Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Zoeller May Order Independent Review of the Attorney General's Office

Jon Murray of the Indianapolis Star today reports on Republican Greg Zoeller's narrow win over Linda Pence. It includes a very encouraging comment from Zoeller:

Zoeller said he likely would ask for an independent review of the office from colleagues in other states to look for ways to improve it. "My weakness might be that I’m so involved that I might miss things others are able to identify."
The first sign of a good administrator is a willingness to be open to feedback and criticism. That requires humility and the willingness to accept that they do not know everything, traits a lot of elected officials do not have. Zoeller's comments demonstrate that he is open to new ideas and change in how the office operates. He passes the first test as Attorney General-elect with flying colors.

As readers of this blog knows, I have been critical of the inactive, non-aggressive approach the Attorney General's Office has often taken, in particular in the consumer protection arena. I saw first hand problems with its real estate regulatory arm, the Homeowner's Protection Unit. I could not overstate the frustration I and other regulators (all of which were Republicans) had with the HPU. To say the HPU simply was not an active partner in the real estate regulatory effort pursued by the Title Insurance Division, the Secretary of State and the Department of Financial Institutions is a kind characterization.

In conducting his review, Zoeller would be wise to talk to past and present regulators and those who advocate real estate reform. He should look for people who are free to offer honest advice untainted by political concerns. That generally means people not in elected or appointed office in Indiana. (He won't get straight answers talking to people afraid of offering honest criticism like I have done in this blog.) He would be wise to study the operations in other states for information on how he can improve the AG's office. We in fact did exactly that at the Title Insurance Division when we set out to build a regulatory apparatus for title insurance regulation in the State of Indiana. Hopefully Zoeller will do the same in running his office and making improvements in the operation of the HPU. There will be a lot of people cheering him on if he undertakes that effort.


Diana Vice said...

Perhaps one of his first orders of business would be to hire you as a consultant! : )

Paul K. Ogden said...

Diana, while I appreciate the endorsement, I am pretty sure most elected officials would not appreciate my brutally frank advice. Most tend to prefer "yes" men or women or at least someone who will at the very least sugarcoat things. What happens is that in that environment the elected official often becomes sheltered from the "real world" and think things are fine when they are not. I am thrilled with Greg Zoeller's comments. He seems to have picked up on the fact that the AG Office could possibly be doing some things better and is willing to keep an open mind and consider improvements.

Pete Boggs said...

This has "ethical" written all over it!!!

Diana Vice said...

Your frankness and honesty are qualities that I find very refreshing. At the end of this election cycle, I grew very weary of political puppetry and partisan spin from both camps. Maybe Greg Zoeller listened to some of the brutally frank advice and came to the conclusions that he did, so once again, I'll say it. He would do well to hire you as a political consultant. You're not afraid to call a spade a spade, and that's a very good thing.

Paul K. Ogden said...

Well, Diana, I'm simply saying out loud things everyone is saying behind the scenes, in particular among real estate industry and the regulators. Those people have been afraid to speak out because they think they'll get on the wrong side of the AG. But not speaking out, simply lets a bad situation perpuate itself. Change only happens when people point out the need for change.

Thanks, Pete. I would say though that for a lot of people it isn't necessarily a lack of ethics, but just fear. Republicans in Marion County have historically been trained to keep their mouth shut, especially if it involves a member of their own party. I was told in 2002 that I wouldn't slated as Marion County Clerk because I was too outspoken and couldn't be counted on to rubberstamp decisions made by party bosses. They're right, but isn't it better to have a stronger candidate that is with you on 80% of the issues and can get Demcoratic votes rather than have a Republican candidate who is with the party bosses on 100% of the issues, but can't get elected?

Diana Vice said...

I was a pretty harsh critic of the AG, and now he's earned back my respect by doing the right thing regarding the illegal bidding scheme that is costing Indiana taxpayers millions of unncessary tax dollars. Speaking out is a must if you want change. I certainly didn't want to criticize members of my own party, but there was simply too much at stake not to.

Paul K. Ogden said...

Diana, privatization and public-private partnerships are good IF we keep an eye on what's going on and assure the process is fair. Too often they've become a new form of political patronage rather than something that benefits the taxpayers.

varangianguard said...

"...but isn't it better to have a stronger candidate that is with you on 80% of the issues and can get Demcoratic votes rather than have a Republican candidate who is with the party bosses on 100% of the issues, but can't get elected?"

It all depends on one's perspective, doesn't it? Partisan politics doesn't seem to reward anything but blind loyalty, on either side of the aisle.

Paul K. Ogden said...


I think when the Marion County GOP leadership fully grasps that this is a solidly majority Democrat County there will be an emphasis placed on getting candidates with more broad appeal than simply being milquetoast Repbulicans willing to back the GOP leadership on everything. The problem is Republicans had a 30 year or so history of being in the majority in Indianapolis. Then we had the 2007 election that has given some Republicans false hope that the Ds are not that strong in Marion county. Well they are and 2008 showed that.

The Democrats wised up and started running more conservative candidates in areas where Republicans dominated. They sacrificed 100% idealogical support for issues like abortion, gun restrictions, etc. to win the seats. That's the same thing Marion County GOP ledership needs to do when looking for candidates -they shouldn't demand that they be with them on every issue or they won't be slated. Minority party canddiates are trying to put together coalitions to win elections. You can't do that if you don't reach beyond your base.