larry riley

Larry Riley “How uninvolved?”

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Larry Riley

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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.

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Last call for Larry Riley

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The local Muncie newspaper has lost a valuable resource.  Larry Riley,  a local journalist, has penned his last column for the Star Press.

For decades Riley has been educating the public on local, state and sometimes national happenings.  He was a true investigative journalist with a talent for writing.  To be honest, at times his columns could be controversial, sometimes whimsical, sometimes boring.

The columns offered more than just insight, it gave you a wealth of information lacking in many of the articles we read today.  He attended several government meetings and you would often see him visiting the local library.

He had his critics especially when he wrote about events such as the infamous city demolitions (the target of an FBI probe) or when he jogged our memories with his yearly “Famous Quotes” columns.  I would venture to guess he had more fans than critics, though.

He wasn’t so arrogant to not admit he made a mistake or two.  Reporting the correction usually as soon as possible normally in the next column. In one instance he had written city council person, Nora Powell, was sporting a double homestead credit.   She corrected him in a letter of her own.  He responded with a retraction.

Riley was also well-versed on the working of TIF districts. I remember reading his blog several years ago when he did an essay on the Mall TIF.  This TIF Riley penned was how a successful TIF should function.  Of course, most of it was like trying to decipher Greek to me.  It was an introduction and he did not disappoint with subsequent columns over the years.  So, he was an educator as well as a columnist.

He was and still is a well-respected writer.  I know his columns will be missed by those interested in learning more about our local government.  I hope he continues.

Last Call Over and Out

Saturday Morning Ramblings: Here it comes – 2014!

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2014 copyIt doesn’t seem to take long for another year to pass us by.  We look forward to new beginnings, make New Year’s resolutions, and mull over the previous year.  What did we do wrong?  What did we do right? What can we do better in the new year?

Getting an early start on 2014 resolutions, the first one is systematically removing every negative influence.  So far,  it has been very successful and already feeling a burden lifted…kind of like pulling yourself out of a pit full of mire.    I won’t reveal my 2014 resolutions just yet, though.

One of the easiest thing to give up is watching main-stream media.  Easy because I haven’t so much as tuned in to watch the razzle-dazzle, professional news journalists for many years.   Here’s why.

Gun Owners of America executive director Larry Pratt: “I honestly don’t understand why you would rather have people be victims of a crime than be able to defend themselves. It’s incomprehensible.”

CNN host Piers Morgan: “You’re an unbelievably stupid man, aren’t you?…You have absolutely no coherent argument whatsoever….You don’t give a damn, do you, about the gun murder rate in America?…I know why sales of these weapons have been soaring in the last few days. It’s down to idiots like you. Mr. Pratt…. You are a dangerous man espousing dangerous nonsense. And you shame your country.”

— From the imported British host’s anti-gun tirade on CNN’s Piers Morgan Tonight, December 18, 2012

To be honest, I had never heard of Piers Morgan until he demanded an apology from Sarah Palin over the Arizona shooting.  Thinking, maybe she should apologize for some things, this just isn’t one of them.  He desperately tried to find a link between Palin and Arizona.  Maybe she was governor of a state that begins with the letter A?  Similar to an episode from Sesame Street where the program is brought to  you by any  one of the 26 letters.  Now, Big Bird definitely knows how to properly link a letter.  A is for Apple, B is for Butter so on and so on…

Funny how Piers Morgan never apologized over Chris Dorner’s diatribe.  In reality, no thinking person would hold Morgan responsible for Dorner’s killing spree.  Which is  why Morgan’s demand for Palin to apologize is so acceptable.  He just doesn’t fit into the “thinking person” category.    Some people adore Piers.  I like Piers, too.   The British accent and sharp wit propels him to the top of my list.

Enough about Morgan, let’s take a look at local events, shall we?

One of my favorite local columnists, Larry Riley, penned a recap of the last week of 2013.  The topic –  governmental meetings.  Riley is not favored amongst the powers that be in local government.  Nor their staunch supporters.  A Piers Morgan, he is not.  Probably the best explanation for their disdain of his columns.  But, I digress.

Riley’s column highlights some of the current happenings around Delaware County.   A local poster finds his use of the word “incent” confusing and asks what his point is.

Riley covering the $45 million tax increase, a county  that ain’t got a pot to pee in, can’t pay back their loans to us, possible bond refinancing for the city, a PAC looking at election fines , etc, etc, etc…has far less impact on the citizens than the use of the word incent.

I may be off base here, something tells me she is a regular viewer of the Piers Morgan Show.  Just a wild guess.

We had the Democrat party come out in support of the massive $45 million tax increase, even though the Democrat Headquarters has not paid a penny of property tax for decades.  Tax exempt, ya know.

We have four Democrats voting to not pay back the debt owed to the taxpayers.  Continuously borrowing from the fund until $738,000 slipped through their fingers.  The endless excuses of tax caps, credits, loss of revenue is what guided them in approving the $7 million bond, the lovely County plaza at $700,000, a rail spur and the pie in the sky $5 million visitor center as just a few examples.

Despite not being able to meet their debts and tapping into the rainy day fund, the 2014 budget increased without the  financial cushion of the Rainy Day fund.     It’s always someone else’s fault, and never poor fiscal management skills.  Personal responsibility anyone?  This has been going on since ’09, or nearly six years.

Raise your hand if you voted for bonds, hiring, borrowing, remodel of the plaza, costly legal issues with the judges.  I often wonder why the county is broke and they look for more tax revenue from you.  The city which ended with a $8 million balance looked for more tax revenue from you.  Cha ching!  Increase the tax levy, that’s the ticket.

Broke or not, they still seem to want more of your income.

Many of the citizens have far less revenue and making hard financial decisions.  It’s time we stop tapping into a false endless resource, you, when your funds are drying up.

There is no reason why Delaware County can’t be fiscally sound, made attractive to businesses, families.   Why we can’t have better schools.  We are full of resources just waiting to be tapped.  The power to change the direction of this county is in the hands of the people.  We’re not afraid of hard work, but we are leery of letting go of the past.

The past is not working to our benefit any longer.