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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

State Trooper Hit on I-65, No Injuries, Car Totalled

19 Dec ISP Vehicle crash

Gazette Staff

Lake County-An Indiana State Trooper’s police car was hit while the trooper was standing outside his police car covering an earlier crash.

Preliminary investigation by Master Trooper Taylor Bryant revealed that at approximately 4:35 a.m., this Thursday, December 19, 2013, morning, Trooper Brandon Henderson responded to a single vehicle crash on I-65 north bound at the 256 mile marker (this is one mile north of the 61st Avenue exit). That crash involved a 2002 Dodge Ram pick-up who had hit a “slick” spot in the left lane, causing the driver, Ryan P. Scheidt, 26 of Lake Village, to lose control, spin out and hit the guard rail on the outer shoulder head on. The Dodge Ram came to rest facing north straddling the guard rail. Henderson’s fully marked police car was parked behind the Ram pick-up with all of its emergency lights on and Henderson was outside of his 2012 Dodge Charger police car talking to Scheidt standing next to Scheidt’s driver’s window.

At approximately 4:45 a.m., a 1994 Toyota Camry, driven by Chris A. Bracamontes, 27 of Merrillville was north bound on I-65 in the center lane when he saw the crash up ahead. Bracamontes changed lanes to the left lane and lost control after hitting a “slick” spot. The Toyota spun out of control and hit Henderson’s Charger in the rear pushing it into the rear of Scheidt’s Ram pick-up.

Neither Henderson nor Scheidt were injured. Bracamontes was taken to Saint Mary’s Medical Center in Hobart with non-life threatening injuries. Bracamontes was cited for Driving While Suspended.

The 2012 Dodge Charger police car was totaled.

Details Slow Coming in Union Hall Death

16 Dec

by  Ken Davidson

Police and government officials are being tight lipped about the death of a Lake Village man on Friday morning.  According to unverified reports, the incident was caught on video tape and at least one person has been charged.  The Gazette has put out feelers for  information but has found little so far.  This is what we have been able to verify.  The fight occurred Thursday night at the Local 150 Operating Engineers hall in Merrillville.  Jacob Oxley, the victim in the matter, was a member of the union.  He reported to work on Friday morning where he died.  Sadly, Oxley just found that he is expecting a child.  Police have arrested at least one person based on the video.  At least one more arrest is expected.

Merrillville Police are investigating.

Car Jackers Spin Out, Crash in Hammond After Merrillville Armed Robbery

9 Dec

by Ken Davidson

Two East Chicago teens are in custody after crashing an SUV at 173rd and Columbia at approximately 6:30 p.m. last night.  The vehicle was stolen at gunpoint in Merrillville just over an hour earlier.  A Merrillville woman reported that two males approached her, pointed a gun at her and demanded her the keys to her 2012 Ford Edge.  They demanded that she get into the vehicle with them but she refused.  Police in Hammond were later called to the Columbia Avenue location on a report of a vehicle crash.  When police arrived, the suspects fled the scene.  One suspect was arrested in the area and another was tracked to a location in East Chicago.

Another carjacking was reported in Merrillville at 6:00 p.m. on Sunday.  In that instance, four males approached a male who was putting his kids in his car in the 1000 block of 61st place.  According to police reports, the four individuals brandished a handgun and a shotgun and demanded his 2007 grand prix and cash.  The man gave him his keys and money and asked to retrieve his children from the car.  The suspects allowed the man to remove his kids from the car before fleeing in the car.  An alert was issued for all other police agencies and Hammond Police ultimately found the vehicle in Hammond but did not make any arrests in this case.

On Monday, there was a report of two juveniles brandishing a shotgun in an armed robbery on Grant Street in Gary at approximately 3 p.m.  Could this be related?

 

Margaritas Flow Again at La Carreta

21 Nov

by Ken Davidson

The Gazette has confirmed that La Carreta mexican restaurants in Merrillville and Schererville were re-opened. The mystery surrounding the closing has not yet been unravelled, but the manager at the Merrillville location, Jaime, assured me that the store would remain open. The Gazette hopes to interview the owner regarding the strange and sudden series of events.

Here is what we know so far. At least 8 restaurants throughout the state were closed. All of the restaurants served mexican food. All except La Carreta had apparent ties to a Georgia based company called El Rodeo Mexican Restaurants, Inc. That company is owned by Jose Melendez of Fortville, Indiana. All of the restaurants reopened on Wednesday.

We will keep you updated on new developments in the matter.

Margaritas flow again at La Carreta

Brianna Surowiec and Jackie White enjoy signature strawberry margaritas at La Carreta on Thursday.

 

 

State Police, Marion Prosecutor Confirm Restaurant Raids Throughout State

20 Nov

by Ken Davidson

Officials are now confirming that the Indiana State Police assisted in an investigation that involved the shuttering of several restaurants throughout the State. Captain David Bursten of the Indiana State Police would only confirm that they received a request for assistance in the execution of search warrants from the Marion County Prosecutor. Those search warrants were all served on Monday. He did not have details on specific locations that were searched, but did say that multiple counties were involved. Thus, there is no official corroboration that La Carretta was a target of these search warrants.

Peg McLeish of the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office says the investigation was conducted with the assistance of the her office, Tippecanoe County Prosecutor and the Indiana State Police. When asked if the restaurants would re-open, she refused to speculate. She stated there is currently no court order preventing any restaurant from re-opening.

This is a breaking story and we will continue to update you as details become available. If you or a family member works for one of the closed restaurants, we would love to hear from you. Write to the Gazette at ken@northwestindianagazette.com or use the submit a tip button above.

UPDATE: The Gazette has spoken with the manager of at least one restaurant that was closed on Monday by the Indiana State Police. El Rodeo mexican restaurant in Richmond, Indiana will open as usual at 11:00 am today. When asked if they were closed on Monday, the employee stated “yes, for a little while.” He stated that he “did not know anything about it” when asked for further details.

This is a continuing story, we will keep you posted. See the update here Margaritas Flow Again at La Carreta

la caretta closed

A sign on the door indicates that La Caretta is closed

Popular Mexican Restaurant Closes Suddenly

19 Nov

by Ken Davidson

 

They had the best margaritas . . . that was the comment I heard from three separate people when I told them about the closing of La Carreta mexican restaurant today.  Employees at a nearby store told of a “raid” by Indiana State Police officers prior to the sudden closing yesterday.  A sign on the door simply says “We are closed, sorry for the inconvenience.”

La Carreta has two locations in Lake County, one located in Merrillville and one in Schererville.  Ironically, the restaurant battled internet rumors of a health department closure earlier this year.  That rumor spread from Louisiana where a high school newspaper published a spoof article that the restaurant had been closed.

Speculation based on the involvement of the Indiana State Police revolves around a state tax or alcohol license issue.  A public record search revealed no apparent tax liens.  The Gazette has submitted a public records request and will follow up on this story. See the updates  State Police, Marion Prosecutor Confirm Restaurant Raids and Margaritas Flow Again at La Carreta
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 la caretta closed

A sign on the door indicates that La Caretta is closed

 

la carretta

Carretta mexican restaurant is closed, at least temporarily