Council expected to give Straub a no-confidence vote
There's growing frustration concerning the highest-paid city official in Indianapolis, and now he faces a possible no-confidence vote.
Public Safety Director Frank Straub's re-appointment goes before a City-County Council committee Wednesday. It's expected to move to the full council in early April.
Reappointment of the mayor's deputy directors and department heads is usually a routine rubber-stamping, but not this time.
For the first time in more than 25 years, chances are good this mayoral appointment will receive a "no vote of confidence."
Last year, Straub was approved by the Republican majority on a 16-13 vote. This year he faces opposition from both sides of the aisle.
Democrat Mary Moriarity Adams said, "There's a great deal of frustration with Straub and his management of IMPD."
"It's not so much about the changes he's made within IMPD but the spending in his budget," she explained.
Adams, who's spent time sifting through public safety's budget, points to the $15 million deficit.
"Yet we have a contract with Emmis Communications for $50,000 to improve the image of IMPD. I guess that calls into question whether we're spending money in the proper fashion if we don't actually have money," she said.
Adams also wonders why administrative salaries for staff went from $204,000 a year under previous director Scott Newman to $471,000 under Straub.
"That's over a 50-percent increase in just salaries," she said, noting that Newman made nearly $98,000 his last year on the job while Straub has a base salary of $125,000.
The mayor, by comparison, makes $95,000.
Republican Aaron Freeman, who reluctantly backed Straub last year, says he won't be doing so this year. He noted it will be his "first disagreement with the mayor."
Freeman said he hasn't seen Straub deliver on the changes promised. He said many of his Republican colleagues feel the same way.
Democrat Monroe Gray is one of the councilors speaking on Straub's behalf.
Gray said, "I'm supportive because he's done a good job... one of the best things is reorganization... he derailed the good ole boy system and put people in places where they need to be because of merit."
Gray noted anytime "you try to change tradition, you face resistance."
FOP President Bill Owensby strongly disagreed. "It absolutely is not about being adverse to change."
He said the vast majority of officers oppose Straub because "we don't have a working relationship with him. You really can't put a finger on too many deliverables that have come out of this administration in terms of moving the police department forward."
Owensby also criticized Straub for not having a better handle on money matters calling the $15 million shortfall "absolutely absurd."
Mayoral spokesman Marc Lotter said the mayor is undeterred by the opposition, saying, "The mayor nominated one of the best people to serve the city. He's continuing to bring about reforms and raising the standards at IMPD."
Lotter said all departments have been "very challenged" by the decline in property tax revenue.
He said the mayor plans to keep Straub on no matter what the vote. "The law is clear. The mayor's nominees serve at the will of the mayor and he will continue to serve until a replacement would be named."
Adams said there are different interpretations of the statute.
She said the city council's attorney "indicated that's not necessarily true that someone (who received a no vote) could stay on forever."
Adams said she'd heard rumblings Straub's appointment could be challenged if he doesn't receive council support.
Straub declined to comment on the appointment process but will be at Wednesday's meeting to take questions from committee members.