October 27, 2015

Marion County Auditor Sues City Over BlueIndy

A BlueIndy charging station in downtown Indianapolis. (File photo) - Ryan Delaney/WFYI

A BlueIndy charging station in downtown Indianapolis. (File photo)

Ryan Delaney/WFYI

INDIANAPOLIS - Marion County Auditor Julie Voorhies is suing the city of Indianapolis over a $6 million payment for recently launched electric car-sharing service BlueIndy.

Voorhies contends in the legal documents that BlueIndy and the city "engaged in illegal conduct" and that the $6 million wire transfer was not authorized by law and "should be returned."

The lawsuit asks the court to block any future construction of charging stations for the cars, according to the Indianapolis Business Journal, which first reported the lawsuit. IBJ reports:

The complaint over the contentious deal—which was filed in the Marion County Circuit Court and asks for a temporary ban on any future construction on city-owned land—comes a week before the city’s elections. Voorhies is a Democrat; the BlueIndy deal was negotiated by aides to Republican Mayor Greg Ballard.

BlueIndy launched Sept. 2 with about two dozen locations around Indianapolis. The company plans on eventually expanding that to 200 charging stations.

The location of the stations already built has been contentious, with councilors and some businesses upset over the process and locationsThe city council has even threatened to tow some of the cars in a show of disgust over the program. And they're working to renegotiate the contract.

"The Auditor’s lawsuit is nothing more than a stunt, orchestrated to create headlines," said Jen Pittman, a spokeswoman for the mayor, in a statement sent to media outlets.

"Taxpayers deserve better, and so do the union workers whose jobs the Auditor is threatening. Processing payments to vendors, ensuring payroll accuracy, and withholding the correct amount from employees’ paychecks are all legitimate, important functions of the Auditor’s office, and all have suffered while the Auditor has focused instead on playing political games," Pittman said.

A representative for BlueIndy has not returned WFYI's request for a comment.

In an email to WFYI, Voorhies says: "I feel that the lawsuit speaks for itself and that I have nothing to add."

The mayor's office wired $6 million to BlueIndy as part of its 15-year contract with parent company Ballore. Ballore itself is investing $41 million in the endeavor. Indianapolis Power and Light is paying for the rest of the program's launch.

The $6 million from the city was deposited into an escrow account, which BlueIndy can withdraw $100,000 from for each new charging station built. 

Indianapolis is the first North American city France-based Ballore has expanded into, after operations in Paris and London.

WFYI's Deron Molen reported on BlueIndy's September launch:

Ballard and Bolloré’s Vice President of Development Cédric Bolloré attended the program’s ribbon cutting ceremony at one of BlueIndy’s charging stations.

“In Indianapolis, we found a city that is dynamic, innovative, and in courageous business,” Bolloré said.

The program has faced complaints against the location of charging stations and the perception that the Bolloré Group has received special treatment. City-County Councilors have also said they have felt left out during discussions.

Still, Bolloré said he is willing to listen to everyone’s ideas as the program gets started.

“We will continue this broad engagement and welcome all input – and, of course, we will follow all laws and regulations,” he said.

Contact Ryan: 317.489.4491 | rdelaney@wfyi.org | @rpatrickdelaney 

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