Here in Delaware County, we have a nickname for a branch of Democrats. It’s called 214. What is 214? Where is it? What does it mean?
To begin we need to go back decades when Muncie was a small and thriving metropolis labeled as Middletown. A typical American city with not so typical politics. Smack dab in the middle of government buildings, attorney offices, and an infamous jail sits the headquarters of the local Democrat party. 214 N. Walnut.
It seems there was always some type a bruhaha around election time and every day is election time down at 214 N. Walnut. Even when it isn’t an election year.
Take for example the 2003 mayoral race. The former Democrat chair of the party stepped down to run for mayor. Although all candidates were promised a level playing field one candidate complained because his campaign signs continued to fall off the windows of 214 N.Walnut. Most likely due to generic scotch tape. The candidate, his mother and his campaign manager went to headquarters and gathered up his campaign paraphernalia. He ran independently from headquarters and won, but the ex-Dem chair lost in the general election by less than 500 votes.
Never a dull moment.
2008 is the year it began to heat-up. Judicial candidates were asked to donate to party headquarters. They refused to “pay to play” and were shunned. Party rules were updated, candidates distanced themselves from headquarters, poll books found in the trash. The newspaper reported threatening telephone calls, cold shoulders, nasty letters and destruction of property. It looked as if Democrat Headquarters was going to implode.
One lone citizen penned an essay “Fahrenheit 214” and published it on the political forum of the newspaper. It created quite a firestorm, pardon the pun. Out of this came the name “214” and it encompassed any Democrat who aligned themselves with party leadership.
214 is far more than the address of the Democrat Headquarters, it’s a mindset. In other words, you don’t need to be sitting in the backroom of headquarters to have the mind and heart of a 214er. Some Democrats will vehemently say “I am a Democrat, but I’m not a 214 Democrat.” They think of it only as a place. Never once considering their actions and thoughts fit the very definition of 214.
We’ve had decades of corruption, infighting, election issues, malfeasance. Today in Middletown, USA it makes all the past decades look like a walk in the park. As they raked in the dough on the backs of the people, you can almost hear “Let them eat cake.”
As of this writing, we have 52 days until the swearing-in of Muncie’s new mayor, Dan Ridenour. Dan’s win will usher in a complete change for the Muncie City administration. Yet, the big news is should Hampton be removed? Of course, he should step down of his own volition. Or the council should exercise their legal obligation and remove him. Doubt either will happen.
Why do we think Hampton is a non-starter? First, and foremost we still have Mayor Dennis Tyler in office. He’s not leaving the city in the best of shape. Sadly, he will do as much damage as possible. His true colors are showing for all to see. If he loved the city as much as he claimed, his desire would be for the city’s well-being. We have nine city council members who could vote anything in or out. Seven of those members won’t be returning in 2020. Jerry Disman and Brad Polk will be the veteran members.
Hampton is a minor distraction amongst the major issues facing this city.
Some of the items on the agenda is an independent audit of the city. Additionally, we have accounts running in the red and millions of dollars in debt. Time doesn’t permit all of the issues facing our city to be listed.
Not to mention getting major positions filled as well as the support staff for each department. Below is a list we compiled – not necessarily in order of importance.
- Muncie Parks Superintendent
- Fire Chief
- Police Chief
- Community Development Director
- Superintendent Board of Public Works
- City Controller
- Prairie Creek Superintendent
- Building commissioner
- Human Resource Director
- Redevelopment Director
- Law firm
- Animal Shelter Director
- Board of Public Works
- Channel 60 Director
- Various board appointments
- Support staff
Despite the fact, the Democrat Headquarters broke Indianan State law by appointing Hampton in the first place, this is just 214 DHQ doing what they have always done. So, let’s get him out of that position. And for sure, let’s watch how the council votes and the actions of the outgoing mayor.
You see after Hampton is gone he will soon be forgotten. Sticking with us for some time is the effects and cost of corruption. John should gracefully and with dignity remove himself. So should Tyler exhibit the same when he leaves office, However, whether it be winning or defeat, grace and dignity have never been their strengths.
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.
* * * * *
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.
* * * * *
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.
* * * * *
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.
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Baseball season known as America’s favorite pastime is in full swing. (Pardon the pun.) . But we’re not writing today about baseball, No, we’re dredging up some history and putting together a timeline we believe is showing a pattern.
This new post won’t be going into extra innings, however. It’s going to be short and sweet. After all, there is a game going on somewhere and 105-degree weather to enjoy.
Batter up! Let’s get this game on the road.
Do you think the corruption of Muncie City Proper is a new game? No, it’s just another play in another inning.
In 1992 the doors of Delaware County Justice Center opened. With the grand opening came indictments for perjury and theft. The newspaper called it a saga of “lawyers, politicians, protestors, bonds, bricks, and blunders. ” Summed up in one word absurd.
Just some of the issues in 1992 included equipment warranties to expire before the Justice Center is fully occupied. Commissioners failed to advertise notice on a public meeting. Budget surplus spent. Bull Computers sued for equipment that didn’t work. Open House delayed because s prisoner escaped the Justice Center, county borrows an additional $5 million. A defunct contractor had keys to the jail cells. Fire code violations, employees complaining of illnesses, the dispatcher sends firemen to the wrong location. Keep in mind this all happened in ’92 and doesn’t include a quarter of what went wrong with this project. Today, most people remember this fiasco. It’s in plain sight. The Justice Center has haunted us since.
A few months ago, we finished up a research project. While perusing the newspaper archives, way out in the left-field was an article from March 9, 1997. “Ex-worker “yardman” for ex-officials.” Testimony from a grand jury into the workings of Delaware County Highway Department detailing how employees performed maintenance on Bridge Supt. Rick Burnett’s residence and the Democrat Headquarters. In addition hauled trash from Democrat Chair, Phil Nichol’s house. Vendors testified if they did business with the highway department they were routinely asked to make a donation to the Democrat Party.
Hamilton Sewer; a sewer so nice, they built it twice. Royerton was suffering from failing septic systems, they needed a sanitation system badly. The residents petitioned the government and Delaware County officials complied. The lowest bid came in from a company, Midwest, and the county jumped on it. According to an article “Something rotten in the sewer” December 21, 2003, outlined the infamous Royerton Sewer project. The lowest bid from a company already in trouble with two Wisconsin cities for shoddy work and unfair labor practices. Adding, the owner had a criminal record of tax violation, false identity and cocaine charges. Some of the board members voiced concern, yet it went unheeded. In Royerton, the sewers didn’t run downhill, the lines were close to wells, specifications for specific bedding for the pipes not followed. Properties were damaged, too. In the end, the sewer was replaced at an additional cost to homeowners.
Obviously, there was much more going on than what could be listed in a few short paragraphs.
Although the batter has struck out, there is another who came to the plate. The Honorable Mayor Dennis Tyler.
Tyler hasn’t done anything that his contemporaries didn’t do before him. He’s played with 214 crowds for decades – he knows the game. Well versed in bid-rigging, hiring employee loyalists, deceiving the people, kickbacks and pulling a team together that would support every gameplay and stick by his side thru thick and thin. Yea, he didn’t need any coaching. He was experienced and well prepared even before 1-1-12.
Every infraction we see in the indictments today have all happened before. He wasn’t able to produce too many hits while he was on the State Representative team. Boy, oh, boy he was able to improve his score as Muncie mayor. Of course, the City Council team is pretty good, too. And the owners of the team backed him 100%. In other words, he had the same managers as the Highway Department, County Commissioners, and County Council teams. He just played the game better as mayor.
But the bottom line is, all these projects were done under 214 Democrat team members. Anyone who had been following the costly projects knew Tyler would be a hot mess.
And as it’s been said, we’re supporting 214 Democrat Headquarters with our tax dollars inadvertently. It’s not about serving the people of Muncie, it’s about continuing to finance their bankroll. They desperately need to hold on to the city and council spots.
All of this corruption has priced the average citizen right out of owning season tickets. We’re paying the players but we’re not able to buy tickets for the game.
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.
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.
As we get closer to the November elections we are beginning to see the 214 Democrats hard at work.
Earlier Muncie Politics wrote about the unintentional candidate for a position as a Democrat precinct committee member. Although, no elected officials, not the County Clerk Mike King or the County Prosecutor Jeff Arnold and neither of the political party chairs felt the need to pursue how the unintentional candidate was able to beat the intentional candidate. Score 1 for the local Democrat Headquarters. How to unintentionally win a race
Next on the list is the swinging door for the commissioner’s race. Phill Peckingpaugh withdrew early on – citing health issues. The seat for commissioner remained unfilled for several months until Brock Reagan stepped up to run. A few weeks later Reagan dropped from the race. He cited lack of time and money. providing an opening for the third time in the commissioner’s race.
As luck would have it, the Democrats immediately found a replacement in Jason Donati, MSD Stormwater educator, and MCS advisory board member. Jason was nominated by Mayor Tyler for the new school board but wasn’t chosen.
Asked if he had another candidate to fill the commissioner vacancy on the fall ballot, Craycraft said, “They’re talking to some people.” Candidate resigns another files
Wonder if “they” talked with Dave Ring? He ran as a Democrat, albeit, an outsider. Now Ring is running as an independent for commissioner.
Here is the timeline of the commissioner’s race:
- Phil Peckinpaugh files and drops out.
- The position sits vacant for several months.
- Brock Reagan drops from the recorder’s race and runs as commissioner.
- Jason Donati is not appointed to the MCS school board.
- Reagan quickly resigns from the race.
- Dave Ring files as an independent.
- Democrats immediately pick Donati.
Let’s go back to 2012. Todd Donati lost his bid for a second term as commissioner. A few weeks later, Muncie Redevelopment director retires unexpectedly after 20 years. As luck would have it Mayor Tyler appoints the former commissioner and longtime friend, Todd Donati to the position recently vacated…as luck would have it.
So why the blog title Missing Larry Riley? We lack solid political commentary in this county. No one gets to the meat of an issue. Perhaps there is no need. We all know what’s what in Delaware County politics. Here is an example:
Yet we’re facing stranger times. Once Dennis Tyler took over the Muncie mayor’s office in 2012, and then saw no Republican opposition in his re-election, the floodgates opened up for people running Democratic Party Headquarters. Nothing stopped Democratic HQ from using reins of Muncie government for its own purposes, including to line pockets.
That’s what the FBI has been investigating since late in 2015, and resulted so far in one arrest, that of the Mayor’s building commissioner, the son of the man in the seat of power in Democratic Headquarters. That FBI investigation remains ongoing in Muncie, recently heating up.
I’ve always liked Dudley, and he’s always been cordial and willing to talk with me. But joining your star to that particular Headquarters, a corrupt party and city administration, is treacherous. Larry Riley May 1, 2018
The only way Delaware County is ever going to advance beyond the corruption, poverty, absence of fruitful economic development, and 214 political appointments is to vote NO! to anyone who is affiliated with the 214 mainstream Democrats.