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Open Sesame: INDOT, Guv's Office Reprimanded For Public Records Violations

YeswereopenSo much for the most open administration in history:

"The Indiana Department of Transportation violated state law regarding requests made by the Indiana Democratic Party, and the governor's office has been unreasonable and untimely in responding to separate inquiries, the state public access counselor said.

"Access Counselor Karen Davis detailed her conclusions in a letter sent Wednesday to the Democratic Party. The party had questioned whether INDOT and Gov. Mitch Daniels' office were following the open records law regarding requests for e-mails by certain officials and highway feasibility studies.

"Messages seeking comment were left with the governor's press office and INDOT.

"Davis concluded that INDOT violated the law by failing to provide an initial response to one request within 24 hours, and said it was 'troubling' that it took five months to inform the party that e-mails requested of agency Commissioner Tom Sharp were not available because he deletes them.

"She said 'to the extent that some of the e-mails were required to be retained, and are no longer available,' the agency violated the law."

If you would like to read the the complete informal opinion, you can download it here: Download indiana_democratic_party_51006.doc

Think Twice, Speak Once: Guv Has Some Choice Words About South Bend

SouthbendHey, South Bend, did you know you suck? At least that's what Mitch Daniels thinks. He sold your road, and he recently sold you out at the St. Joseph County Lincoln Day Dinner. Because nothing says lovin' like tearing down a city's reputation:

"Daniels also talked about how many jobs have been created in Indiana -- 85,000 since January 2005 -- and how more and more companies have talked to him about coming to different parts of the state.

"South Bend, he said, is not one of those areas.

"'It's a part of the state we don't get a lot of calls from people who say, 'Tell me about South Bend," Daniels said. 'Things have to change here because we need to get those calls. We believe every part of the state has great potential.'

"The state's success is beginning to come economically, but I don't see the same thing happening in South Bend, Indiana.'"

Among the Guv's other choice comments about South Bend: "If we looked at the world as some of your local politicians do, there wouldn't be 10 cents in our plan for St. Joe County, but that isn't the way we operate."

Q&A: Should The State Reimburse All Or Some Employees For Travel, Lodging?

HighwayIn light of the Rhoad deal and un-deal, the ever-thoughtful Fort Wayne Journal Gazette editorial board asks some open-ended questions about what state government should pay for with respect to employees who live outside the metropolitan Indianapolis area:

"Should state government offer some economic incentives for people from outside Indianapolis to accept employment? After all, state legislators receive $134 per day during the General Assembly’s session to defer living and traveling expenses. The state treasurer, Indiana attorney general and five other elected state government administrators (not including the governor) by law receive a $12,000 'housing maintenance allowance.'

"If other high-ranking administrators become eligible for such reimbursements, should rank-and-file workers as well?

"Yet businesses do not generally reimburse commuting expenses. And people who accept high-ranking state positions should be motivated as much by performing public service as making money, if not more so. Is moving or commuting to Indianapolis just part of accepting employment with state government?

"State officials and lawmakers should consider those issues and, if they and their constituents believe it is appropriate, develop an equitable policy on reimbursements. A policy calling for a monthly stipend linked to an employee’s distance from Indianapolis might be appropriate.

"Employees should not necessarily expect to be reimbursed for every dime they spend. What should not happen is for the state to creatively craft unique policies for specific employees, as it did in Rhoads's case."

What do you think?

From The Beating Beat: Matt Tully Sits Down For A Chat With The Flogger

Flogger_1What would Wednesday be without an open discussion about flogging? Matt Tully chills out with GOP Senate hopeful and full-time wingnut Greg Walker to get the inside scoop on the candidate's position on public flogging, which he advocated in a letter to the editor:

"And so, as we sat down for coffee at a Bob Evans just off I-65 Tuesday, I handed Walker a copy of his letter to the editor and asked for an explanation.

"'Public debate,' he said about what led him to write the letter. 'I guarantee you it is not a priority of (mine) to introduce flogging legislation.'

"That's good.

"Still, Walker wouldn't back down from his stance. While saying anti-abortion legislation would be his top concern as a senator, he defended flogging as a biblically based punishment.

"'It's not a core value for me, but it's part of the inspired word of God, so I know it works,' he said. 'If that makes me a radical, then so be it. I'll accept the label. But I don't think it's a radical position.'

"Actually, it's the definition of a radical position. Walker, however, defines flogging as a 'compassionate' alternative to jail for some people convicted of crimes such as drug abuse or being drunk in public.

"Ahh, yes, compassionate whipping? I can't imagine why Walker didn't make that his campaign slogan."

For those who missed it last week, some clever soul has developed a website dedicated to Walker's stance on flogging. Funny stuff.

Willing And Abel: J-G Profiles Lawyer Taking On State's Toll Road Deal

LawbooksThe Fort Wayne Journal Gazette also carries a profile today of one of our favorite attorneys, Arend Abel, who's taking on, among other things, one of our favorite issues, the Indiana Toll Road lease. The piece is definitely worth a read:

"Abel’s clients argue the [Toll Road] bill that authorized the state to enter into a public-private agreement to run the Toll Road is unconstitutional because it spends proceeds from the “sale” of a state asset instead of paying down debt.

"They also contend several provisions of the law constitute 'special legislation' – which is prohibited by the Indiana Constitution – because the language affects only specific areas of the state. This includes monetary payments from the lease proceeds to counties along the Toll Road and specific language affecting the route of an Interstate 69 expansion.

"'This is what the Indiana framers were concerned about – giving special consideration to one area to gain votes,' Abel said.

"The 45-year-old has been practicing law for 20 years after his graduation from Ball State University and receipt of his law degree from Indiana University. He has been with the law firm Cohen & Malad for nearly three years."

Dick Leadership: Coverage From Star, Journal And AP Doesn't Make FSSA Look Good

Roob_1Here's the kind of story issuing poorly written statements defending a shady deal at the very end of the day gets you:

"After a week of rejecting complaints, the state on Tuesday canceled a controversial deal that let a top state official resign his $100,000 job, then do the same work for the state as a contractor for $180,000 a year.

"Richard Rhoad, the chief financial officer of Indiana's Family and Social Services Administration, will return to his job at the state agency.

"Harry Gonso, chief of staff to Gov. Mitch Daniels, said in a statement that Daniels agreed the move is 'appropriate and necessary.'

"'Sometimes what is legal and within the rules is still not enough. Appearances and public confidence also matter,' Gonso said."

The story ran below the fold on the Star's front page, and the online version is accompanied by a message board thread discussing the deal and its better-late-than-never reversal.

The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, which broke this story, wrote a piece that included this, begging us to ask "Where, exactly, is Dick Rhoad these days?"

"Roob, Gov. Mitch Daniels and State Budget Director Chuck Schalliol alternately defended the contract, saying the annual pay was increased to cover loss of health benefits and to ensure Rhoad’s travel expenses were covered.

"Daniels also said outside expertise was needed to clean up the agency.

"But on Tuesday, the governor’s chief of staff, Harry Gonso, said Daniels welcomed the decision and agreed it is appropriate and necessary.

"'As the governor has said, sometimes what is legal and within the rules is still not enough. Appearances and public confidence also matter,' Gonso said.

"He also said Rhoad, 'has never been in this for the money,' and that taxpayers 'will be benefiting from Dick’s work for years to come.'

"Rhoad hasn’t returned numerous messages, including a call Tuesday afternoon, seeking comment."

We posted a link to the AP story last night, but in case you missed here, clickety here.

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