Sunday, May 3, 2009

State Wastes Tax Dollars on New Furniture; Indiana Department of Insurance Refuses Access

In the midst of my heavy work load last week, I saw a Channel 13 report on how state agencies waste tax dollars on new furniture, when the state has a warehouse filled with furniture and there is a state prison company which makes new, quality furniture for the state agencies much more cheaply than private vendors. Anyone who has not seen the report, here is the link, which includes the printed version of the story as well as the video which is 6:34 long.

There is no excuse for these wasted tax dollars. What I would like to see is the Governor's Office follow up and put a stop to this practice. The problem though is that Governor Daniels has always taken a hands-off approach to managing the state's agencies, which means this story will probably be a one day splash with no corrective action taken.

In the middle of the story is a report on new furniture purchased by the Department of Insurance, where I used to work:

Last year the Indiana Department of Insurance took a pass on free file cabinets, turned down surplus chairs and said "no thanks" to free desks. Instead, the agency chose to buy more than $100,000 in new furniture, including $269 office chairs, $432 file cabinets and desks that cost more than $2,000 each. IDOI told WTHR the new items were needed for its Title Division and to replace worn items throughout the agency.

Why not take advantage of the state's warehouse full of used furniture?

"It has been the experience of the IDOI Controller ... that much of the State's surplus warehouse's inventory [sic] is in similar condition to the furniture that was replaced," wrote department attorney Meggan Brumbaugh.

But Flake said his staff closely examines surplus furniture to make sure it is in "usable" condition.

"Some of it's seen better days, but then there's a lot of it that's in very good condition," he said. Even though you helped pay for IDOI's new furniture, department administrators do not want you to see it. The agency did not respond to eleven separate requests by WTHR to videotape the furniture to show you what you paid for.
This hits close to home. The IDOI says some of the furniture was needed for the title insurance division. Until September 17, 2007, I was the manager of that division, which was located in IDOI's Consumer Protection Unit. I have a whistleblowing action pending against the IDOI regarding what happened to me. That action primarily concerns an out of control mid-level manager, the head of the CPU, who is a holdover Democrat appointee. For reasons nobody at the Department of Insurance understands, IDOI Commissioner Jim Atterholt lets the CPU Chief do whatever she wants at the Department, without consequence. This includes diverting money from the dedicated Title Insurance Dedicated Fund to pay thousands to an "office planner" and to pay for an employee who she would not allow to do title work. The CPU chief is also a person Commissioner Atterholt would let come in whenever she wanted and travel the country at taxpayer expense to countless seminars of dubious value.

It's unfortunate that the report appears to blame the IDOI Controller for ordering the new furniture. I, in fact, know the person behind this was the CPU Chief and not the IDOI Controller. She should be the one blamed as well as Commissioner Atterholt for not vetoing her waste of taxpayer dollars. I also wouldn't be surprised if the CPU Chief used the Title Fund (which by law can only be used for title insurance enforcement activities) to buy furniture that is now being used by other sections outside of the Title Division. As I told Commissioner Atterholt, it is illegal to take dedicated funds and divert them to a purpose not authorized by the legislature. (The minute I put this in writing in a memo to the Commissioner, I no longer had a job at IDOI.) I have little doubt that he's continuing to allow this supervisor to divert money from the Title Fund.

As a side note, I always told my staff at the Title Division, if we are doing things behind closed doors, we are doing things we shouldn't be doing. I find it troubling that Commissioner Atterholt, as a public servant, could justify not allowing reporters in to photograph the new furniture IDOI purchased by our tax dollars.


I know said...

Thank you for this. I am glad to see some STATE SLEAZE start to come out. There are far greater mountains of wrong doing at the State level and the Prosecutor in Marion County as well as The Attorney General and Inspector General all know it.

Hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent and the players are now bankrupt and/or in default for the third time with their bonds. Where did all the money go? It has been asked before and no one listened.

Great first step with this Indiana Department of Insurance step. Now look into the Gaming Commission. Ask Channel 6 what they know about the other mess in Indiana. Ask the Indianapolis Star what they know about it. I bet you will get run and cover answers!

Diana Vice said...

The millions of tax dollars spent on overpriced school roofs is also an area that needs to be exposed by the mainstream press. My efforts may be finally paying off in that area as a few MSM news outlets have been visiting my blog lately. A couple reporters have even called for interviews. It takes perseverance, so keep up the good work, Paul! People are listening.