by Abdul-Hakim Shabazz
When I look at the Indianapolis City-County Council these days, all I can think of is a third-world banana Republic, run by an out of touch dictator who rose to power via a coup and now after a short reign of virtual tyranny, the people have risen up and are getting ready to depose him. And then I remember, that analogy is unfair to third-world banana republics.
Nearly six weeks into his reign, I still cannot believe that four Democrats joined with ten Republicans to put Stephen Clay in as President. All the evidence was there for anyone who did not have their political blinders on that this was not going to end well. Whether it was the substantiated allegations by the Department of Child Services that Clay had sexually groped a young man as a teenager in the early 2000s, or if it was the default judgment filed in August against Clay’s church for more than $14,000 for failure to pay for office equipment, or whether it was racially charged language that he has used against the honorable men and women of law enforcement; any one of those things should have been enough to disqualify him as Council President.
But it wasn’t.
His Democratic supporters at the time, Councilors Joe Simpson, Monroe Gray, Duke Oliver and Lakeisha Jackson apparently thought that those minor character flaws just didn’t quite meet the necessary standard to prevent Clay from holding the second highest political office in Marion County. And the Republicans who voted for Clay, all but Jeff Miller and Brian Mowry, thought that becoming the chairs of the ethics, rules and public works committees were worth more than political integrity and moral authority. Please note, the Republicans had just recently removed Miller from their caucus citing allegations of inappropriate conduct with a minor.
And it only gets worse.
The real sad part is, despite enough baggage that would make Southwest Airlines freak out, it wasn’t those improprieties that set off the chain reaction, it was Clay’s appointments of Republicans as committee chairman that got at least two of his fellow Democrats enough reason to change their opinions and decide that Clay needed to go. Think about this for just second, accusations of child molestation, no big deal. A default judgment regarding the church you run as lead pastor, eh, whatever. Racist remarks against law enforcement at a time when the city is trying to improve relationships between the police and multicultural communities, who cares. But make a Republican the head of the Public Works Committee; even though Democrats have a majority, it’s now become a scene out of the Book of Revelations.
And the fun didn’t stop there. Clay fired the Council Clerk, Attorney and one of the Deputy clerks, even though there are serious legal questions as to whether he had the proper authority to do so. There is some question about whether he could dismiss the Attorney and Deputy Clerk, but the statute on the Council Clerk was pretty clear. “Sec. 151-91. – Appointment and term of office. The clerk, pursuant to state law, shall be appointed by and serve at the pleasure of the city-county council for a term of one (1) year.” Do you see the term council president in there anywhere? I see a lawsuit coming, how about you? And then to make matters worse, Clay held a “news conference” to insinuate there were improprieties with the clerk and deputy clerk’s pay and proper notice and protocols had not been followed and someone had snuck into the office under cover of darkness and shredded personnel documents. All of this was disproven in a matter of hours with a call to human resources and Clay’s own admission that the shredded documents were from 2010, 2011 and 2012. By the way, Republicans controlled the Council in 2010-11, and the “disputed” pay issue didn’t occur until 2016.
And by the way, with all this mass confusion taking place, the Hogsett administration has been hiding behind closed doors and not stepping up and showing leadership and getting this mess under control. I hope they’ve at least done the due diligence of calling the folks at Amazon to say this really isn’t how the city is run. Or at least have called former Mayors Greg Ballard and Steve Goldsmith because this would have never been allowed to happen under their respective watches.
This is no way to run a government, folks. Luckily the light at the end of the tunnel will get here on February 19th when the Council hopefully will vote to remove Clay from his Presidency and elect someone else who can get this city back on track.
Abdul is the editor and publisher of IndyPolitics.Org. He is also an attorney at the firm of Lewis and Wilkins LLP. His opinions are his own, but you are free to adopt them.