Yesterday at 5:26pm ·
I still meet regularly with “the informants,” the people who touched off the federal investigation of the Muncie city administration, those persistent folks who doggedly kept pestering the FBI until agents concluded they were, indeed, onto something.
Since November of 2015, FBI agents talked to them dozens of times and until perhaps summer of last year continued to solicit information from at least one of them. As recently as six weeks ago, the FBI still was interviewing other people.
Provided that one day the investigation ends – hopefully with more indictments – I will ask permission to name the informants. They are heroes in my book and deserve the gratification of an entire community. Their relentless tenacity, perhaps obstinacy is a better word, won out.
I just found out about another development that I have to suspect is connected to the FBI’s investigation: as of two months ago, Arron Kidder is no longer part of the Dennis Tyler city administration.
Arron Mathew Kidder went to Elkhart Memorial High School and came to BSU, where he majored in political science and graduated December of 2012. While still in school, he interned for Brad Bookout’s consulting company and got involved in the Delaware County Redevelopment Commission. When Tyler took over the mayor’s office in 2012, Bookout did some consulting for the new administration and hired Kidder, who eventually handled most of the city’s grant-writing work. A year later, Kidder spun off his own consulting firm, Hawkins Consulting Inc., and contracted with the city to write grants.
In 2014, he earned $35,000 from the city, his only consulting client, who gave him an office next to the mayor’s. Kidder began assuming more and more duties that typically would have gone to a deputy mayor, a position Tyler has not filled. The next year, 2015, with a whopping contractual increase, Kidder earned more than $60,000, and in 2016, he got $55,000, an amount in excess of the salaries of all but a couple city department heads.
Kidder sat in for the mayor on a handful of boards. He regularly attended Muncie Board of Public Works meetings as the mayor’s emissary, bringing contracts Tyler wanted approved and other matters before the three-member panel, who exist to do the mayor’s bidding. Several times I recall Kidder telling the board that the city needed to tear down condemned houses under emergency conditions and that the administration had obtained quotes from two companies to do the work. The lower quote would invariably be from the private firm owned by the city’s Building Commissioner, Craig Nichols, who would have condemned the houses in the first place and declared the emergency.
I first wrote in February of 2016 that some of those houses Nichols’ firm was paid to demolish hadn’t existed: they were phantom demolitions. The administration quickly created a cover story claiming that all the addresses were mere clerical mistakes, but by then, the FBI, already probing into Muncie Sanitary District, had added Nichols’ billings to their investigation.
Six months later, The Star Press pulled the plug on my column-writing. Four months after that, the FBI raided the city building commissioner’s office and seized records. A month later, February of 2017, Nichols was indicted on 33 felony counts, almost all related to work he did for the city, including the phantom demolitions and the attempted cover-up I wrote about.
Kidder certainly was a rising star in the Tyler administration. Tyler put him on several local boards, including the Aviation Authority. Kidder lived in a house he rented from the vice-chair of the Delaware County Democratic Party and he involved himself in party activities. Last September, The Star Press wrote a glowing profile of Kidder in a section on up-and-coming Muncie leaders.
Then, two months later, Kidder was suddenly gone. No announcement.
Through November when he got his last check, Kidder had received $66,000 from the city in 2017.
Not many Ball State graduates in their first position out of college knock down $60,000-plus annual salaries, and I can’t imagine many young people in their mid-20s simply walking away from that kind of money. Not without a whole lotta motivation, that is.
Please share this with any Muncie people still hoping justice prevails.
There must be some way out of here
Said the joker to the thief
There’s too much confusion, I can’t get no relief
Businessmen, they drink my wine
Plowmen dig my earth
None of them along the line know what any of it is worth
No reason to get excited, the thief, he kindly spoke
There are many here among us who feel that life is but a joke
But you and I, we’ve been through that, and this is not our fate
So let us not talk falsely now, the hour is getting late
With everything that has been happening and the city in a perpetual state of turmoil, it’s difficult to stay focused. So much to watch in this crazily contradictory place called Muncie. We have a ton of facts, even more, opinions. Do we have an understanding of current events? Do we see the big and bigger picture? Are we examining the past and the present? Are we looking at personalities, self-gratification, greed? Is there an end goal of this administration we aren’t seeing? Hoping we can find answers to these questions. Even better..get our grey cells expanding and be forever watchful.
Hats off to the EMS supporters which provided information we can use. Much of the time, we don’t give EMS a thought until we need their services. One good thing which came from Mayor Tyler’s proposal: he helped to spotlight an integral branch of public safety. We’ve learned about their duties, their costs, their equipment and their dedication to their jobs. DCEMS provided clear facts, but the war is not over yet.
No reason to get excited, the thief, he kindly spoke
Mayor Tyler gave an impassioned speech asking the Muncie City Council to table ordinance 68-17. He made reference to emails from unknown firefighters which he had distributed to members of the council. His voice rose with emotion and determination at times. Three council members already a no vote, Tyler needed to convince the remaining members to approve the tabling. No doubt, the six-member party loyalists had been schooled on their vote prior to the meeting.
He needed to “correct the total unfairness to the citizens and taxpayers of Muncie, Indiana.” He went on to say “the citizens of Muncie in 40 years has received zero dollars in a program they participated in.” Mayor Canan began the first responder’s program in 2003. Not quite 40 years Mayor Tyler.
Does Mayor Tyler think our payments to the county covering a portion of EMS services is going to end with the city’s ambulance service? No, we’ll still pay the same. In fact, we will be paying for county and city ambulance services. Where is the fairness in that one, Mayor Tyler?
Mayor Tyler and Chief Bell believe this will be a profitable department. They need to borrow just to get the program off the ground. Let’s put that all aside for a minute and look at the past six years of the Tyler administration.
During the 2011 Mayoral debate, Tyler said Muncie had plenty of money. As soon as he was voted in he began to spend it, too. A “surplus” left by former Mayor McShurley to cover the cost of MFD if and when the SAFER grant ended. She campaigned on keeping the MFD staffed. Mayor Tyler, on the other hand, saw the $8 million as an open checkbook to spend. He made no effort to prepare for the inevitable loss of the SAFER grant. He had the money, he could have deposited it in a “safer” fund. It doesn’t take much to add a line item to the budget.
Or pass an income tax.
Three years into his administration, the city realizes it is coming up short. Guess no one noticed the revenue statements. The EDIT and LOIT taxes was passed in 14 days. That’s a record. Mayor Tyler, where is the fairness to the citizens of Muncie? Did you allow the citizens of Muncie time to examine the tax and question the city on their expenditures?
Mayor Tyler was it fair to the citizens and taxpayers of Muncie to filter tax dollars to Craig Nichols’ companies? Where was your sense of fairness then? How fair is it to the citizens of Muncie when MSD purchased the flea market well over the assessed value? You said, “All I know is it’s an expensive project”. It sure is, Mayor, when deals like these are brokered. Do you believe the citizens were treated fairly?
Mayor Tyler, is your definition of fairness to withhold financial information on attorney fees? Is this fair to the citizens who will be footing the bill? From State agencies to news sources to the citizens no one, except maybe Tyler, believes this is fair.
In six years Mayor Tyler has never had any department become self-sustaining. He was handed two well-organized and re-structured departments, Prairie Creek Reservoir and Building Department. Today PCR running over budget. The Building Department a cash cow for the on-leave building commissioner. Tuhey Pool mismanaged by the company Tyler hired and it lost nearly $100,000 in ’16.
And all this isn’t even the half of it.
If Mayor Tyler could truly make a department self-sustaining he would have done it by now and there would be no need for increased tax levies or 43% income tax. The environment Tyler operates in is not conducive to fairness or good fiscal management. No one in all good conscience could use these terms to describe his administration.
What is the true purpose of Mayor’s proposal? Is it political? Will he involve the citizens in his political games? Disregarding the safety and services and placing us smack dab in the middle of his childish actions? You bet he will. That’s his definition of fairness.
All Along the Watchtower is where we need to be standing. Watching with our eyes every move this administration makes.
Mayor Tyler and the City of Muncie is in the news again. This time it’s over the city’s refusal to release attorney fees. Freedom of Information request was denied. City’s spokesperson, Sarah Beach, on behalf of the city, claimed it was “privileged” information. The state’s public access counsellor disagreed.
Four days later after the letter was released in the paper, and not without public criticism, Mayor Tyler held a one-minute press conference. That’s all the time needed to discredit the letter. The city’s feeble attempt at damage control. Again.
You know the letter Beach submitted to the newspaper was approved by both the city attorney and Mayor Tyler. Now Dennis Tyler is saying it was inaccurate.
Tyler said Friday that the city “has always and will always be transparent to its citizens.”
So, let’s look at the transparent government.
In 2012 the City’s building commissioner re-opened his business and immediately received city contracts. It wasn’t until Walls & Ceilings was fined by OSHA the public became aware. (It was rumoured Nichols was doing work.)
The city’s Neighborhood Investment Committee (NIC) program birthed in 2015. For this program, the city buys and sells properties to revitalize neighbourhoods. Some of you may remember East Central Reinvestment Corporation (ECRC) funded with federal dollars.
East Central Reinvestment Corp., a pioneering local CHDO founded in 1986, went under after defaulting on mortgage payments on 13 houses in 2008. ECRC spent more than $3 million to improve more than 80 properties before HUD cut off funding to it in 2006 after an investigation of conflicts of interest and other complaints. Muncie to prop up housing rehabbers with HUD 4-1-2011
What’s happening with the NIC program?
Last week we learned Delaware County gave the city 215 properties and not one has been put back on the tax rolls. Where is the transparency? Does anyone know the status of these properties? Nope.
Or the status of the Village? Or the transparency of the Muncie Redevelopment Commission? Did we know city money was filtering into the building commissioner’s wallet? Did we know Mayor Tyler was preparing to pass a 43% income tax? The press conference on Nichols’ arrest, was Mayor Tyler transparent?
Or that Tyler and Donati were board members of Sustainable Muncie? (Both said they resigned and Beach went on to say Tyler’s involvement was as a “figurehead” only). Of course. At the final hour, Tyler said there would be a job training program. Transparency.
The night he won a second term, he declared to followers “I will never lie to you.” Cheers. Every time the city gets caught they blamed it on someone else. The increased tax levy in ’12. McShurley’s fault. Traffic lights not synced, blight program delayed, no paving grant? The State’s fault.
Do you ever wonder why the former MRC president resigned right after Donati lost the election? Perfect timing. Or how about bid specifications written specifically for the companies the city favours? The building on Walnut, Wilson School, VAT. Was the Mayor transparent or distressed when MSD purchased the building for $300,000 based on an inflated appraisal? Did Mayor Tyler or Todd Donati give any indication the city was buying the Rutter Building? Or how much rental revenue? Do we know?
Woe to those who increase their wealth on the backs of the people they were elected to serve. The readers may not agree with this statement, but they are to be pitied. Lacking integrity, greedy, and they will not enjoy the fruits of their labour. It’s tainted fruit. It has soured in their bellies. But then again, if one is void of honesty, integrity, empathy and virtue they will think they are the victims of unjust circumstances.
Publicity is justly commended as a remedy for social and industrial diseases. Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants; electric light the most efficient policeman. The most important political office is that of the private citizen. Louis Brandeis
Muncie, Indiana Bond Debt
The information concerning the City of Muncie and Muncie Sanitary District is fairly sparse. Once in a while, we receive a nugget or two like the recent hire of an attorney specializing in corruption cases by the MSD. We are never privileged to the reasons of the hiring, what employee or employees are being represented or if the payments will be subjected to reimbursement by the employees being represented. Currently, the fees are being paid for by the taxpayers.
Everyone is a taxpayer.
I’m sure this will fall under client-attorney privilege, however, if the fees are paid for through tax dollars then wouldn’t the citizens of Muncie be the clients?
Taxpayers received an increased tax bill April 2017. The reason? MSD raised the stormwater fee. All questions about the rate increase were directed to Jason Donati. He would only answer if the request was in writing. Surely, an organization this size has a document on the rate increase available.
Not forthcoming or transparent on the rate increase…
“We’re getting a lot of calls about the stormwater fee,” the treasurer said.
Patterson said her office was told to tell taxpayers who called to contact Muncie Sanitary District stormwater educator Jason Donati, who when contacted Monday by The Star Press asked that a written request for information be submitted to sanitary district officials. District officials did not respond to The Star Press’ request for an interview about the fee.
Patterson said the stormwater fee “went up substantially … and we can’t get an answer from anybody why. I haven’t been able to get that answer yet.”
Source: Property tax rates go up across county April 11, 2017 Muncie Star Press
Four months later, still no answer.
Let’s take a look at the current debt from both Muncie Sanitary District and the Muncie Redevelopment Commission as of 12-31-16.
City of Muncie debt $38,562,681.56. Amount due in 2017 $7,186,146.00
Muncie Sanitary District debt $176,401,026.41. Amount due in 2017 $8,052,765.00
Source: Indiana Government Transparency Portal
At the Muncie Sanitary District rate hearing in, 2012 Mayor Tyler was not present but did give a statement expressing concerns the increase would hurt the people. He was hoping to work with the MSD on a phase in. At the time the 2012 hearing, the board had all been appointed by the previous mayor, Sharon McShurley.
Today, the MSD board is all Mayor Tyler appointments. No expression of concern when the board voted to raise the rates in 2016. In regards to MSD purchasing a building well over the assessed evaluation, he said: “all I know is it is an expensive project.” (sic) Craig Nicholas’ charging the city for demolitions of vacant lots, the city scrambled to cover it claiming the addresses were wrong. All four properties?
The Muncie Sanitary District board on Thursday unanimously approved a rate hike, but not until after hearing from members of the public, who said they didn’t trust the board.
“This is poor timing,” local resident Kimberly Ferguson told the board after referring to articles in The Star Press about the sanitary district’s practices of buying property from and paying politically well-connected people.
Source: Sanitary district unanimously approves rate hike July 7, 2016 Muncie Star Pree
We could go on, but that is for another blog.
Interested in the City of Muncie and the Muncie Sanitary District 2016 year end debt report? Would you like to see the how it is distributed?
Having you been missing Larry Riley’s columns from the local newspaper? If so, you won’t want to miss this event.
When: May 29th, 2017
Time: 6:30 PM to 8:30 PM
Where: Kennedy Library
1700 W McGalliard Rd, Muncie, IN
We know Memorial Weekend is busy, so even if you can’t make it at 6:30 PM, the doors will be open during the event. Bring your questions.
Hope to see you!
By now, most everyone which is paying attention understands the Mayor of Muncie didn’t apply for State paving funds. If you have been on vacation the State of Indiana provided matching grant opportunities for additional paving funds.
All one had to do was apply with provided information and have matching funds. The public has not stayed silent as letters appeared in the local newspaper.
Muncie misses out on state funds
It is unfortunate that the mayor did not choose to apply for state funding to repair our streets.
And a bit of sarcasm, too.
Who needs the money?
I am personally glad that the mayor did not accept a million dollars from the state of Indiana. Who would want any money from those stinky Republicans that occupy our statehouse? Besides, it probably came with silly ole strings attached, like the money would have to be spent on streets and stuff like that, and not on private swim clubs. Those silly auditors are so demanding and so out of touch with the needs of good ole Muncie.
And some uncommon common sense.
Muncie could use grants
It’s a given that you won’t receive grant money if you do not apply. As for the city doing all right, is Mr. Tyler talking about the streets I drive on every day? Driving on some of our streets is like trying to maneuver a mine field – large potholes and/or mini hills one must try to miss
We seem to have a plethora of ideas, broken promises, dreams not realized with this administration. When he took office he had the dreams, you all. Maybe a minor baseball team or the old Chevy plant would be a beautiful park. You might even wonder about the $10,000 in forgiven property taxes for a community garden on an old polluted property of an abandoned factory on 8th St.
How about demolishing buildings and paying a goodly price on properties which have been vacant lots before Mayor Tyler took office. The mayor never promised us the FBI investigation nor a 43% income taxed passed in a record 14 days.
Spending thousands of dollars for an open wastewater pipe, a fence, some plantings known as Liberty Pass legally but Dennis’ Ditch publically. Oh, how this will be a draw for all the visitors Muncie is sure to have soon. Currently, it is a nice meeting place for drug deals as a neighbor revealed.
Let’s go back to the LOIT and income tax for just a moment. Mayor Tyler’s justification for the tax was property tax caps. Yet, this administration is taking properties off of tax rolls. He had to have the Local Option Income Tax for public safety, although previously he said there would be enough money without a grant. The previous mayor, Sharon McShurley made the same promise in 2011. Of course, she was not re-elected but did leave the city with more than enough cash for the Muncie Fire Department.
Prior to the Economic Development Income Tax (EDIT) increase, unbeknownst to the public, the mayor was using the EDIT tax dollars to fund the city’s building commissioner’s businesses, paying an obscene amount for demolishing blighted properties. Not to mention all city contracts as well as the business the commissioner got from new construction. Some may call it racketeering. Perhaps even the FBI would place it in the same category, No wonder he needed more money…
Some feel inclined to plead on behalf of the city administration with claims there is no proof. However, the handful of supporters don’t have any city documents. Neither have they pounded the pavement to investigate the internal policies hidden from the people of Muncie.
We can also say the Mayor has some wins under his belt with the downtown hotel. To be sure, it was needed. Yet, the mayor when he announced the hotel said there would no public funds. Before he borrowed nearly $18 million…
Two months before the presidential election the Delaware County Democrat chair resigned. There is speculation on a federal lawsuit alleging the city required 20% from the companies awarded city contracts be donated to the Democrat Party. The building has not paid a penny of property tax for years, but all you hear from the mayor is property tax caps.
Soon the City Council will be voting on the budget for 2017. It has increased about 20% including raises for the mayor and department heads. Kind of strange Mayor Tyler cried “Wo, is Muncie and those dreadful caps. Poor subjects of Muncie I’ll need to decrease your income. It’s those tax caps, you know.” The next year, despite the caps, he crafts a budget the city or folks can’t afford. Does this make sense?
Anyone can increase their budget, paying for it is the hard part.