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Governor Pence Authorizes Bonuses of up to $1,000 to State Employees

29 Dec

by Ken Davidson

Governor Pence has authorized one time, end of year bonuses to be paid to State employees. The bonuses of up to $1,000 will be based on performance reviews to be completed in January. The Governor states that the bonuses are in lieu of pay raises and will not affect the budget. We would love to hear your opinions, is this sound fiscal policy? Sound off in the comments section.  

Here is the Governor’s letter to State of Indiana employees:

Fellow State Employees,
As 2013 draws to a close, I am writing to express my sincere appreciation for your service to the people of Indiana over the past year.
Through the efforts of dedicated State Employees like you, Hoosiers continue to receive quality service and support when interacting with our state government. Indiana is strong and growing stronger due, in part, to the commitment you exhibit every day in service to the public.
Because of your efficiency and commitment to fiscal discipline, Indiana leads the way with a balanced budget, AAA credit rating and a reputation for sound fiscal management.
While our present circumstances do not permit us to increase base pay, because your service to Indiana has been exemplary, I have authorized a bonus that you will receive once performance evaluations are completed in January.
Employees who meet expectations will receive a $500 bonus, those who exceed expectations will receive $750, and those rated outstanding will receive $1,000.
I hope this news will be an encouragement to you for a job well done in 2013.
Thank you for your service to the good people of Indiana. It is the greatest privilege of my life to serve alongside men and women like you.
God bless you and your family with a memorable holiday season and a healthy and prosperous New Year.
Sincerely,
Governor Mike Pence

Indianapolis Experiences 142nd Homicide of the Year, Closes in on Chicago's Killing Rate

29 Dec

From Our Friend Paul Ogden in Indianapolis:

Indianapolis Experiences 142nd Homicide of the Year, Closes in on Chicago’s Killing Rate

With two more killings last night, Indianapolis now has 142 homicides for 2013 according to the Bart Lies! website which tracks Indy killings.  This is compared to 115 in 2012, 110 in 2011, and 119 in 2010.

A few years ago, City leaders conveniently redefined homicide to mean “murder” in order to get the count below 100.  Of course, “murder” is a legal term and something can’t technically be classified as “murder” until often a lengthy court process has taken place.  A person may have acted in self-defense and be acquitted of a murder charge, for example.  It still would be a homicide though.  Whether it is a homicide is determined at or near the time of the killing which makes it the figure used in crime reports, unless it is Indianapolis which tries to fudge the number, chiefly to fool media types who simply assume “homicide” and “murder” mean the same thing.

By contrast, Chicago, which has seen a substantial decline in killings, is closing out the year with about 458 homicides. If my math is correct, Indianapolis has one homicide for every 5,945 residents while Chicago has a homicide for every 5,928 residents.  So Indy’s homicide rate is still lower than Chicago…barely.

You can comment here or, leave a comment for Paul on his website http://www.ogdenonpolitics.com/  This article is reprinted with permission.  All opinions expressed herein are those of the author.

 

Carrie Hightman Tied to Bobby Rush Scandal

29 Dec

by Ken Davidson

A new investigation by the Illinois Better Government Association, while not specifically mentioning Hightman, calls the relationship between SBC Illinois and the Office of Congressman Bobby Rush into question. Andy Shaw, President and CEO of the Better Government Association is quick to point out “We’re not suggesting that Rush broke the law, but we are saying the fog needs to be cleared and real answers provided.” SBC Illinois was the donor of the $1M grant to Rush’s non-profit organization. The grant was supposed to build a technology center in Chicago’s troubled Englewood neighborhood. According to reports from the BGA, the center was never built and the money was never accounted for. Shaw calls for an investigation into:

[Rush] maintains the money wasn’t stolen or squandered, but that claim, without verification, doesn’t suffice, so we’re suggesting some options for shining more light on the situation:

The House Ethics Committee can see if Rush crossed any legal or ethical lines in regards to the million-dollar grant, his charity accepting tons of money from regulated companies seeking his legislative help, and his campaign office apparently not paying rent.
The Federal Election Commission can look at whether Rush or his campaign operation violated federal law by apparently accepting free rent, not reporting it as an in-kind donation and possibly exceeding donation limits.
The Internal Revenue Service can investigate the tax implications of all this, including whether Rush’s nonprofit violated the law by wrongly claiming on one disclosure form the tech center had been built, which wasn’t true.
The IRS can also find out if Rush used campaign cash to enhance his personal lifestyle, which is what got former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. in trouble.

http://www.bettergov.org/the_million-dollar_question/?CategoryId=1

Any such investigation would obviously focus on whether or not the grantor received anything of value in return for the no strings grant. Regardless of whether there was any impropriety in the transaction, the situation calls into question the professional judgment of Hightman.

Carrie Hightman, the Chair of the Gary P3 Committee, became Chief Legal Office for NiSource in 2007 after serving as CEO of AT&T Illinois, which was formerly SBC Illinois. In a statement released when Hightman joined NiSource, her experience in ” regulatory, legislative, governmental and external affairs activities, as well as community and industry relations, throughout Illinois” were cited. The statement went on to explain:

During her tenure at AT&T, Hightman led the company through a series of important public policy initiatives as AT&T evolved from a traditional telephone company into a provider of diversified communications and entertainment services, including wireline, wireless, data and video services. Under her leadership, AT&T secured unanimous regulatory approval of a landmark agreement to deregulate local telephone service and offer competitive pricing in the metropolitan Chicago market, as well as helped the company return to the long distance telephone market after a twenty-year absence.

The SBC Foundation states that they provide grants of $25,000 to $50,000. The Gazette could find no evidence of any other single grant in any amount near $1M. Additionally, the 990 tax forms submitted by the Rebirth of Englewood Community Development Corporation listed no such contribution, despite a specific question asking about “Unusual Grants.”

28 Unusual Grants: For an organization described in line 10, 11, or 12 that received any unusual grants during 20001hrough 2003, prepare a list for your records
to show, for each year, the name of the contributor, the date and amount of the grant, and a brief description of the nature of the grant. Do not file this list with
your return. Do not include these grants in line 15.
423121 12-03-04 NONE Schedule A (Form BBO or 990-EZ) 2004

Source: http://990s.foundationcenter.org/990_pdf_archive/364/364078159/364078159_200503_990.pdf
Hightman was instrumental in selecting the contractor that was recently approved by the airport board to run the airport for up to 40 years.  While this information was not disclosed to the airport board, the Gazette has previously reported on the connection between Hightman and one of the companies involved in the partnership that was ultimately selected.

The Better Government Association is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and is not affiliated with the Northwest Indiana Gazette.  You can read the entire BGA article at their website  The Million Dollar Question

Gazette Receives Permission To Use Fedex Crash Pictures

29 Dec Joe Wzolek receives Highlands Award

by Ken Davidson

After what turned out to be an embarrassing error in judgment, the Gazette has received permission to publish photos of the truck that crashed into a Hessville home on December 13. The homeowners report that the crash occurred after a delivery was made at a school across the street. The driver stated that the gas pedal stuck and he lost control of the vehicle. A 12 year old resident of the home was on the couch in the living room of the home which was struck by the truck. She was injured and received treatment for a concussion. The driver of the truck had to be cut from the vehicle.

There is a soccer field at the school and the family questions why the driver could not veer in that direction, avoiding risk. The home is a total loss.

federal express truck crashes into house in hammond, indiana

Michigan Man Killed After Abandoning Vehicle, Walking Into Traffic on 80/94

28 Dec interstate 80 94 accident

Gazette Staff

Porter County-A Sawyer, Michigan man was hit and killed early this morning when he stepped in front of an oncoming car on I-94 and was killed.

Preliminary investigation by Trooper Jacob Raupp revealed that at approximately 1:15 a.m., this Saturday, December 28, 2013, morning Bradley A. Miner, 36 of Sawyer, Michigan, parked his 1999 Jeep Wrangler on the shoulder of I-94 west bound at the 29 mile marker (this is just east of the I-94 west bound truck scales) for unknown reasons. Miner then left his vehicle with some of his personal belongings inside and stepped out in front of a 2005 Buick LaSabre, driven by a twenty-five (25) year old man from Gary that was traveling in the middle lane.

Miner was struck and pronounced dead at the scene by a deputy with the Porter County Coroner’s Office of massive blunt force trauma. The driver of the Buick was not injured.

The right, middle and entrance ramp to the scales where closed until approximately 4:00 a.m., for reconstruction of the crash, investigation of the circumstances, removal of the deceased and car.

Prosecutor Releases Full Report on Homicide of Lowell Woman, Daughter

27 Dec interstate 80 94 accident

The Hamilton County Prosecutor’s Office has released the charging affidavit and the police reports related to the arrest of Christian Rene Haley for the murder of Marylyn Erb and Kelley Erb. You can view the full report here:

Man Charged in Murder of Former Lowell Resident

27 Dec interstate 80 94 accident

by Ken Davidson

New details are emerging in the December 20, 2013 killing of an Indianapolis area woman and her daughter. Marylyn Erb and Kelley M Erb were found in their Westfield, Indiana home by husband and father Thomas Erb. Marylyn Erb is originally from Lowell, Indiana.

Police arrived on the scene to find that the two women had been bludgeoned to death and their 2011 Buick Enclave had been used as the getaway vehicle. Police reports indicate that credit cards were also taken in the murder robbery and police were able to obtain video footage of an individual in a pontiac grand prix using the credit cards at various stores. The police report states:

It was determined that Chase credit cards were stolen during the home invasion and that those same credit cards were used at several locations during the afternoon hours of December 20, 2013. Video was obtained from several of these locations . . . The video shows a Pontiac Grand Prix pulling into the parking lot of the CVS.:

Police released video clips to the media and later received tips linking Christian Rene Haley to the crimes. An arrest was made and charges were filed in the matter on December 26, 2013. Police also were able to track a cell phone used by Haley to towers near the Erb home.

Those from the region who knew Marylyn Erb may leave their condolences at: http://www.legacy.com/guestbook/Batesville/guestbook.aspx?n=marylyn-erb&pid=168700621

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