Craig Nichols Arrested on 33 Counts
NEWS – The FBI has been investigating Muncie officials for over a year now culminating in an arrest last week of Craig Nichols, Muncie’s Building Commissioner. He was given the position by a newly elected Mayor, Dennis Tyler (D) back in January 2012. Mayor Tyler stepped down from his role as our elected state representative to run against the widely unpopular republican incumbent, Sharon McShurley. The only support she had was from the rising Tea Party movement.
Dennis accomplished more in the first 90 days than Sharon had accomplished in four years. Much needed infrastructure improvements were undertaken around all points of Muncie, not just downtown and the Northwest segments. A hotel project adjacent to Horizon Convention Center was a perfect fit for the needs of downtown and the reconstruction in the Village replaced a dilapidated eyesore bringing down surrounding property values.
Despite the progress made, tensions in Muncie remained high. Muncie wanted to move forward, but old money in this town can’t let go of the community. The democrats used Tax Incremental Financing (TIFs) to float bonds. Todd Donati and the Muncie Redevelopment Commission provided the capital which fueled the activity.
While attending meetings, there was always this pounding on the roof. It seemed like City Hall was under construction for Tyler’s first mayoral term. Turns out, one of Craig Nichol’s companies was performing the construction upgrades to City Hall.
As the Mayor of Muncie, I would expect construction work to be disseminated to struggling contractors within our community. If Craig was interested in bidding on construction projects, he should have remained a contractor and bid on the projects. He shouldn’t have been appointed to a public position where he would oversee awarding contracts.
I’m sure this is the crux of the FBI’s case – was the intent of his newly appointed position to abuse power by funneling construction work through companies owned by him or maybe other family members. The records the FBI took from City Hall and Craig’s personal home would show a paper trail of these deceptive practices and led to the 33 counts of criminal and fraudulent activity.
Read closely what the FBI’s press release had to say after Craig’s arrest:
“Seeking out and investigating public officials who exploit their official position for personal gain ranks number one on the FBI’s criminal priorities list and is the sole purpose of the Indiana Public Corruption Task Force,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge W. Jay Abbott. “The indictment and arrest of the City of Muncie Building Commissioner Craig Nichols is one more step in an ongoing investigation which seeks to identify and bring to justice any and all public officials or private citizens who have committed federal crimes and victimized the tax paying citizens of Muncie, Indiana.
I used bold and italicized letters for emphasis. Craig isn’t the only one guilty of abusing his position to victimize tax paying citizens. Special Agent Abbott is quite clear about this point. Craig being arrested last week was just “one more step” being taken. In other words, don’t anticipate one other shoe being dropped, but likely many more shoes being dropped. It might explain why the Mayor didn’t punish Craig when he first learned Craig was abusing his position. The abuse wasn’t an isolated case, but more systemic.
As I’ve posted on social media throughout this FBI investigation, it is the role of leaders to step forth when wrongdoing was committed. Our entire legal structure – the institution of justice – depends first and foremost on the moral law of man – our ability to differentiate right from wrong. Our legal system starts when men and women fail.
Based on the reporting by the StarPress to date, the FBI is looking into several local government departments, including the Muncie Sanitation District, where individuals were “lucky” with their real estate acquisitions. Buying seemingly worthless land only to sell the land to a government entity netting hundreds of thousands of dollars isn’t luck. When insiders tip off others who make a profit, it’s clearly wrong-headed, so it will be a matter for the FBI and our court system to sort out. When prices are increased on sanitation customers, while insiders profit from inflated prices on worthless land, it’s theft. Every single user of sanitation services is paying inflated prices while a few players line their pockets.
Those who seek public service positions should actually want to serve the public. This is the role of our human resource department. Have policies preventing employees from personally benefitting from their position. If there is a violation, the employee could be suspending or fired. Spell out conflicts of interest. We are watching this on our national stage as Donald Trump is appointing members to his cabinet who have serious conflicts of interests before they start day one serving the public. What do you think will happen?
It doesn’t matter what political party has control – they are both guilty of abusing their positions.
This is exactly why the public has lost trust in government and why I refer to our existing governmental structure as a kleptocracy versus a democracy. Wikileaks definition of a kleptocracy:
A government with corrupt rulers (kleptocrats) that use their power to exploit the people and natural resources of their own territory in order to extend their personal wealth and political power”. Typically this system involves the embezzlement of state funds at the expense of the wider population, sometimes without even the pretense of honest service.
The failure in leadership occurred when appointing an individual to a position who would abuse the position for personal enrichment. At the first sign of this, Mayor Tyler should have suspended Craig Nichols without pay, pending an investigation of wrongdoing. Allowing it to continue paints you as an accessory, whether it’s reality or not. In fact, once the FBI notified the Mayor of wrongdoing, that employee should have been terminated. Allowing a thief to draw a paycheck from struggling city taxpayers is disgraceful.
When you consider the FBI has been in town for over a year and has made an arrest, it’s really too late to do the right thing. Muncie taxpayers are being victimized every other Friday when corrupt city employees and public servants collect their paycheck.