Chesterton Tribune

 

 

Lawmakers seek review of inspector general office in wake of scandals

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Top Statehouse Democrats called Thursday for a review of the Indiana inspector general's office following several cases that they say raise questions about the ethics code applied to those in the executive branch of state government.

Sen. Tim Lanane and Rep. Scott Pelath sent a letter to Inspector General David Thomas seeking a "fundamental review" of the office's duties. They cited a number of troubling cases, including a scandal over former schools chief Tony Bennett's changes to the school grading formula to benefit a top Republican donor's school.

The Associated Press last week published emails showing Bennett and his staff changed the grading formula to raise Christel House Academy's score from a C to an A. School founder Christel DeHaan has donated $2.8 million to Republicans since 1998, including $130,000 to Bennett.

Indiana's school grades are used to determine how much money schools get and whether "failing" schools are taken over by private operators. They also have become critical economic development tools in recent years, used in part by homebuyers picking locations based on the quality of their schools.

Bennett denies any wrongdoing, but he resigned as Florida's education commissioner. He has asked the Indiana inspector general's office to review his handling of the formula change.

The Democratic lawmakers called Bennett's request "rugged new terrain" for the office and questioned its role in absolving Bennett of any ethical wrongdoing.

They also cited concerns about rulings involving Interstate 69 land deals by an Indiana Department of Transportation official and his family and former Gov. Mitch Daniels' appointment as Purdue University's president upon leaving office in January.

Pelath and Lanane also ask Thomas whether he intends to pursue an update of the executive branch's code of ethics.

Daniels established the Inspector General's office on his first day in office in 2005. The office is charged with investigating criminal and ethics violations by state employees and contractors and writing the Indiana Code of Ethics.

Thomas, who was appointed by Daniels, did not immediately return a message from The Associated Press seeking comment.

 

Posted 9/8/2013