ROC council committee fails to issue subpoenas

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – Closed for safety concerns but still costing taxpayers each month, the Regional Operations Center will continue to sit empty until repairs are made sometime in the next 30 to 60 days.

The attorney for the building owner, Alex Carroll, told I-Team 8 Thursday that Carroll is waiting on the city to issue code enforcement permits before beginning work. A code enforcement spokesman told I-Team 8 Wednesday it was waiting on Carroll, but that the hold up in the process could be just minor formalities.

Meanwhile, a city-county council committee charged with investigating what led up to the lease deal for the Regional Operations Center (or ROC) was overcome by political infighting Thursday night. A motion that would’ve compelled the city’s attorneys and Carroll to come forward with documents related to the agreement failed along party lines.

It’s the latest signal that politics may be clouding the efforts to understand why the city entered the agreement.

“We’ve got to issue these subpoenas if people are truly interested in finding out what these (deals) are about,” Angela Mansfield, D – 2nd District Councillor, said before the vote.

But Republicans like Jack Sandlin, R – 24th District, and Marilyn Pfisterer, R – 14th District, shot back, saying they felt the committee hadn’t made a good faith effort to listen to the attorneys for the city or Carroll. (A Republican-backed motion to allow them to speak at Thursday meeting also failed).

“Issuing subpoenas before we have an opportunity to hear from these folks is very unfair,” said Pfisterer.

Fred Biesecker, an attorney for the council committee, said he’s been very patient with both Carroll’s attorney and the city, but neither have produced many of the documents he requested in November. Among Biesecker’s concerns: that the deal was unfavorable to the city and its taxpayers; that the quality of the construction didn’t meet the city’s expectation; and that the laws that govern how the city enters lease agreements were misunderstood or ignored.

The deal was inked by former Department of Public Safety Director Frank Straub in the run up to Indianapolis’ Super Bowl in 2012. It provided high level surveillance and security detail during the festivities, and later became home to more than 100 IMPD officers in the East District and Homeland Security.

While city officials with the Department of Public Safety have since said the deal was “unfavorable,” both Republicans and Democrats alike on council have admitted that the city’s lease at the former Eastgate mall is a “bad lease.”

The city’s 25-year lease with Carroll’s company obligates the city and its taxpayers to spend $57,000 in monthly rent – which totals more than $340,000 in the six months since the city closed the property citing safety violations. That doesn’t account for the hundreds of thousands of dollars the city must spend each year on utilities, insurance and other permit fees, an I-team 8 analysis of the agreement found. The I-team 8 report found the deal has cost the city and taxpayers $340,000 in rent in the six months since the one-time police hub closed for safety issues.

“We are willing to the mission and stated purpose of this committee,” said David Brooks, Carroll’s attorney.

Brooks said a Tuesday meeting he had set with Biesecker was cancelled at the last minute. Brooks claims while taxpayers might pay rent, they are not paying Carroll’s mortgage. And he denies his client got money upfront from the city.

“There’s no payment from the city to Alex other than the lease payments,” Brooks said.

The committee’s leadership is now considering a power play – considering removing a committee member in order to have the votes necessary to issue subpoenas.

“Unfortunately the next step would be to change the makeup of the committee – we tried to go forward with a bipartisan proposal because many truly believed it was in our best interest — that doesn’t seem to be case,” said Councillor Mansfield.

The ROC investigative committee meets again March 10.

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