"The Official Portrait of Miss InDiana"

"The Official Portrait of Miss InDiana"
aka "Miss Victory"

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Former Arts Council chair, Gregory & Appel's Dan Appel, steered public funding to flush insurance clients

"Gregory & Appel uses a team approach to develop a 'multi-layer relationship' "
--Dan Appel quoted in Rough Notes Magazine, July 2007

We promised to connect the dots to tell you who are the true benefactors of Indianapolis' budget dollars given to the Indianapolis Arts Council. It is not the selfless arts outreach picture that the elite Indy arts administrative insiders want you to believe is true. Unfortunately, many well meaning arts supporters believe the rhetoric which now beg you to 'save' the arts.

Arts insiders' proposed salvation requires us to borrow even more money we don't have from the bond bank to operate our red ink city, while we never pay down a penny of the ungodly principle we owe. Arts insiders are addicted to the previous administration's constant credit line use to cover day-to-day operating expenses. The insiders feel 'entitled' to the bond money coming from thin air, even though it comes at horrific price to our children who will inherit the debts of their parents.

(Did we ever mention your property is literal collateral for municipal lending done by the bond banks and that's the cause of the property tax crisis?)

In 2006, the Indianapolis Arts Council's chairman was local insurance sales executive Dan Appel, in charge of sales for the the $100 million dollar a year insurance powerhouse Gregory & Appel Insurance. Appel's duty, as chair of the arts council, was to insure the honest stewardship of public tax dollars within his executive control.

You can bet that the commissions Dan's company makes off $100 million in annual sales is likely more than you will earn a few decades.

City Councilor Christine Scales was first to point out that much of the arts council budget awards unneeded grants to large arts institutions with healthy bank accounts and the comfort of secure black ink. That realisation made tax activists suspicious. Why are we funding healthy institutions over our many grass roots cultural arts programs which are the places that incubate an appreciation for the arts among disadvantaged individuals, rather than society's already advantaged? That's a great question, Councilor Scales. Ask Dan Appel.

We discovered that public money is not typically used to 'save' important arts efforts in jeopardy of disappearing, but more likely to keep lucrative not-for-profit clients loyal to Gregory & Appel Insurance. Call it kick backs, call it back scratching, call it favors, call it what you will, but it reeks of self-dealing.

Is the funding Appel's clients received, equal to their insurance premiums? That's a question to which we may never know the answer. Maybe Appel will come clean and tell the public how much in annual premium the benefitted organizations pay him each year for insurance. And maybe he will also tell us if other Indiana insurance companies have a fair shot at bidding their lucrative insurance coverage.

This obvious self-dealing flies in the face of the "Save Indy Arts" website created by Lisa Sirkin owner of Gracie Communications -- a website which was up and running the day after we published Councilor Scales letter to the Mayor critiquing the arts budget.
A quick search of Sirkin's clients shows that she benefits well from public funded contract work within Indy arts circles which mainly include the well-heeled arts organizations contributing to the $100 million plus in insurance premiums collected each year by Gregory & Appel. No wonder Sirkin panicked and launched the site, while publicly claiming on August 11th that it "made me get outside my comfort zone."

Lisa, the taxpayers are uncomfortable too. And we're the folks who ultimately have to write the checks to pay the arts council who fund Dan Appel's clients, who finally hire you in the long run to run the PR to keep the milk flowing.

Here's the skinny on the solvent arts institution clients of Gregory & Appel that got the biggest share of your arts funding in 2006. We hope Dan Appel will come clean and tell you how many more of his clients (or employees of his clients) are on the receiving end of our city's debt.

$239,000 Children's Museum of Indianapolis

$140,000 Eiteljorg Museum

$155,000 Indianapolis Museum of Art

$ 47,500 International Violin Competition

$ 89,500 WFYI Teleplex

$ 29,750 WFYI Teleplex (2nd grant)

$ 21,000 Fine Arts Society of Indianapolis

$ 14,500 Madame Walker Theater


"We have a large number of specialty programs that have helped us during the soft market", Dan says, adding that "they also give us some market clout with our insurers."
--Rough Notes Magazine, July 2007

We couldn't say it better if we tried, Dan. Stay tuned. There is more we have ready to expose between now and the public budget hearings before the city council.


Anonymous said...

Great post Melyssa. You forgot to mention that the total funding budget this year is $1.5 million.

Approximately half reported here went to Gregorgy and Appel clients.

Anonymous said...

Ray Gonyea was a curator at Eiteljorg, one of the insurance clients. Gonyea received one of the $2750 Creative Renewal Fellowships. Aren't the salaries at the Eiteljorg fairly generous? Why is he more deserving of funding than a starving, hard working unemployed artist?

Andrew Horning said...

Go get 'em, Melyssa!
Liberty or Bust!
Andy H.

Anonymous said...

I was wondering if someone could fill me in on the deal Irsay/the Colts got on Lucas Oil. How much did government pay? How much did the Colts pay? What kinds of revenues from parking/concessions etc. the Colts/Irsay gets?

Anonymous said...

it appears that Mr. Appel has completely SOLD OUT the REAL arts community in this city.
Am I surprised? Hardly. This is how Indianapolis has always operated and it will continue as such until someone or some group decides to raise enough hell about it to cause change.
Appel doesn't have to come clean, his social position in the "black tie" circles does not require him to soil his hands with such serious accusations as pandering and kickbacks.

Sean Shepard said...

Think about this. This is just the arts related stuff out of a $1.5 million piece of a BILLION dollar budget (.15 percent? POINT ONE FIVE!) that, assuming the information is accurate, can be easily ferretted out.

What kind of things are going on in other areas all the way up the Federal level where the budget isn't a single BILLION or so, BUT $3.1 TRILLION?

The larger government gets and more it gets involved in things that it really shouldn't, the more opportunity there is for there to be abuse or the perception of such.

You also get people who become dependant (for income, ego fullfillment or other purposes) on being associated with or leading this various programs and councils who then pursue the perpetuation of such.


The answers to the questions about the Colts/Ir$ay is well covered over at Advance Indiana blog.


There is a search feature on the blog in the upper left corner. There is enough on his blog about the stadium to keep you busy for a day.

Ed Angleton said...

Would this be the same Lisa C Sirkin that lives at 10568 Prairie Fox Dr Fishers, IN 46037-9391, and if so, what relevance does someone who lives in Hamilton county have when it comes to deciding where Marion Co. tax dollars should be spent?

(Address from whitepages.com)

Anonymous said...

Keep up the muckraking!!This is great -Hope you push it to the newspaper and the mayor. Someone has to do it. kudos.


...and not a peep from the out-raged arts world who was all over this blog a few weeks ago when we stood behind Christine Scales suggestion to cut the arts.

And don't think they have not read the blog yet. We've had hits from all mentioned here today.

Maybe now that they are caught misusing our money they will stop crying.

Anonymous said...

Have you also noticed that several Indianapolis arts organizations that are IN THE RED happen to be Gregory and Appel clients? And that these organizations have several outreach programs in place that provide free arts access to central Indiana residents?

blackrock said...

This is a very serious charge you are leveling against the Arts Council and Mr. Appel. Please answer two questions:

1. Where did you obtain the information about where each grantee organization purchases their insurance?
2. What evidence do you have that Mr. Appel directed city arts funds to these organizations?


Everything is verifiable. Prove anything is wrong and we'll write a retraction.

We weren't at the meeting because, quite frankly, we're busy frying bigger fish than you. That and we have lives. But you can bet we'll be at the hearing of the full council and that this information is in the hands of the media and the city council members.

And if they do not take action, we will hold their feet to the fire until they do.

And if the arts organization continues to defend this THIEVERY of the public's money, then it is you that will have to stand trial in the court of public opinion.

Anonymous said...

Fantastic post! Next time Matt Tully or some other smug old media 'journalist' makes fun of bloggers, this post should be issued as Exhibit 'A' to show that bloggers have a great deal to contirbute, that the journalists should have been all over. Thanks for taking the time to do the research.

I was wondering why the chief of the Children's Museum was speaking to the importance (cough) of preserving full funding for the arts. All is made clear now. Should have known it would be as simple as following the money.

This excellent muckraking shows merely that the money intended perhaps to go one place goes another. That's bad enough, but it's about time people started looking at socialized art (and football, sure) and questioning whether or not art & sport is a proper function of government.

I say 'NO!' and support a total elimination of the arts budget.

Jeff Mountjoy said...

That sounds great, but isn't true. Arts Council grants are adjudicated by a panel of experts from out of the state, and are scored in public by fair standards. Arts Council board members and staff members don't get a vote....

melyssa said...

Jeff, I don't believe you. I once applied for a grant from the arts council. And it was leaked to me directly from the council I would not be awarded a grant....THREE DAYS BEFORE I SUBMITTED THE PROPOSAL. They never even read the damned thing! And then no official answer was given to me by their deadline for reply. Nothing you say rings true with my personal experience. And no where is this rather secretive sounding process documented that I have been able to fine. Bottom line...it is public money being used and there should be a hell of a lot more TRANSPARENCY than we get.