Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Governor Daniels Acts on State Revolving Door, Will Someone Wake Up the Media to Local Revolving Door?

The Indianapolis Star reports:
Gov. Mitch Daniels today terminated and replaced the chairman of the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission, citing the violation of an ethics policy the governor championed.

The firing was announced in a news release from Jane Jankowski, a spokeswoman for the governor's office.

The firing of David Lott Hardy follows the September departure of the commission's general counsel, Scott Storms, for a job with Duke Energy of Indiana. The commission regulates the power provider.

In a memo, David Pippen, general counsel to the governor, wrote: "Upon the Governor's direction, an internal review of the matter revealed the lawyer (Storms) was communicating with Duke regarding a position with the company at a time he was presiding over administrative hearings concerning Duke. Additionally, the agency head was aware of the communications and did not remove the lawyer from matters for which the lawyer was now conflicted."
It is good to see Governor Daniels take a more active role with regard to oversight of agency heads. I have discussed on this blog how one of the Governor's greatest weakness is a lack of oversight over administrative agencies and a failure to investigate alleged wrongdoing within the agencies.

This is something I personally experienced at the Department of Insurance. When I turned over evidence of misappropriation of the title insurance dedicated fund to the Daniels administration, I was met with complete disinterest. I couldn't even get them to take a look at the matter or other evidence of legal violations at the Department of Insurance. The Daniels' people simply didn't care about ethical issues and legal violations I was raising. I later learned that the administration's disinterest in ethical issues and legal violations I raise was not an exception, but rather the rule when it came to the Governor's oversight over the agencies.

As bad as the revolving door/conflict of interest is at the state level, it is much worse at the local level. Paul Okeson went from being Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard's Chief of Staff to a position with Keystone Construction, a recipient of no bid city contracts and a huge contributor to the Mayor. Then you have the situation where Joe Loftus, a paid legal advisor to the Mayor, also lobbies for ACS which is awarded a 50 year no-bid parking contract by the City. Oh, and let's not forget Ryan Vaughn, President of the Council. Vaughn, who has lobbied at the state level on behalf of ACS, has refused to recuse himself from voting on the ACS contract.

Of course, the Ballard administration opened with Bob Grand being appointed Chairman of the Capital Improvement Board, even though the CIB had oversight over Conseco Fieldhouse where the Pacers already had a sweetheart deal. During his time in office, the Grand-led CIB pledged, without so much as taking a vote, to send millions more in taxpayer dollars to the Pacers, a promise that was fulfilled this year.

Unfortunately, the dangers of the local revolving door and conflicts of interest too often get ignored by our local media. It is unclear to me why the Indianapolis Star in particular ran a lengthy series about the state legislature revolving door while ignoring the one closer to home.


dcrutch said...

Amen, Mr. Ogden.

I know said...

Someone needs to look at the no door on the barn in the Indiana Gaming Directors office. Hidden complaints uncovered by a northern Indiana paper no one in Indianapolis wants anyone to know about.

State appointed officials resigning from commissions under the control of the Gaming Commission and then being awarded 40 year contracts after the Gaming Director asks all the IG, AG and Dept of Admin folks to look the other way.

Governor Daniels, the media, the legal profession and the courts all know about the mess and the former state appointed official given the contract 70 days after he resigned broke the revolving door law, crushed the ethics laws and then was allowed to default on the very contract he helped write and the AG, IG and Gaming Commission all signed off on.

Wake up Indiana.

Bradley said...

I have a feeling Mitch Daniels is not actually interested in looking at revolving doors or ethics problems - there must be something about this particular case that he wants to make as an example to show he is the sheriff who doesn't allow that stuff to happen on his watch.

As you have repeatedly mentioned in past blog entries, Daniels does not care about any of the people under him and what they do (until they start to embarrass him). He ignored your situation, he's ignored Mitch Roob, he's ignored all the problems at DWD (half of which have not even made the press yet), and many other situations during his tenure.

I agree with you that what Ballard has done (or left undone) with the city is terrible, and apparently only getting worse the closer he gets to the end of his term. I think Daniels is actually just as bad (maybe even worse if what has happened at DWD translates over to his other departments run by cronies). I think Daniels keeps his ethical problems less obvious because he is a) apparently smarter than Ballard and b) has a much better press relations group/propagandists than Ballard does.