Committee gets documents on Regional Operations Center; votes to subpoena city records

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — A city council committee investigating what led to a controversial lease agreement voted Monday night to subpoena city records related to the $18 million lease deal of the Regional Operations Center.

The former Eastgate mall property became home to the Department of Homeland Security and 100 Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department officers before the city closed it in September after city inspectors found numerous safety violations. The property was rented by the city and converted into a public safety hub in the run up to 2012 when Indianapolis played host to the Super Bowl. Parties on all sides of the deal admit there was a lot of pressure to “get it done” before the Super Bowl, in order to comply with safety demands of the NFL.

Fast forward to March 2014, and many of the safety concerns – including missing firewalls – have yet to be corrected but should be soon, I-team 8 has learned.

Building owner Alex Carroll told I-Team 8 Monday he is still waiting on the city’s code enforcement office to issue him permits before he can make corrections to outstanding issues like the missing firewalls in the basement. A spokesman for the city’s code enforcement department said it is ready to issue permits as soon as the state finishes its construction design. A spokeswoman with the state did not get back with I-team 8 before news time.

Among the documents owner Alex Carroll provided were: the loan agreement, the construction agreement, the appraisal and a list of costs paid for improvements requested by the city.

Carroll told I-Team 8 Monday that he would have turned over the documents sooner but that no one on the council had reached out to him directly. Critics on the City-County Council have claimed the city’s lease agreement is a “one-sided” or “harsh” deal that puts the city on the hook to pay $57,000 a month in rent. Carroll rejects the notion that the lease is a bad deal for the city.

“That’s just ignorance on the part of city officials,” Carroll said. “This was a bond net lease.”

Carroll claims he is the only guarantor on the loan. According to Carroll, while rent is $57,000 a month, his loan payment is $56,270.22 for the first 10 years of the 25-year lease. The remaining $813 goes to the trustee, according to Carroll.

After the first 10 years, the rent payment jumps to $63,333.33, the $7,063 remainder of which Carroll claims goes to “Uncle Sam” for taxes.

The council’s attorney, Fred Biesecker, has requested dozens of documents between Carroll and the city. Addressing the council committee Monday night, Biesecker said that since he requested the documents in November, the city’s response “has been plainly inadequate.”

The council committee then voted 6 to 5 to subpoena the city’s Office of Corporate Counsel to produce 30 documents related to the ROC deal. Among them: testing, maintenance and inspections records for all fire alarms and sprinkler systems; violations issued by the Indianapolis Fire Department in 2012; engineering contracts; communications between the Department of Public Safety and Channel 16 relating to the direction given by DPS in 2010 for Channel 16 not to record Board of Public Safety meetings on video – just to name a few of the 30.

After two failed attempts at previous meetings to issue subpoenas, the vote Monday worked after some political maneuvering.

A sixth Democract, Frank Mascari, D – Council District 20, was added to the committee in an effort to break the deadlock and push through the subpoena effort, backed by Democrats on the committee.

That maneuver drew criticism from Republicans on the committee, among them, Councillor Aaron Freeman, who said “this process has not been followed and… has been frustrating.”

Democrats like Mascari countered, “Something really stinks. I was put on this committee to stop the stonewalling.”

Others like Councillor Angela Mansfield, said “If we want to get to the bottom of this investigation, we have to have the documents.”

The city’s attorney and the man who was subpoenaed by the council, Andrew Seiwert, did not attend Monday’s meeting.

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