Tag Archives: attorney

Mayor McDermott Attempts to Quash Investigation into Campaign Finances

6 Dec

by Ken Davidson

In a filing with the Lake County Election Board today, Mayor McDermott, by his attorney David Westland, asked the board to dismiss the complaint filed by Eric Krieg. You will recall that Krieg filed a complaint asking the board to investigate payments of over $300,000 from the campaign to the Mayor’s wife; non-payment of rent to Pyramid Development Corporation for office space; and a one-time payment of $6,000 to David Woerpel from the campaign.

In the filing the Mayor states “there is no substantial reason to believe that a violation of election law has occurred.” The Mayor argues that Indiana law does not require a written contract between a candidate and his wife for payment of services to the campaign. In support of this argument, the Mayor cites the fact that the advisory opinion was never codified and the statement of Brad King, co-chair of the Indiana Election Commission, which was obtained by The Times of Northwest Indiana for their article on the issue.

As to the rent issue, the Mayor argues that rent was paid and the Board should not look to the fair market value of any such agreement. Finally, as to the one time payment to David Woerpel, the Mayor points out that the payment was made three weeks before his arrest and states that Woerpel performed services for the campaign. The nature of the services are not outlined in the reply.

The Gazette would like to hear your thoughts. Should the Election Board investigate the above issues?
You can read the full response here:
12051302 (1)

How Far Can City Codes Go in Regulating Your Property Rights?

21 Nov NIPSCO Exec Gave $1M to Bobby Rush Charity

Gazette Staff

Miami, Fla.—May the government prohibit you from peacefully and productively using your own property to feed your family?

That is the question the Institute for Justice (IJ) and a Miami Shores couple have taken to state court in their challenge to Miami Shores’ unconstitutional ban on front-yard vegetable gardens. The law prohibits homeowners from growing vegetables in their front yards, but trees, fruit, and garden gnomes are just fine. Homeowners who grow front-yard vegetable gardens face fines of $50 per day.

For 17 years, Hermine Ricketts and her husband Tom Carroll maintained a beautiful front-yard garden, where they grew vegetables for their own consumption, along with other plants. But in May 2013, Miami Shores’ Code Enforcement officers inspected Hermine and Tom’s property and informed the couple that they were engaging in an illegal activity: Growing vegetables in the front yard.

The city enacted the ban to protect the aesthetic character of Miami Shores Village. Yet it allows everything from trees and fruit to gnomes and flamingos in front yards. Just not vegetables. That sort of irrational distinction is unconstitutional.

“Miami Shores’ ban on front-yard vegetable gardens doesn’t make any sense. A yard does not become unsightly just because you can eat some of the things you grow there,” said IJ Attorney and lead counsel on the case, Ari Bargil.
The city threatened Hermine and Tom with fines of $50 a day, or about $1,500 per month, if they did not uproot the garden. Unable to bear the cost of such hefty fines, Hermine and Tom destroyed 17 years’ worth of passion and hard work.

“When our garden was in full production, we had no need to shop for produce. At least 80 percent of our meals were harvested fresh from our garden,” said Hermine. “This law crushes our freedom to grow our own healthy food. No one should have to expend time and energy dealing with such nonsense.”
The Florida Constitution protects the property rights of homeowners like Hermine and Tom, who want to use their property in a peaceful, productive manner without arbitrary intrusion by the government.

IJ’s challenge to Miami Shores’ front-yard vegetable garden ban is part of its new National Food Freedom Initiative. This nationwide campaign that will bring property rights, economic liberty and free speech challenges to laws that interfere with the ability of Americans to produce, market, procure and consume the foods of their choice. IJ is also challenging Oregon’s ban on advertising raw—or unpasteurized—milk and Minnesota’s severe restrictions on “cottage food” producers.

“Hermine and Tom are part of a nationwide movement of small-scale food producers and consumers who are tired of the government dictating what foods they can grow, sell and eat,” said IJ Senior Attorney Michael Bindas, who heads IJ’s National Food Freedom Initiative. “This isn’t just about Hermine and Tom’s front-yard garden. This is about the right of all Americans to peacefully use their own property to support themselves and their families.”

Two Sentenced, One Pleads Guilty in Unrelated Firearms Cases

21 Nov

Gazette Staff

The office of United States Attorney David Capp has announced that two individuals have been sentenced in unrelated firearms charges this week.

George Black, 53, of Gary, Indiana, was sentenced by Senior District Judge Rudy Lozano to 120 months imprisonment and 3 years of supervised release after pleading guilty to the felony offense of possession of a stolen firearm. According to documents filed in this case, Black has 3 prior felony convictions for burglaries in Wisconsin and was on probation for the most recent conviction at the time of his arrest. This case was the result of an investigation by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives HIDTA Task Force and the Indiana State Police. This case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Nicholas Padilla.

Brittini Anderson, 27, of Gary, Indiana, was sentenced by Chief Judge Philip Simon to 24 months of supervised release after pleading guilty to the felony offense of making false statements in the acquisition of a firearm. According to documents filed in this case, Anderson straw purchased a firearm that has not been recovered by law enforcement. Based on her interview with ATF agents, Anderson admitted that she purchased a 9mm pistol for a person she knew could not buy a gun. This case was the result of an investigation by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. This case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Nicholas Padilla.

Additionally, Shamekka Thomas, 29, of Gary, Indiana, pled guilty before Senior District Judge Rudy Lozano to the felony offense of making false statements in the acquisition of a firearm. Sentencing has been set for 1/30/14. This charge was filed as a result of an investigation by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Utility Counselor Opposes Nipsco $1B Rate Hike

23 Oct

 

 

The Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor (OUCC) does not object to most aspects of Northern Indiana Public Service Company’s (NIPSCO’s) proposed seven-year electric infrastructure replacement plan. However, the OUCC believes NIPSCO’s proposed methodology for recovering the plan’s $1.07 billion in costs should be denied.

The OUCC’s recommendations are included in testimony filed with the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC) this afternoon.

NIPSCO’s request is the first to be filed under a new Indiana law (Senate Enrolled Act 560) approved earlier this year.

  • The law allows an investor-owned energy utility to seek IURC approval of a seven-year infrastructure improvement plan.
  • If the plan is approved, the utility may then adjust rates every 6 months, subject to IURC and OUCC review, to recover 80 percent of the project costs as they are incurred. (The remaining 20 percent must be deferred until the utility’s next base rate case, which must be filed before the end of the seven-year period.)
  • The rate increases – under a new Transmission, Distribution, and Storage System Improvement Charge (TDSIC) mechanism – may not exceed two percent of the utility’s total annual retail revenues.

In IURC Cause No. 44370, NIPSCO is seeking approval of its seven-year “Electric Infrastructure Modernization Plan.”

  • Capital improvements throughout NIPSCO’s electric service territory in the $1.07 billion plan include new transmission and distribution lines, new substations, upgrades to existing lines and substations, and replacement of aging poles, transformers, line equipment and other infrastructure.
  • Under the case’s compressed timeframe, the OUCC has reviewed the plan and believes most aspects are reasonable and will benefit NIPSCO’s customers. However, the OUCC is recommending denial of NIPSCO’s request to use budgeted economic development funds for other purposes.
  • The OUCC also recommends several reporting requirements to be adopted and used throughout the seven-year period.
  • Under Indiana law, the IURC must issue a final order on the plan by February 14, 2014.

In IURC Cause No. 44371, NIPSCO is seeking establishment of the methodology for calculating future rate increases for the plan’s project costs.

  • According to NIPSCO’s testimony, annual rate increases through the TDSIC mechanism would average 0.9 percent each year over the seven-year term, with the first increase of 0.4 percent taking effect in 2015 and the last annual increase of 1.7 percent being implemented in 2020.
  • The OUCC’s analysis shows that NIPSCO’s proposed rate recovery mechanism will overestimate the utility’s need for additional revenue between rate cases, overcharge customers for capital expenses, and not accurately measure NIPSCO’s transmission and distribution rate base investment growth as it relates to investments whose costs are already embedded in base rates.
  • The OUCC’s analysis also shows that NIPSCO’s plan inflates the estimate of base rate growth and proposes cost allocators that are contrary to those required by statute.

An IURC technical evidentiary hearing in both cases is scheduled to start November 12, 2013 at the PNC Center (101 W. Washington St.) in Indianapolis. While evidentiary hearings are open to the public, participation is typically limited to attorney and Commission questioning of expert witnesses who have filed technical testimony on behalf of the case’s formal parties.

The proposals in these cases would not affect NIPSCO’s natural gas utility’s system, service or rates. NIPSCO is seeking approval of a seven-year natural gas infrastructure replacement plan in IURC Cause No. 44403. The natural gas case was filed recently, with the OUCC scheduled to file testimony on January 10, 2014.

 

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(IURC Cause Nos. 44370, 44371) 

 

The Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor (OUCC) represents Indiana consumer interests before state and federal bodies that regulate utilities. As a state agency, the OUCC’s mission is to represent all Indiana consumers to ensure quality, reliable utility services at the most reasonable prices possible through dedicated advocacy, consumer education, and creative problem solving.