INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Former Public Safety Director Frank Straub is refusing to appear in person before a council committee investigating what led to the city’s controversial lease deal for the Regional Operations Center.
Before re-opening in late May, the ROC had been closed for nine months because of safety concerns.
In closing it, the public safety hub, once critical to Indianapolis securing the Super Bowl, turned into an empty building and heated point of contention among city leaders. The $18 million, 25-year lease has been called “unfavorable,” even by current DPS administrators and council members.
The lease requires that the city pay $57,000 in monthly rent, including during the nine months it was unoccupied. The City-County Council’s ROC committee is investigating what led to the deal. The committee has sued Mayor Greg Ballard’s administration, accusing it of taking too long to turn over documents the committee has requested. The Office of Corporation Counsel has repeatedly told the committee that its requests are voluminous.
Testimony before the committee has called into question if laws governing how the city enters lease agreements were misunderstood, skirted or ignored.
Straub signed the deal with building owner, Alex Carroll. The city settled a separate legal dispute with Carroll, agreeing in December to pay him to make safety corrections to the building. Carroll has denied that the lease was unfavorable, saying that the city got the space for less than $10 per square foot.
Earlier this month, committee chairman Joe Simpson wrote to Straub, asking that he appear before the committee in person, and offering to pay for his travel expenses.
In a response letter from Straub obtained by I-Team 8, he writes: “As you know, I have already spoken with the Indiana State Police regarding this matter and provided them with my full cooperation. I answered every question I was asked.
“There is a massive public record with respect to the issues that, according to your letter, your committee is investigating. I testified publicly on numerous occasions with respect to the ROC. If after reviewing the voluminous record, there are specific questions you have for me that are not answered by my prior statements, prior testimony, and in the records your committee has gathered, I would be happy to answer them in writing,” he writes in a letter dated Monday, June 23.
Indiana State Police opened an investigation into the lease agreement at the request of the Marion County Prosecutor’s office. An ISP spokesman told I-Team 8 that the investigation is ongoing.
I-Team 8 spoke to Straub earlier this month, but he declined to comment.