INDIANAPOLIS (AP) —
Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill announced Wednesday that he is hiring
the state's former child welfare chief, who resigned from her post last
month in a blistering letter that accused Gov. Eric Holcomb of making
changes and cuts at her agency that "all but ensure children will die."
The move by Hill to hire former Department of Child Services Director Mary
Beth Bonaventura raised eyebrows at the Statehouse. It's just the latest
break the Republican attorney general has made from Holcomb, who as governor
is the de facto leader of the state GOP.
Hill's office did
not respond to a question over whether Hill is deliberately trying to stoke
a feud with Holcomb.
pleased to bring aboard a leader of such caliber as Judge Bonaventura," Hill
said in a statement. "Her breadth of experience and depth of knowledge will
continue to prove indispensable assets to the citizens of Indiana as she
steps into this next phase of her distinguished public service."
declined to comment on Hill's hiring of Bonaventura.
"We wish her well
in this new chapter," said spokeswoman Stephanie Wilson.
Mike Murphy, a
Republican strategist and former state lawmaker, said it could be "a mercy
hiring" or it could be that "Hill is trying to stake out ground as the most
powerful Republican officeholder in the state."
"What he doesn't understand is the governor always wins," Murphy said.
Since his 2016
election in which he became the single greatest vote-getter in state
history, Hill has sought to build up his profile, often issuing news
releases trumpeting his appearances on Fox News, or his views on issues that
have a seemingly limited connection to the businesses of his office.
opposed a law Holcomb pushed last year that allowed for an expansion of
needle exchanges to combat outbreaks of disease among intravenous drug
users. Public health experts say such exchanges are effective and credit one
in Scott County for curtailing an HIV outbreak there.
Hill has also
spoken out against a law Holcomb signed allowing children with severe forms
of epilepsy to be treated with cannabidiol, which is derived from the
marijuana plant but contains little or no THC, the component that makes you
high. Hill declared it "illegal" and called for an end to its sales, despite
studies that have found it effective.
Bonaventura will be
paid $125,000 a year. Her "special counsel" position fills a senior adviser
vacancy created when a staff member left in December, Hill spokesman Bill
McCleery said in an email. He added that her work portfolio will span
several agency divisions and focus on addressing drug abuse, including the
Bonaventura was not
made available for an interview.
former Lake County juvenile judge with more than 30 years' experience in the
field, Bonaventura was appointed to lead the Department of Child Services in
2013 by then-Gov. Mike Pence.
Problems quietly festering at the agency erupted into public view last month
when Bonaventura penned her scathing resignation letter accusing Holcomb's
office of mismanagement and cuts in the midst of a surge of caseloads fueled
by the opioid crisis.
"I choose to
resign, rather than be complicit in decreasing the safety, permanency and
well-being of children who have nowhere else to turn," she wrote.
have accused her of poorly administering the office and blowing through
money budgeted for the agency. However, Holcomb himself has refused to
publicly address the specific allegations Bonaventura has made against his