When Mayor Greg Ballard announced
his office had finished its proposal for modernizing city parking, the news
elicited the expected litany of complaints:
Parking meter prices would double in
some areas; the contract would last 50 years; another public entity was being
sold into corporate stewardship.
But, for some, Mayor Ballard's pick
to lead the citywide upgrade is the most disturbing part of the plan.
If the name Affiliated Computer
Services (ACS) sounds familiar, there's a reason: ACS, a Xerox-owned company
based in Dallas, was IBM's partner in Governor Mitch Daniels' botched attempted
to privatize welfare services at the Family and Social Services Administration
(FSSA). The millions lost in taxpayer dollars notwithstanding, the FSSA deal
was a disaster for thousands who needed medicaid, food stamps and other aid
before the $1.16 billion deal was finally scuttled last year.
The mayor's parking proposal
was submitted Monday (Aug. 23) to the City-County Council, which must approve
the deal. But recent boondoggles related to ACS's operations with FSSA have
some convinced the mayor's choice is just another example of the cozy
relationship between Republican lawmakers and their corporate favorites.
Councillor Joanne Sanders,
Democratic minority leader of the City-County Council and a member of the
administration and finance committee, said she had "grave concerns" about the
deal with ACS.
"Once again, the only
preferred vendors, as I see it, that this administration chooses are those that
are well entrenched with the Republican Party, either at the state or local
level," Sanders said. "And I have to ask myself, are they selling off all our
assets while they can to ensure that they get the benefit from it in the long
ACS was in charge of call centers
during the IBM-FSSA partnership and of compiling data on welfare eligibility
among other things. But before long, inefficiencies the privatization was
supposed to ameliorate just got worse.
The percentage of mishandled food
stamp cases shot up – from 4.38 percent in January of 2007 to 18.2
percent in January 2009. Reports surfaced that disabled Hoosiers were going
without benefits. Class action lawsuits were filed. In recent months, the
federal government even fined the state for bungling aid to so many.
Daniels ultimately killed the
IBM-led deal in 2009 once it became clear his experiment in welfare
privatization had collapsed. IBM was fired, and the governor moved forward with
what it called a "hybrid" system in ten Indiana counties: part public, part private,
with ACS left in place to provide most of
Given the company's past failings, the mayor's
decision to go with ACS on the parking revamp has opponents like Sanders
wondering what – other than pure cronyism – could have driven the
The common denominator
At the time of the IBM deal, Mitch
Roob was the common denominator between the government and ACS. A former
high-level executive at ACS, Roob was selected by Daniels to head the FSSA at
the time the no-bid deal went down. Common wisdom among the governor's
opponents was that Roob was greasing the wheels for his former associates.
leaving the FSSA, Roob took over the Indiana Ecomonic Development Corporation
(IEDC). Roob held the position when the Daniels administration decided to fire
IBM and keep ACS – a move that raised more than a few eyebrows around the
The decision to keep ACS drew
criticism from both sides of the aisle. Gail Riecken D-Evansville, told the Evansville
Courier Press in 2009 she was not
happy with the decision to keep ACS in the fold. "There is no point in allowing
these kinds of mistakes to continue," she said. "And we should not tolerate any
involvement by entities that have a spotty track record."
Even some Republican
lawmakers agreed. In a report by the Associated Press, Suzanne Crouch (R-Evansville) said many legislators
were suspicious of the ACS relationship. "People are uncomfortable that ACS is
still in place and that they were brought on board by former Secretary Roob,"
State assembly members promised last
October to scrutinize ACS carefully, but little has materialized. Roob,
meanwhile, still holds his position at the IEDC today, though a spokesperson for Roob insists the agency was not
involved in helping devise the parking plan or in the selection of ACS.
Dubiousness seems to follow Roob
wherever he goes. Last spring, an investigation by WTHR, the local NBC
affiliate, discovered that the IEDC was padding its job creation numbers with
jobs that were promised, but never materialized. WTHR estimated that
"approximately 40,000 jobs promoted by the state have not materialized years
after they were announced."
Roob said he could not
back up his agency's jobs statistics with specific details. "We don't share it
with the public.," he told WTHR. "That's confidential information."
As for ACS, its troubles
across the years are myriad and well-documented. In 2006, a backup data tape
was stolen from ACS, exposing credit card numbers used in transactions at
Denver International Airport, according to a report by the Rocky Mountain
That same year, a desktop
computer containing the names and Social Security numbers of as many as 1.4
million people was stolen from an ACS office in Colorado, where the company
processed child-support payments for the state.
Scandal rocked the company in
2006, when its chief executive and chief financial officers were forced to
resign after corrupt stock option practices within company leadership came to
A 'good reputation'
The Ballard administration
maintains there was nothing improper about the selection process for the
parking deal, which officials emphasize will affect less than 30 percent of pay parking
in Indianapolis if approved.
Michael Huber, the city's
deputy mayor for economic development, explained that ACS' upgrade proposal was
chosen from among 16
bids, made by companies from around the state, around the country, and around
said, was simply the most qualified.
"We looked at the number of
cities that they had served before, and their operating history in those cities
of running the parking systems, and (ACS) had a really solid operating
history," Huber said.
When asked about ACS's
history with the IBM and the FSSA – and whether or not it was a concern
for the Mayor – Huber admitted it was a "fair question," but that ACS had
a "good reputation" with regard to building and administering parking systems,
The company has already
handled parking in a number of major cities, he noted, including San Fransicso,
Los Angeles, Boston, Washington D.C.
"They had the most
competitive financial proposal, according to our calculations," Huber added. As
it stands now, the deal would boost city coffers by $35 million up front, with
additional shared revenues over time, all of which will go toward
infrastructure improvements. The deal is also projected to save the city $40
million in operating expenses, and includes other local and women- and
minority-owned businesses. (For more details, see the city's parking proposal
Web site, www.indygov.org/parking.)
Chris Gilligan, corporate
communications manager for ACS, pointed to the technology the company offered
as part of its proposal. That will almost certainly include electronic,
multi-space meters that accept credit or debit cards, and may incorporate
things like solar and pay-by-phone technology.
Like Huber, Gilligan noted
the company's long and broad history of municipal parking management.
ACS has been in the parking
business for over 25 years, serving 24 cities and 18 airports in the United
States, along with several international clients. "Our plan is simply to
improve traffic flow and modernize the city's parking capabilities," Gilligan