INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -
Indiana is forming a coalition that will take aim at public corruption by
training and educating government officials and drafting legislation
intended to protect taxpayer money from malfeasance, the state’s attorney
general said Tuesday. Attorney General Greg Zoeller said the new Public
Integrity Coalition that’s still being put together will be led primarily by
groups such as the Indiana Association of Cities and Towns that represent
local government officials.
Zoeller will also
be a member, along with representatives of the State Board of Accounts - the
state agency that audits government bodies when misappropriation of funds
are suspected - and other state and federal officials.
One of the
coalition’s first goals will be training and educating public officials from
counties, cities, towns, townships and other local government bodies on the
best management practices for handling public money to reduce the amount of
taxpayer money that’s pilfered by corrupt public employees, Zoeller said.
“We may as well
start with a bold mission, one that everyone can agree on - that we’re going
to try to reduce the access to funds and the misuse of it through greater
training and protections,” Zoeller said at a news conference at the Indiana
Since Zoeller took
office in January 2009, his office has sought to collect more than $11
million in public money that had been misappropriated.
Former state deputy
auditor Doris Anne Sadler is coordinating the new coalition’s outreach
effort as it works to solidify its membership. She said the group expects to
have its first meeting in June.
The vast majority
of government officials and employees are honest, but “the few that stray”
give the public an unfavorable view of government, said Matt Greller,
executive director of the Indiana Association of Cities and Towns, which
represents 569 cities and town.
president of the Shared Ethics Advisory Commission - an all-volunteer group
covering Lake, Porter and LaPorte counties in northwestern Indiana - said
the group works to prevent public corruption through education and training.
“If nothing else
we’re removing the excuse that ‘No one ever told me that it was wrong,’”
Examiner Paul Joyce said that training in the best management practices for
public money is mandatory for some county assessors across the state, but
not for all of Indiana’s elected or appointed public officials.
Zoeller said the
coalition will make recommendations on regulatory changes and legislation
that could boost efforts to combat public corruption. He said those could
presumably include a push to make such training mandatory, but it’s
premature to say what the group will decide to pursue.
He said that one of
the most common forms of public corruption involves officials who in essence
write themselves checks from their office’s checking account - a malfeasance
made easier in cases where the same person writes a check, cashes it and
then accounts for those funds.
He said his office
has encouraged officials to require two signatures on each check as best
practice for avoiding theft of public funds.