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Muncie State of the City Address

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“Mayor Dan said what?  We’re interested, tell us more!”

agriculture cows curious pasture
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If you missed the City of Muncie Mayor Dan Ridenour’s state of the city address, you can watch it on Facebook.  It’s very interesting.

Muncie State of the City

Heard it through the grapevine

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It took me by surprise I must say
When I found out yesterday
Don’tcha know that I heard it through the grapevine
Not much longer would you be mine
Oh, I heard it through the grapevine
Oh, I’m just about to lose my mind

Honey, honey, yeah
(I heard it through the grapevine)

C’mon, did you start getting a little funky when you saw the title?  Move your head, sing a bit?  We did.  We’re not going to be talking about Marvin Gaye, or this tune.  Instead, the focus is on what you may be hearing by way of the grapevine.

If you peruse social media you are more than likely going to come across something of interest.   It’s an election year, but not for the mayor or city council.  Yet the rumors are as hanging clusters on the vine and high interest to the political grape pickers. 

Let’s start harvesting. 

Word has it there is a rumbling against the new mayor.  They don’t like the board appointments.  Nor do they like who he hired.  On and on.  In fact, some of the rumors have been recycled from the 2019 campaign season.    It doesn’t stop with the mayor but has extended to other officials.  Some so vile and cruel and we won’t addressing those today, if ever.  

According to some, there is an issue with the mayor’s relationship with a Democrat council person.  The claim is the council member is the confidant or advisor, if you will, to the mayor.  Another issue is the mayor hobnobs with Democrats and appoints them, too.    Earlier, the complaint was the mayor hired all his campaign workers.  Of course, that upset the “crowd”, too.  Just at a glance, the administration is a healthy mix of both parties.    The would-be pruners didn’t want any Democrats, didn’t want any campaign people, didn’t want any good ole boys.  Yet, when those who were not politically connected to this area were offered a position, that was a no-no, too.  So, that leaves who to fill the positions? 

Nobody.

At nearly every opportunity the city council members nominated or voted for someone who was highly politically connected.   Or politically active or volunteered on the campaign trail.  Some even held positions with the previous administration.  Did they know who they were voting for and did they concern themselves with the roles the nominees had played? 

One Fb commentator posted a council member ran on the Republican ticket – simply put- there was no support from Democrats available, ever.  Possibly would have blown this post off except for the fact others have said the same.  On a scale of 1-10 grapes per cluster, 10 being the highest for truthfulness, give it a conservative 7.5.    We’ll see how the council person votes and in fact, we will concern ourselves with every yea or nay.  A local was told, “If you want a position on a board, stop going to meetings and being politically active.”

If your head’s not spinning yet…read on.

As of this post, The mayor has held this position for  59 days,  Seven out of nine council members are as green as the grapes on the vine.  It appears there are some who are so politically ambitious, so hungry for an elected position they are willing to throw the citizens, the city and the mayor under the bus.  We would hope this isn’t the case, but all indications so far are leaning in that direction. 

The city is stuck with the 2019 budget, accounts running in the red, administration/fiscal body/employees full of newbies, MSD bleeding us dry, emergency services hanging in the balance and the preference for some is to play political games.  214 political games, that is.  

If you’re not familiar with the name 214 Democrats, click on the link below.  

214 – Let them eat cake

 A vine always has a root and will grow if the root is healthy.  A poor root system will yield little fruit.     Keep your eyes on the prize, stay diligent, use wisdom and exercise discernment.   

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Larry Riley – Animal Control

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For all the readers of Muncie Politics without a Facebook account, Riley tries to make some sense of the finances of the animal shelter. This city is one big financial mess.

Larry Riley

February 18 at 7:11 PM · 

Following my last FB posting about the nearly $800,000 costs of animal control services in Muncie (and Delaware County), a couple readers responded with questions or answers about where do the revenues received for dog adoptions or surrenders or reclamations go.
* * * * *
One person said 80 percent of these revenues go to the city’s General Fund and 20 percent stay in the animal shelter account. That may well be what’s supposed to happen. I don’t recall this breakdown. I did look at the actual figures from the most recent Muncie documents reported to the Indiana Department of Local Government Finance, which is from 2018. (I presume city officials, who inherited a financial mess, if not *disaster*, remain working on the 2019 report.) Some of the amounts are eye-opening.
* * * * *
Several accounts are in play. Among the General Fund receipts are included $6,489 in “other charges” listed as “animal shelter-reclaims” (as in owners reclaimed their animals and paid costs, I presume). Into another fund went a whopping $28 in charges for “animal shelter adoptions fees.” Yes, just $28.
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Another $150,000 went into the General Fund for the interlocal agreement with Delaware County, money the county pays for animal services provided by the city’s shelter (for which city residents pay county taxes as well as their own taxes for the city animal shelter). I see no money coming from Yorktown, Daleville, or any other local government.
* * * * *
The animal shelter’s “non-reverting fund”—meaning at the end of the year, any money left over does NOT revert to the General Fund, but stays with the animal shelter—receipted $3,556 in “animal shelter fees.” Not sure what that means. Another account NOT in the General Fund, titled “Animal Shelter Adoption Fees,” shows $8,128 receipted in. I don’t know whether that lonely 28 adoption fee bucks listed in the General Fund plus the $8,128 in the “adoption fees” account are the total or not. If so, the breakdown for adoptions is more like 1 percent to the General Fund and 99 percent to the shelter. Maybe a reader has a better idea.
* * * * *
I have to suspect the $3,556 in the non-reverting fund also includes adoption revenues, which would make the adoption breakdown exactly 70 percent to the General Fund, and 30 percent exactly to the animal shelter.
* * * * *
The report also shows the animal shelter took in $62,979 in “donations, gifts, and bequests” for the year. That would appear to be in a dedicated account for the shelter and I suspect this does not make its way to the General Fund at any time. I would note that if the General Fund does get more than this puny $28 amount from adoptions and other charges, and if fees increase the amount of the General Fund, officials could always ask Muncie City Council to appropriate more for the shelter. Or anything else.
* * * * *
Just to doublecheck, I looked at the 2017 report: the account titles were again confusing, but the amounts quite different: again $150,000 from the county to the city (I don’t think the amount has changed since the original agreement in 2012, which runs, by the way, through 2062. Yes, you read that right. Longer than many Muncie folks will live.)
* * * * *
The 2017 General Fund revenues for “animal shelter” was $11,834. The account didn’t say “reclaims” or anything more. Shelter donations from outside sources were $45,800. Clearly the animal shelter led all city departments in private contributions. The non-reverting animal control fund receipts were $7,298, twice the subsequent year’s. The separate “animal adoption fees” account showed $18,847 taken in, again twice the subsequent year’s amount. This would mirror the 70-30 split for shelter vs. General Fund.
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Free to add clarity or confusion. (!)

Larry Riley, MSD meeting, etc.

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I admit I’m now addicted to watching the meetings of the Muncie Sanitary District online as they are live-streamed. I used to go to the meetings in person for years, then when the city newspaper decided to jettison me, I stopped. Since the FBI investigation of the district continues to find defendants, and since a new city administration has been elected and appears willing to fight the aberrant MSD, I’m more interested.
* * * * *
Everyone knows the basics, I mean the *calamitous* basics: the current MSD board has seen two of its top executives federally indicted for fraud, bid-rigging, and kickbacks, along with three top contractors indicted on the same charges, and yet the board has done nothing to investigate or take any action to assure taxpayers and ratepayers are protected. Oh, and the former Muncie mayor who appointed these guys has been indicted, too, for collecting a payoff from an MSD contractor. Every cent the FBI says was used in kickbacks was approved by these three MSD members.
* * * * *
Yet these guys cling to power. Years ago, the indicted former mayor demanded his city engineer appointment get placed on the MSD board, which happened. This month, his successor, Dan Ridenour, asked for his own city engineer to join the board, but no, the current board said the old engineer would not resign, not would any MSD member. So the city sued MSD to force the change. Taxpayers and ratepayers will pay the attorneys to sort it all out. Yet any MSD board member with any sense of honor at all would simply resign, as they all should. As should their attorney, the former county prosecutor who lost his law license for several months over drug forfeitures that lined his pocket and cost him his re-election. (Oh,
and his own campaign manager, former Drug Task Force police officer, got raided by the FBI. He had some property dealings with MSD.)
* * * * *
So, come back to this week’s MSD meeting: it lasted 8 minutes. Claims of $1 million plus were paid, all existing officers (Bill Smith president, Mike Cline, vice, Joe Evans, secretary) were re-elected (their having done such outstanding work), a change order approved. Then Smith announced that they’ve been sued by the city and their attorney advised them not to answer any more question, or even continue the meeting, which was abruptly ended without a vote to adjourn.
* * * * *
The entire board is now an official embarrassment. Unequivocally. Irretrievably. Implacably. Lots of citizens on hand got left in the lurch, including some, like Anitra Davis, City Council member who wanted to address an unrelated topic about Whitely. Four other City Council members witnessed the spectacle. They’re scheduled to vote final passage of an ordinance expanding MSD’s board next week, but the lawsuit may interfere.
* * * * *
What else do we not know? One of the meeting agenda items got inexplicably removed, a contract with Blackhawk Security Services, LLC, reportedly to provide security at MSD’s new downtown headquarters-to-be seven blocks from City Hall. The Muncie firm got incorporated last May and lists Joe Winkle as a principal. Joe Winkle was the last police chief under the Tyler administration. Don’t know why the board didn’t address the agenda item.
* * * * *
Nor am I sure what’s going on with the proposed new $16 million pole barn on MLK Boulevard north of Centennial. (WOW, put that in all caps, a pole barn in which to park sanitation trucks for $16 million: what would a kickback on that look like?) A lot of work was done on site and now the equipment seems gone and the site is idle. I’ve heard people question whether MSD had necessary Army Corps of Engineers and Ind. Dept. of Natural Resources permits to build so close to or even in a flood plain. The land straddles Muncie Creek.
* * * * *
I’ve heard even more, but I’m still checking. Meanwhile, the beat goes on. The beating goes on

MSD Board, statutes and what is truth?

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MSD Meeting

Timeline

  • June 2012 Board of Public Works hires city engineer
  • July 2012 Mayor Tyler demands MSD board member resign
  • July 2012 City attorney informs MSD board they are violating a statute
  • January 2020 Mayor Ridenour appoints city engineer
  • January 2020 Mayor Ridenour demands an MSD board member resign
  • January 2020 MSD attorney reports there is no city engineer on the MSD board
  • January 2020 MSD attorney will review the statute.

MSD 5-minute meeting with the president, Bill Smith voicing his opinion about the letter, Mayor Ridenour presented to the Sanitation Board.  He called it unprofessional and mused why Ridenour would quit a well-paying job to be mayor.  (Rolling eyes)

In the July 18th, 2012 Star Press edition an article appeared “Tyler moves to flush Sanitary board member” The article goes on to say Tyler demanded board member Theresa Ford resign no later than Monday.  John Quirk, city attorney, cited a statute that required the city engineer to sit on the board.    In June 2012 the Board of Public Works (BOW) hired Mike Cline of Indianapolis consulting firm HWC to fill the role of an engineer.  John Quirk was a member of the BOW.

That was then and this is now.

The meeting starts with Bill Smith receiving a letter “demanding” one of the board members resign.  Mr. Smith is somewhat displeased and he hands the meeting to the MSD attorney Mark McKinney.    Mr. McKinney says the letter reads “the commissioner (name unknown) needs to resign because of the city hiring an engineer who will replace the unknown commissioner”.

Approximately 50 seconds into the video, Attorney Mark McKinney says Cline is not on the board as an engineer.  He was appointed by Mayor Dennis Tyler to sit on the board.  McKinney said he would look into the statute.  The same statute John Quirk used to remove Ford.

There seems to be a conflict.  In June 2012 Cline was hired as the city engineer.  In July 2012 John Quirk said the board was in violation of the statute requiring the city engineer to sit on the MSD board.   Quirk demanded Ford resign.  To our knowledge, Cline has been on the board ever since.  We believed he was the city engineer during Tyler’s administration.  Guess we were wrong.

McKinney said he would look into the statute.  We don’t know when Cline stopped being a city engineer but certainly, the MSD is in violation of the 2012 statute as was the previous board.

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Copied this statute from the City’s Facebook page.  It was posted as a comment:

City Engineer must be a member of the Board as required under 36-9-25-3 (b)(3) because the district was established under 36-9-25-1(b)

.IC 36-9-25-1 Application of chapter Sec. 1. (a) This chapter applies to the following: (1) A second class city located in a county having a population of more than one hundred eleven thousand (111,000) but less than one hundred fifteen thousand (115,000). (2) Each municipality in a county having a population of more than four hundred thousand (400,000) but less than seven hundred thousand (700,000) in which the legislative body has adopted this chapter by ordinance. (b) This chapter also applies to each second class city not in such a county in which the legislative body has adopted this chapter by ordinance. (c) In addition, in a consolidated city, sections 9 through 38 of this chapter apply to the department of public works and the board of public works, subject to IC 36-3-4-23. [Pre-Local Government Recodification Citations: subsection (a) formerly 19-2-27-1 part; 19-2-27-3; subsection (b) formerly 19-2-14-32part; 19-2-28-1 part; 19-2-28-6; 19-2-28.5-1; 19-2-28.5-3 part; subsection (c) formerly 18-4-2-9(a) part.] As added by Acts 1981, P.L.309, SEC.98. Amended by P.L.12-1992, SEC.179; P.L.80-1997,

 

 

 

Muncie & MSD total debt

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grey metal case of hundred dollar bills
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If you have been following the articles in the Muncie Star Press you are probably aware the preliminary financials are showing -$3 million dollars.    The good news is there may be some reimbursable bucks coming back to the city.  At this point, we just can’t be positive.  We do know there have been violations noted in the Indiana State Board of Accounts audits year after year.  Despite the city claiming they will have measures in place to correct deficiencies, it doesn’t appear to have happened.

If you want to run the SBOA reports, please click on Audits.

For those of you who don’t do Facebook here is the debt report as of 1-14-20 for the City of Muncie and the Muncie Sanitary District.

UnitTotalDebt Muncie 1-14-20

UnitTotalDebt MSD 1-14-20

Muncie EDIT Expenditures 2019

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This spreadsheet came from a Facebook post.  It looks legitimate.  (Muncie Area Community Engagement page).  We edited the spreadsheet to create a viewable list.  Some people don’t like to download documents because of security issues.  Understandable.  Due to the spreadsheet’s size, we deleted some of the columns and created the PDF.  No data has been changed only redundant columns have been deleted.  This is why we have the original spreadsheet to compare.

edit-2019-expenses1 (PDF)

EDIT 2019 Expenses (Complete spreadsheet)

P.S. This is a typewriter…

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photograph of a vintage typewriter on table
P.S. This is a typewriter. Photo by Dzenina Lukac on Pexels.com

Following on the heels of Riley’s Fb post comes another editorial you might find interesting.  It’s not about news anymore, it is getting the first big story.  Facts may or may not come later.  There are many instances when the media jumped the fence and released breaking news.  Some to the destruction of innocents.  Take for example the Colorado theatre shooting in 2012.  Obtaining the name of the shooter, the media linked it to a person with no connection to the real murderer, James Holmes.

If we want to stay informed we need to understand most will be chasing the almighty ratings.  So often we hear this or that is “fake” news.  Sometimes it is, sometimes not.  One thing we do appreciate is links to substantiate the information.  It could be a newspaper quote or article.  Or a government document or a study.  Or perhaps just an opinion.

Anyway, enjoy this editorial.

‘Richard Jewell,’ Nicholas Sandmann and the media mob

Larry Riley – January 12, 2020

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Six months before The Star Press discontinued my services as a twice-weekly columnist in 2016, I became concerned that the newspaper was growing more enchanted with the Dennis Tyler city administration in Muncie. The mayor himself had long complained to me personally that I was too critical of him. I had to remind him that when I thought he had done something good, I was quick to acknowledge and congratulate.
* * * * *
One such issue was the downtown hotel, the new Marriott Courtyard. While I disagreed with underwriting the financing of the hotel by the city and committing the Food & Beverage Tax for 20 years to the parking garage, I still wrote that Tyler single-handedly deserved credit for bring the hospitality giant downtown. I even told the mayor I got flak from readers who said I shouldn’t be applauding the mayor, but I told them they were wrong.
* * * * *
Yet the mayor kept complaining, not just to me, but to the top editor at The Star Press, repeatedly, and once asked the editor to come to the mayor’s office so Tyler could air his grievances. Around that time, one of my columns got spiked—newspaper parlance for getting pulled from publication. The column was an important one about the difference between municipal “bids” versus “quotes” for a public project.
* * * * *
The difference is that bids on a project are open to any vendor who wants to compete for the work, while quotes are only from “selected” businesses—including firms that don’t even do the type of work the project calls for. That’s one of the problems that brought the city into the FBI’s sights and a major transgression I first brought to light.
* * * * *
Tyler’s Building Commissioner, Craig Nichols, son of the retired firefighter mayor’s good friend and fellow MFD retiree and fellow former Democratic Party chairman locally, had submitted bills from his private business for demolishing houses on properties where, for starters, no houses had stood. But he got the contract because the only other business quoting the work didn’t even do demolitions and had quotes higher than Nichols, hence Nichols won. Quotes were rigged.
* * * * *
But the newspaper’s top editor killed my column because I had quoted a city employee, Gretchen Cheeseman. The editor had evidently become convinced Cheeseman was the bad guy in an ongoing battle—playing out in public—in Muncie’s Community Development office. The editor didn’t want me to use Cheeseman as a source. I said I could rewrite the piece without quoting Cheeseman, and later did. Cheeseman, whom the administration wanted out of the way, got dismissed on trumped-up accusations.
* * * * *
Spiking my column did make me think The Star Press’s was leaning more and farther into the administration, buying into the mayor’s complaints. Four months later, the newspaper jettisoned me. Yet the FBI’s investigation into city wrongdoing intensified, since resulting in indictments of two high-level Muncie Sanitary District officials and three contractors, all on charges of fraud and kickbacks. And a conviction of that crooked Building Commissioner. And, of course, the indictment of former Mayor Tyler himself, on charges of accepting a bribe to steer business to a contractor.
* * * * *
And Gretchen Cheeseman was as honest as anybody in the city’s employ. In fact, she was the only obstacle between Community Development’s $4 million federal house demolitions grant and the shell corporation of Tyler’s cronies aiming to siphon that largess into their pockets. The principal crony will spend most of this year in prison. Cheeseman, meanwhile, is new Mayor Dan Ridenour’s Community Development director, replacing the woman who wrongly fired her. Delicious irony.
* * * * *
One new piece of evidence arose last week that continues my theory about the newspaper as chief apologist for the Tyler administration: the lead for the front-page story about the Muncie City Council’s refusal to appropriate money for fire department equipment purchased by Tyler last year without legal authority. A reporter wrote that Council members “refused to sign off on what they considered a mistake by the old administration.”
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“Mistake”? What? No, this was no mistake, this was a crime, and that’s what Council members thought. If you rob a bank, you won’t be arrested for “making a mistake.” Spending city money without authorization was no mistake. The Tyler administration purchased $1.5 million in equipment without approval. To their credit, the new City Council refused to abet the crime

Day 12 – We’re still kickin’

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Photo by Ricardo Esquivel

The City of Muncie is on the 12th day of rebuilding a new administration.  Most of the high profile positions have been filled.  The first city council meeting with nearly a complete turnover and a Republican majority came off better than expected.  The meeting was like watching history in the making.  The department heads were introduced.  Mayor Dan Ridenour was on hand to answer any questions or provide information.  Old habits die hard as former city council at-large, Linda Gregory, was quick to provide the parliamentary procedure as needed.

We had the opportunity to review the Board of Public Works (BOW) meeting and recommend any interested party to watch it on the City’s Fb page.  Despite the newness of the board and lack of information, Linda Gregory, Jerry Wise and Ted Baker handled the business at hand professionally.  Next meeting the board will be more prepared as well as the city controller.  Everyone is working with limited information. (More on that later.)

Linda Gregory voted in as President. Jerry Wise, Vice President, and Secretary isTed Baker.

How does one define a living organism?  Does it move?  Grow? Change?  All of these things and more.  This is how we envision the local government to be.  To move, to grow, to change, to be fluid.

Don’t be deceived, the past administration may have appeared to be moving, growing and changing but ultimately, it was only holding on to the past ways.  We seemed shocked at the depth of corruption.  To be sure, it is amazing.  By far the City of  Muncie under the direction of Dennis Tyler and a council filled with party operatives approved everything either by vote or by silence.  It has been a revolving door of FBI personnel,  economic development, gifts, and grafting reaching even into the private sector.    It was bold and in your face corruption.

Muncie Proper surpasses the Delaware County Highway Department, Justice Center, Royerton Sewer and all the other minor issues that have cropped up over the decades.

Let’s take a look at some of the issues we are or will be facing.

First is the Muncie Sanitation District.  For nearly 8 years the administration has taken a “hands-off” approach.  Now among other things we’re facing the cost of $17 million dollars for a new building.  A record increase in our monthly sanitation bills.  You ready for that, ratepayers?  The three-person board makes decisions with absolutely no oversite.  The president is still expecting the District Administrator to return to her job after the FBI arrested her.  US Attorney Josh Minkler says Grigsby used her authority to approve contractors to steer work to Franklin’s company, in exchange for kickbacks.  And we have paid for “working lunches” as if kickbacks weren’t enough…sheesh.  Madhouse.  So adding three paid board members may seem to be government overreach, but in this instance, it seems warranted.

Then there is the Muncie Redevelopment Commission and you talk about millions of dollars in debt.  The MRC was out of control.  And Human Resources and Street Department and Parks and, and…..

So while some moan and groan over Ridenour’s picks or obsess over who gets the office with the window or the new coffeemaker or the newest iPad …have at it if these are the most important issues.  Know this, change has come to Muncie, Indiana and change will continue, like it or not.

Later…

 

 

Considering every department head, the city council and the board appointments are fairly new and considering the ongoing FBI investigation,  there may be changes and where we are at financially, projects administration’s records, Mayor Dan Ridenour has put together a solid team.

 

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