For immediate release:
Aug. 8, 2013
INDIANAPOLIS - Below is the text of a letter delivered to Indiana Inspector General David Thomas today by Indiana House Democratic Leader Scott Pelath from Michigan City and Indiana Senate Democratic Leader Tim Lanane from Anderson:
Dear Inspector General:
In recent weeks and months, a series of incidents have generated the kind of attention that calls into question the accountability of state government to the people of Indiana.
The most recent of these incidents is the highly-publicized case involving former state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett and the controversies over the misuse of the A through F grading system.
Taken as a whole, we believe the circumstances surrounding each of these cases demonstrate the need for a fundamental review of the duties of the Inspector General’s office and the code of ethics presently in place for executive branch officials.
Let us explain why.
As we mentioned, the Bennett case is one of several issues that could potentially fall under review by your office:
- On April 14, the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette reported that the Indiana Department of Education under former Superintendent Bennett purchased $1.7 million in computer equipment that was incompatible with existing software.
- On June 7, after your office blessed Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) employee Troy Woodruff's business connections surrounding the development of Interstate 69, the South Bend Tribune reported that INDOT employees were prohibited from communicating about the matter.
- On July 1—nearly two months after the event was discovered by agency personnel—the Family & Social Services Administration (FSSA) publicly announced a data breach of confidential information for 187,533 clients.
- On July 14 and July 21, the Indianapolis Star reported that an Indiana Economic Development Corporation contractor had steered state taxpayer investment funds to a firm run by the IEDC’s chairman and his son.
- Also on July 14, the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette reported that the Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) had overcharged the public for services rendered.
Now we are hearing that former Superintendent Bennett intends to use your office to absolve himself of any alleged ethical missteps in the recent "A-F" grading controversy.
While we would respectfully opine that such a request is rugged new terrain for your office, we would like to understand your plan for handling such an unusual matter.
In light of the above, we have several questions:
- Has your office been requested or directed to investigate the recent “A-F” grading controversy or any of these issues?
- Do you think your office has jurisdiction over the recent “A-F” grading controversy or any of these issues?
- If so, when do you intend to have the investigations completed? Will the results be made public?
- Will former Superintendent Bennett's request take precedence over other matters when it is received?
- Will your office address the impact of the "A-F" grading controversy on the use of federal funds for public education in Indiana?
Finally, some have debated the narrowness of the Inspector General's rulings on both the Woodruff complaint and the case involving former Governor Daniels, whose immediate transition from the position of governor to president of Purdue University apparently met the letter—if not the spirit—of current regulations.
Given these concerns, does your office intend to pursue an update of the executive branch's code of ethics? If not, why not?
We genuinely appreciate your prompt and thoughtful consideration of this inquiry. We assure you that we would much prefer the discussion of other issues, but occasionally events before the public merit a reconsideration of what is working and what is not. In any case, we look forward to your detailed response.
As always, we remain grateful for your dedicated service to the people of Indiana.
Scott D. Pelath Timothy S. Lanane
House Democratic Leader Senate Democratic Leader