Thursday, October 17, 2013

Corruption, Slander, or Rumor

A story in the Indianapolis Business Journal, (link here) about the announcement of Scott Fadness, current Fishers Town Manager, to be the first Mayor of Fishers, quickly turned into something else in the "comments" section.

A poster only identified as "Jen" posted the following:

Fadness has almost raised $100,000 because he, John Weingardt (Fishers Council President) and Pete Peterson (Fishers Council VP) have been forcing vendors to donate to their PACs. The vendors have been told that if they do not PAY then they will not be allowed to PLAY in Fishers!!! If you do not believe me, look at Fadness's campaign finance reports. Almost all vendors that do or want to do business in Fishers. Really, is that what our Town has become?!!

However, as an attorney, there is almost nothing in here which, if true, the authorities could use to investigate. What vendor?  When did this "force" happen? Who made that communication?  Was it just in a fundraising letter, or in person?  Details, details, there are no details.

The implication here is that vendors are being told they MUST contribute to a certain PAC (Political Action Committee) to do business with Fishers.  If so, that could well be a crime, extortion.  If this is just vendors feeling as if they SHOULD contribute to get alone with the "powers that be", that may be a political issue, but probably is not a crime.   I referred to this in one of my most popular blog posts in April 2011, "Is  Fishers for Sale?".

But if this poster is just repeating what he or she heard, or is escalating that for political reasons to make an accusation of a crime?  You might want to see a good lawyer.  Accusing someone of a crime, without good reason, could well get you sued for what is called slander (or libel) per se.   

Or the poster could just be reporting rumor.  Or someone else is anonymously trying to start trouble.  That is dirty tricks, disreputable but not illegal.

IF I knew that this was true, with PROVABLE FACTS, then something might happen.  But you have to have the "Who, What, When, Where, and Why".  As most people know, I have turned in at least one politician about whom I had actual evidence that a crime appeared to have been committed, and let the legal system take its course.  But at this point, the accusations are just that, without even the slimmest facts to investigate.

Do local politicos, especially incumbents, solicit vendors?  Yes, and as I said, I have criticized them for it.  At the very least, it puts the vendors in a tough spot, and at worst, well then you get the kind of accusations "Jen" has made.  There have long been rumors of "Pay to Play" politics in Hamilton County, but never hard evidence.  And as a lawyer, I am all about the evidence.  Particularly when you accuse someone of breaking the law.