That leads to your door
Will never disappear
I’ve seen that road before
It always leads me here
Lead me to your door
We’re back. Not going to lie, it has been a journey the past few months. Life happens and we must travel the long, winding road at times. We’ve been watching the city, the elections, the candidates, the weather and it’s been interesting, to say the least.
Now that we have the niceties out of the way, let’s get down to business.
The City of Muncie is out of control. Shocking, we know. If it’s not Mayor Tyler’s city council giving him the nod for nearly eight years, it’s the board of public works approving the purchase of ambulances. Before the deal was even sealed, the city lined up an EMS director.
Dear people, don’t be fooled with Mayor Dennis Tyler’s feigned concern for the “underserved” of this city. He had ample time to address the “underserved” and did nothing much, in fact, he never even considered it until a few weeks ago. He held the position of state representative for six years. Again, where was his concern?
Tyler has never been one to be proactive, rather he would be considered reactive at least when it comes to serving his constituents. Do you know when he was proactive? When he was in the back room of 214 Walnut St. Also known as Democrat Headquarters. Talk about designing an elaborate scheme to funnel tax dollars into the pockets of the elite.
After the 4th of July, the campaign season will kick into high gear. You will hear promises, see plenty of smiles, handshakes. In fact, you may even see city council members actually looking as if they are working for you.
Here’s what we have, incumbents all have records. How did they vote? Did they spend the past seven years voting straight down 214 party lines? Suddenly, they are giving volume to your voice, or so it seems. Are they really? What will they be doing come January 1st, 2020? Will, there still be a place for them at the 214 dinner table? Probably.
You can be certain Tyler and Company had a plan in 2011 and it was executed fairly well. We believe all the things we are seeing today is also a plan. No, Mr. Tyler won’t be on the ballot but he and his cohorts will still be guarding their territory, make no mistake about it. They must have their own sitting on the council and in the top seat.
Voters! Wake-up and smell the stench.
Terry Whitt Bailey, Democrat candidate for Muncie mayor, has tried to separate herself from scandals at City Hall, where for years she’s led Community Development department, appointed by Mayor Dennis Tyler. “I was not involved in any of that,” Bailey wrote in today’s Star Press. How uninvolved?
In autumn of 2015, I was one of few people following Muncie’s building demolition program – this was months before the FBI got interested – and saw an odd new company enter the picture.
Capitol Consulting and Property Management began getting municipal, Muncie Sanitary District contracts for demolishing houses. I wanted a copy of city documents with the firm, whose sole contract person was an obscure south-side woman who had run an income tax prep firm. Company headquarters was her home in a residential neighborhood.
My request to the Board of Works for the Capitol Consulting contract was turned down: the board didn’t have a copy. That seemed odd, too, since the board, presided over by a city attorney named Quirk, is the official agency that handles city business. I was, however, told to ask Terry Whitt Bailey. Only she had a copy of the contract. Nobody else.
The city’s CD office had for years handled routine demolitions of abandoned and blighted housing, usually with a $100,000 annual budget covering 20-25 demolitions – at the usual price of $4-5,000 tops for tearing a structure down.
So I asked Bailey for a copy of the Capitol contract, a public record. She gave me a copy. I read it, checked with the Secretary of State’s office. Sole name I could find was the same south-side woman. The company incorporated only a few months earlier. I dug through records of Indiana Dept. of Environmental Management to find Capitol had *no* employees certified for asbestos testing or abatement. Yet asbestos work and demolition is what Capitol would do for the city and MSD. Law requires asbestos inspection prior to any building demolition. More oddities.
At the time, a confluence of events shaped up that I was trying to connect dots on. First, a new federal Blight Elimination Program had dumped $4 million on Muncie, but the city was sitting on the grant, taking forever to get its program underway. Admittedly federal and state requirements were complex, but was anything else at work?
Meanwhile, Bailey fired the one CD employee experienced in property demolitions. The employee was in charge of the city’s demolition program and worked with the city building commissioner and Unsafe Building Hearing Authority. She kept the records and prepared bids for demolitions. No one else knew as much about the process. I had known the employee for a long time: she worked hard and honestly.
About the same time, I uncovered phantom demolitions done by the building commissioner’s private firm under pretense of emergency work – billing the city more than $80,000 for razing just four houses, none of which actually had been taken down by the firm. I wrote that up in early 2016.
A few months later, for reasons unknown The Star Press decided to part ways with me.
Now, as is well known, the city’s former building commissioner Craig Nichols has started a federal prison term for those phantom demolitions that the FBI investigated. That strange new company Capitol Consulting? Turns out to have been a firm Nichols secretly owned, too. Capitol would bill the city, say, $800 for an asbestos inspection, then farm out the actual inspection to a certified firm from Fort Wayne who’d do the job for $500. Then another firm would be contracted to do the demolition for less than what Capitol was charging.
In retrospect, one can’t help but think somebody was putting all the pieces in place for the right people to siphon off lots of the federal millions coming up for demolition: get rid of an honest employee who wouldn’t have put up with the corruption and concoct a sham company to get the contracts. Amidst it all was the woman now chosen to be Democratic Party Headquarters candidate for mayor, to succeed Dennis Tyler, who decided not to run for re-election.
Bailey was at the nexus, a key to both the fired, honest employee and the bogus contractor.
At best, was Bailey manipulated and used by forces more powerful than she to do their bidding? At best, could she have been naïve beyond unbelief? At worst … well, you decide whether she “was not involved.” I always got along well with Bailey. She was always willing to see me. When the employee in question was let go, Bailey was the person I went to for comment. Bailey had none, but she confirmed the employee’s discharge. When I asked for the Capitol contract, she did not evade the request.
Yet she straddled the corruption of the Tyler administration. She was at the epicenter of wrongdoing and would appear to have been on the precipice of helping create an even bigger money grab at City Hall before the feds stepped in. Now she runs for mayor. The candidate of Democratic Headquarters.
Do you all remember Hank the Dog? If not, here’s a synopsis. Once upon a time, there was a dog named Hank. Hank was notorious for being picked-up by city animal control. You might go as far as to say he was targeted. The owner was summoned to city court, and although the details are a little murky, one thing we do know, the City of Muncie violated their own animal control ordinances. You see, there was nothing about the number of times an animal could be picked up and nothing about an owner having to appear in court. Later they did change the ordinance after they violated it.
Funny, how the city’s attorney could find an ordinance that was decades old. Suddenly, the elected officials are concerned because they aren’t following this ordinance. City Code 32.33.
Sec. 32.33. Time and place for regular meetings.
The first regular meeting of the council shall beheld on the first Monday in January after thegeneral election of the members-elect of the council, at 7:30 p.m. as provided by IC 18-1-3-2. Allregular meetings shall be held on the first Monday evening of each month at 7:30 p.m. and maybe adjourned at the pleasure of the council. Adjourned meetings shall have all the force andeffect of regular meetings. Meetings shall be heldin the council chamber, unless otherwise determined by the president and designated on theagenda.(Code 1968, § 31.14; Ord. No. 620-80, 10-10-80)
The city council has been in violation of this for years. So, what’s to stop them from violating a 2013 Indiana State law? Or any law, for that matter? As you can see, absolutely nothing. Ah ha. Let’s have a meeting on January 1, 2018. Surely no one would show. And, and, and we’ll be following an ordinance we have never observed.
As the City-run EMS began to heat up, the elected officials, who are supposed to represent the people were hoping to find a something that would weaken the DCEMS supporters on council turnouts. Wrong on Muncie City Proper’s part.
Demolishing empty lots? No problem. We’ll change the addresses. Who said anything about bid rigging? Did you hear anything about bid rigging?
This has to be the most poorly run administration to date. Or at least it comes close. With all of the history and many of the old-timers would remember days gone by, there was quite a bit of action. Have talked with a few and the stories they would tell. Sadly, many have passed from this earth. Oral history is most effective.
So just for fun, and possibly to jog a few memories, here is a clipping from the local newspaper dated February 21, 1993. You would think the cost of corruption would be enough to throw these characters out on their ear. Nope. They are like a bad penny…just keep showing up again and again. Most have been replaced with the younger generation. Make no mistake they learn from their elders.
Well, it looks like Doug Marshall is finding himself in quite a pickle. The Indiana State Board of Accounts has levied the charge of “double-dipping”. Apparently, there is a law on the books which states you can’t hold a position of an elected official and a paid government position at the same time. Doug is contending the Muncie Sanitation District is not a city position. He has said he will resign from MSD. Either way, it’s a pickle. If he stays with MSD the salary and benefits would remain intact. However, if Republicans take control of the Mayor’s office he may lose that position. (Disclaimer: just surmising, not positive if it would be legal to dismiss him.)
He currently has a challenger for District 1 and that would be Ralph “Jigger” Smith.
If Smith beats Marshall in November, then Marshall would be out. Doug has said he will resign from the MSD and continue as Muncie City Council representative. It’s a gamble either way. Certainly wouldn’t want to be in that pickle jar. Feeling some sympathy for Doug.
Moving on. Here’s a sweet pickle. Sarah Beach is running At-Large. The funny thing is she is employed as the City of Muncie Human Resource Director and moonlighting as the spokesperson for Dennis Tyler, uh, City of Muncie.
Clearly, she won’t be able to hold both positions. The 214 Democrat Party didn’t know about the law? Yea, they did. You see, if there is a Republican mayor, she is out. Possibly, out if a Dem makes it in. The Democrat party headed up by the silent majority of Dennis Tyler and Phil Nichols need their people. They need someone who will do their bidding and take the fall, too. She votes the wrong way, Beach will be summoned to the interrogation room at Dem Headquarters.
A document filed by federal prosecutors in the Craig Nichols case reported that members of Tyler’s administration had been summoned to Democratic Headquarters in early 2016 to discuss – in groups that included the mayor and Phil Nichols – a response to allegations against the building commissioner. That document did not specify Stewart had attended those meetings.
Beach may be a plant, too. She’s at the beginning of the alphabet. Sure to gain at least 7% of the vote (statistically speaking). Some voters just vote for the first person on the ballot. No matter what, she’ll be governed by the hidden and quiet previous Democrat officials. Just because of Mayor Tyler saying he won’t run again doesn’t mean he is going away.
This is about as much political commentary we can provide today. Hope you enjoyed the humor.
And remember, a pickle a day keeps the State Board of Accounts away…
As we were sifting thru the Muncie Politics files we found an editorial written after McShurley lost the election. The editorial ended with McShurley saying she is leaving the city in better shape than when she took office. The writers of the editorial concurred. This piqued our interest and decided to see if it was an accurate statement.
Mayor McShurley announced in 2011 during the Chats with the Mayor there was enough money to provide raises/or bonuses to every employee. At the end of her term, she said there would be enough money to fund the MFD if the SAFER grant was not renewed. These comments infuriated Dennis Tyler’s supporters and they lost no time calling her a liar and various other vulgar adjectives.
Was it a lie? She did leave the city with $8 million and it was confirmed by the audit Mayor Tyler’s administration commissioned. Government reports showed a minimal amount of debt. Of course, we knew the debt was Tuhey Pool.
The debt spiked in 2013 and it appears the city borrowed money and the next year paid off some debt. This is the only logical explanation minus a clerical error, which is doubtful. So, listed is the principal debt only (no interest) owed by the City of Muncie and MSD. If you want more complete detail, simply click on the link directly below each year.
Oh yea, 2013 is the year Mayor Tyler appointed Todd Donati as the MRC director.
Pulled up the Annual Financial Reports for 2011 & 2018 and searched for accounts which had a negative beginning or ending balance. The search showed 2011 with 10 negative balances and 2018 having 25 negatives. You will find the full Annual Reports for 2011 and 2018 at the end of this post.
All the data is from the Indiana Transparency Portal and based on the financial reports submitted to the State of Indiana from the City of Muncie and Muncie Sanitary. The city, knowing the revenue was declining, the debt growing and the insatiable need to use taxpayer-funded-monies for personal and party gain had no recourse but to increase taxes 43% in 2015.
If you’re reading this and a candidate for a city position, you may consider taking some time to review the documents. After all, should you win, this will be your baby to diaper.
As of 3-16-19
Debt Statement – 2011-2018
Bad company corrupts good morals.
One who runs from corrupt people is wise indeed.
Birds of a feather, flock together.
Be sure, your sins will be found out.
Here we are nearly three weeks into 2019 and finally, the sentencing memorandum of Muncie’s ex-building commission has been made available. So, let’s begin with the persons named in the memorandum.
(Full text of the memo is located at the end of the post.)
The names have not been changed to protect the innocent. Some of the people were doing their jobs – their consciences could not be seared. Those would be the ones who resigned or perhaps fired.
One name, Aaron Kidder, was a rising star in the city’s administration. He was the right-hand man to Mayor Tyler. Intelligent, well spoken and to his detriment (at least in this administration) honest.
“Nichols asked Kidder if he would be willing to say that he acquired quotes from Gibbs even though he had not. Kidder refused.”
And then there is Audrey Jones, the city controller. She complied with an FOIA.
Jones gave Marsh copies of the original invoices, and then approached Nichols to inform him that she had turned them over during the FOIA request.
What exactly did Dennis Tyler know and was he aware of the bid-rigging, demolitions? The answer would be yes. Although when issues came up, he blew them off with a “nah” and a smile. How could average citizens, people not privy to the inner workings of his administration, have information and the mayor didn’t know?
Note Ross Bater’s comment:
- Brater states that had they been competitively bid instead of awarded to Nichols through fraud, it would have cost the Muncie taxpayers between $8,800 and $9,200 on average to demolish each property. Nichols (according to his own calculation) billed on average $19,500 per property. Source: Muncie Star Press 1-18-19
Local columnist and what he knew
Three years ago Larry Riley wrote about the cost of demolitions done by Nichols’ company. We might presume Gibbs Construction would be the one and the same. Just a wild guess. Amazingly, Riley had all the facts, figures and names and the column published in the local paper yet Mayor Tyler did nothing. Larry was on top of it and the FBI confirms it.
Certainly having him give quotes to compare with Advanced Walls helped the latter immensely, as each Gibbs Construction quote was even higher, usually a few hundred bucks, than the unduly high Advanced Walls quote. Thus a cost conscious administration went with the lower quote.
The four demolitions averaged $20,375 each, or more specifically:
— 527 W. Wilson, an 850 square-foot house with no basement, razed for $22,000 by Advanced Walls.
— 424 S. Proud St., 1,700 square feet, two stories, plus 400 square-foot detached garage, for $19,500.
— 320 S. Beacon, 1,216 square feet, no basement, for $19,500.
— 909 S. Wolfe St., 964 square feet, half basement, for $21,500
Source: Muncie Star Press March 6, 2016
Check-out the full column below.
No one would notice or no one would care
Given his powerful allies, Nichols figured that either no one would notice or no one would care, and he quietly submitted $81,500 in invoices to the City between August 7, 2015, and October 5, 2015 for work he didn’t perform. Nichols used his company, Advanced Walls and Ceilings, for this.
Did no one notice or did no one care? The administration did notice and no one cared. It’s amazing all the channels put in place and Nichols slipped by? The public didn’t seem to care and so it continued. But yes, considering all the information we have received in the past 24 hours and past articles, State Board of Accounts audits, and the continuous presence of the FBI should have been a wake-up call and instead, it was business as usual.
To read the full report click the link below (pdf).