Thursday, February 24, 2011

Attorney General Greg Zoeller Fires DAG Claiming Need for State Officials To Have "Higher Standards"; Meanwhile Zoeller Targets Whistleblowers Who Point Out Unethical and Illegal Conduct By State Officials

Yesterday, Deputy Attorney General Jeff Cox was fired for "tweeting" about using "live ammunition" on union protesters in Wisconsin.  I have been around Jeff a few times and I know he has a tendency to say provocative things to spur a response.  I know not to take the comments seriously as they're intended as satire, a fact he confirmed in a press release about his firing published today.  But in today's world where spoken satire because written through such devices as Twitter, satire can be misrepresented and used against the author.

Attorney General Greg Zoeller
The irony is that Attorney General Greg Zoeller is trying to take the moral high road by the firing. Given the record of Zoeller and former Attorney General Steve Carter when it comes to public ethics, they do not deserve kudos for for the firing.  Let's examine a few snippets of that record.

A few years ago, my client, then a deputy prosecutor in Lake County, attempted to report ghost employment in the office. The child support division where she worked employed a child support case worker, the nephew of a local judge.  My client noticed that he would come in for just a few hours in the afternoon and make calls in Spanish.  He had no client files in his office or a computer to use for cases like the other case workers. When my client asked him about what child support investigations he had been assigned, he responded that he had no cases and that his job was as a "vote gettter" in the Latino community for Lake County Prosecutor Bernard Carter..  My client looked up records which showed the employee was receiving full-time pay for no work, i.e. ghost employment.  When she persisted in pointing out the ghost employment to supervisors at the prosecutor's office, she was terminated.  I filed a free speech/wrongful termination lawsuit on her behalf in the Federal District Court in Hammond.

Did Attorney General Steve Carter's investigate the documented case ghost employment in the Lake County Prosecutor's Office?  Absolutely not.  Instead the AG's office immediately went after my client big time, assigning several deputies and paralegals to the case, dumping loads of paper on us in an obvious attempt to intimidate us.  The Atttorney General's Office devoted such resources to the case you would have thought that Steve Carter himself had been accused of ghost employment.
Former Attorney General Steve Carter

My client had taken a digital recorder with her to record the meeting at which she was terminated.  That is perfectly legal in Indiana as long as one person to the conversation knows of the recording.  The meeting lasted about 1 1/2 hours.  During discovery the Attorney  General's Office asked for the recording.  When my computer expert friends couldn't figure out how to make a copy of the digital recording, I finally had no choice but to provide the digital recorder to Patricia Orloff Erdmann of the Attorney General's Office.  I left instructions that she was make a copy (if she could) and/or a transcript and return it to me when finished.

A couple months later I took a job at the Department of Insurance and had to withdraw from the case.  My client, who of course is an attorney herself, began representing herself.  She asked for the recorder back.  Erdmann sent her an email saying that she couldn't return the recorder because they had no idea how the recorder got to the AG's office and they were investigating.. (Of course that wasn't true.)  When Erdmann still refused to return the recorder, my now former client went to the court and got an order for its return. 

Erdmann responded to the order by filing a notice with the federal court that the digital recorder couldn't be returned because it had been subpoened for a federal grand jury investigation of my client for wire tap fraud.  The AG's office had responded to the court order by going out and getting a subpoena, which was requested by Chuck Todd, one of the very top supervisors in the Attorney General's Office, someone who had no previous involvement with the case. It was apparent later the reason for the subpoena - to get it out of the AG's hands.

Erdmann had lied to the federal court.  According to my client, when she contacted the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District, officials there were confused about why they had been sent the digital recorder when there in fact was no wiretap grand jury investigation going on.  Later she said she talked to an FBI agent who was confused as to what he was supposed to be listening for as he couldn't find any recording of the meeting on the digital recorder. (I had confirmed the recording was on the digital recorder when I left it at the AG's office.)  When the digital recorder was was finally mailed back, my client found that the  recording of the 1 1/2 hour meeting had been erased, even though the recordings of what immediately proceeded and followed the meeting were still on the recorder.  It appeared as if someone intentionally erased the recording of the meeting, and given the chain of custody, all signs pointed to the Attorney General's office as being involved in the destruction of evidence. 

Did the Attorney General do any investigation of Erdmann and the rest of the office?. Nope. In fact, Erdmann received a big promotion nearly doubling her pay during the time the case was pending.  Today Erdmann is one of the top supervisors in the Attorney General's Office.  Neither Carter or Zoeller has ever looked into Erdmann's misconduct or that of possibly others in his office, conduct that was not only unethical but could constitute a felony.

About the time Erdmann began beign accused of misconduct by my client, long-time veteran Deputy Attorney General David Arthur took over the case.  He went on the attack, making the preposterous claimin a court filing that my former client had erased the recording, therefore destroying evidence favorable for her case.  Arthur's allegation appeared to be nothing more than a strategy to deflect attention from misconduct by members of the Attorney General's Office.  In the eventual settlement agreement, the AG's office even attempted to get itself included so that my former client couldn't pursue the AG for destroying evidence.  The effort failed.

A few years later, I tried to report illegal activity the Department of Insurance, including the diversion of money from the title insurance dedicated fund and harassment of employees in the Consumer Protection Division.  I crafted a detailed memo outlining problems at the Department and the illegal activity and submitted to then Insurance Commissioner James Atterholt.  The response was immediate.  Atterholt told me to resign or be fired. 

Did the Attorney General's Office ever investigate my claims to see if they were true?  Absolutely not.  The AG's office didn't make the first call to check out the information I provided.  Of course that didn't stop the AG from sending me a form letter falsely claiming that my notice of tort claim had been "investigated" and found to be without merit.  (Funny thing, they never conducted me during that "ivnestigation" or looked at information I had backing up my claims.)   When I filed the whistleblowing lawsuit, the response of the Attorney General's was to go after me, the whistleblower, with both barrels blazing.

Then there was the cas of a former client of mine who tried to report a conflict of interest in the awarding of a casino contract in French Lick.  He had documented the conflict in extraordinary detail and tried to present it to the Attorney General's Office. The representative at the AG's office wasn't interested in even looking at the documentation he had and warned the whistleblower that no good deed goes unpunished. The AG's office simply wasn't interested in whether laws were broken in the awarding of the contract.

Last year we filed the qui tam whistleblowing lawsuit about the fact that prosecutors throughout the state who have for years been keeping millions of dollars that should have been turned over to the common school fund, a fact that Attorneys General Carter and Zoeller have known about for more than a decade.  What did Attorney General Greg Zoeller do?  Well he claimed publicly to have done an investigation into our allegations, which is surprising since he never bothered to contact our office or ask to look at the information we had gathered from public records requests.  Instead, Zoeller did what his office always does when there is a whistleblower - the AG goes after the whistleblower.  Zoeller asked for zero accountability from the prosecutors.  He does not even want to even know how much money they have walked off with over the years.

The fact is the Indiana Attorney General's Office, under both Steve Carter and Greg Zoeller, has a history of looking the other way when it comes to misconduct by public officials.  When whistleblowers dare to point out public misconduct, Zoeller and Carter have spare no effort in aggressively going after those whistleblowers.  So when Zoeller tries to claim the moral high ground for firing Jeff Cox, I have to wonder if is really about doing what is right or a selfish attempt by Zoeller to protect his own reputation.  I am going to guess the latter.


Nicolas Martin said...

Cox was content to work for these cretins, right?

Black Bart said...

Excellent post, Paul.

One of the most corrupt form of politicizing is doing nothing when something needs doing.

Paul K. Ogden said...


The AG's office is a huge office and many of the attorneys have little if any interaction with the AG. There are plenty of fine attorneys there. But some are not so ethical and others have no problem helping to cover up correction.

I never had a problem with Jeff Cox. He always did his job professionally and ethically. I can't say that about everyone who works at the AG's office.

Nicolas Martin said...

Forgive me in advance for posting this...

That a government agency is large does not excuse those who work for it. (Slip Nazi analogy here.)

Attorney's General and their hirelings do deplorable things, and enforce deplorable laws. A lawyer like Cox chooses his occupational path; joining the legal cartel was not thrust upon him, nor was opting to work for the state. He shares responsibility for the privations and subjugations inflicted by his agency on the public.

To borrow from Jefferson, the state has "sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance," and Cox was a very willing one of those officers.

guy77money said...

Maybe Jeff Cox should read Paul Krugman's column in the N.Y. Times (Economist's View) before making silly tweets. It will be interesting to see if he will sue to get his job back. After reading this column the wrong guy lost his jib.

I suspect the shenanigans Gov. Walker is pulling in Wisconsin will get him voted out of office in the next election. This will probably set the Republicans back a couple of years in Wisconsin.