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Prosecution Rumors? Abdul Reports Bolejack May Not Face Criminal Charges

Icji_2Over at Indiana Barrister, Abdul has an update on the ICJI scandal and the possibility that Heather Bolejack could face criminal charges for her poor oversight:

"I'm told today that Heather Bolejack may not face criminal prosecution. The former director of the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute was fired on Friday, along with a deputy director Kate Gullans. Sources are telling me it doesn't look like Bolejack's actions rise to that of criminal conduct, but more than likely mismanagement. If that is the case Heather might want to stop talking to the press."

Sound advice, Abdul. She and everyone else involved in this should get the heck away from the cameras. They're just making things worse for themselves.

The Winds Of Change Are Blowing: ACLU, Star Losing Key Staff Members

Goodbyewave_1Some moving and shaking going on in the Statehouse press corps and the, uh, Indiana civil liberties corps.

ACLU of Indiana executive director Fran Quigley will be leaving his post next month for a gig at the Indiana University School of Medicine working with the IU-Kenya partnership program that's renowned for its work fighting the African HIV-AIDS pandemic. Yay for Fran. Sad for the ACLU.

In news of the news, veteran Indy Star Statehouse reporter Michele McNeil is leaving her position at the paper at the end of the month. She's headed to Maryland to work for Education Week, an independent newspaper of record for K-12 education in America. Yay for Michele. Sad for Star readers. (Michele has many wonderful education and government stories to her name, and her byline will be greatly missed 'round here.)

And there you have it.

In Search Of Positive News: Guv Needs To Repair Damage, Public Image

Newspaper4As our favorite GOP visitor just pointed out, the Guv's doing his best to mitigate the damage caused by his Three Very Bad Weeks. He's announcing "Major Moves" spending across the state (remember, folks, that's money he got selling off your assets, and INDOT hasn't really done any projects for the past 16 months, so this looks more impressive than it is), and he had to name the mystery company that may or may not be locating here (we obviously hope they do, for the record).

But we're most interested by the continued spinning coming from the Department of Workforce Development, which, as you may recall, has had troubles in the past producing accurate jobs data. They recently released numbers that indicate the state added 18,500 jobs between April 2005 and April 2006. Great. That's wonderful news.

Except that they're still down from the prior year's numbers, which show the addition of 28,300 jobs between April 2004 and April 2005. You might note that Democrats were in office for most of that time.

The Guv needs to make some positive headlines, and he'll no doubt do that with these stories, but Hoosiers should bear in mind that the picture he paints is a tad shinier than the true state of the state. We're still waiting for some long-term leadership. Looks like we might have to wait until oh-eight for that.

Indiana Democrats Take On Paul Begala: A Message From The Heart[land]

BegalabobbleheadGirl TDW tries really hard not to mix work-work and blog-work, but this is an exception to the rule. And we're all about breaking our own self-made rules. Now, we know there are those of you who are going to make comments about Howard Dean. We've heard them all before, but feel free to say what you will.

A week or so ago, CNN commentator Paul Begala thwacked Dean over the head for his 50-state strategy, which, as the name implies, funds Democratic National Committee staff in every state. Here's what Begala said: "What [Dean] has spent it on, apparently, is just hiring a bunch of staff people to wander around Utah and Mississippi and pick their nose."

As you can see from the link above, Utah already responded to Begala. Today, the Indiana Democratic Party did, too. Here's that letter:

"Dear Mr. Begala:

"I write to express my extreme dismay at the comments you recently made concerning Gov. Howard Dean’s leadership of the Democratic National Committee and his implementation of a national vision that includes a funding component for every state.

"You clearly aren’t aware of the political landscape in the Midwest and have spent too much time in Washington, D.C. You’ve done a great disservice to our Party and to those of us working at the grassroots level to win back Congressional seats, as well as statewide and local offices.

"Indiana could have easily been lumped in with Utah and Mississippi as Republican bastions. I know we look like a red state to folks on the East Coast. As Presidential races go, we turn crimson on CNN an hour after our polls close.

"But we had Democratic Governors at the Statehouse for 16 years prior to 2004. A majority of our mayors are Democrats. We are poised to win back a Democratic majority in the Indiana House of Representatives which we have held for 14 of the last 18 years.

"If that history doesn’t impress you, here’s a fact that’s made other ears inside the Beltway perk up: This year, Indiana has three – one, two, three – nationally targeted Congressional races. That means we could send a trifecta of Democrats to the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives, potentially delivering 20 percent of the seats Democrats need to win back a majority in that chamber.

"We couldn’t be doing the work we’re doing without the support of the DNC and Howard Dean.

Continue reading "Indiana Democrats Take On Paul Begala: A Message From The Heart[land]" »

The Energizer Story: Now McKenna Wants To Share His Side Of The ICJI Deal

CurvyroadsignJust when you thought the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute story might be over, it takes another turn for the interesting:

"The man behind the $417,000 contract with the Criminal Justice Institute, which has sparked an Inspector General investigation and high-level firings, said today that the casualty of this political firestorm are the children of incarcerated adults he wanted to help.

"Though Gov. Mitch Daniels' office said there's 'clear evidence' that Michael McKenna didn't provide any work for the money, McKenna has receipts and schedules that he said speak to the contrary.

"In an interview with The Indianapolis Star, McKenna said he was using the $80,000 he received in the first installment to hire staff, develop a website, plan the program, buy advertising and make contacts with local leaders. He objected to assertions that he didn't work for the money, and said the last two weeks have been difficult.

"'I have been interrogated, investigated and implicated,' McKenna said.

"Former Criminal Justice Institute executive director Heather Bolejack was fired for inappropriately handling the grant, which was awarded to a friend of her husband's. A deputy was also fired for falsifying travel documents.

"The program, called Saving Kids of Incarcerated Parents (SKIP), was designed to help children whose parents are in prison by keeping them from being involved in gangs, crime and delinquency. McKenna said he never received any more than the initial $80,000, as state officials took back $110,000 they had approved for his second installment.

"He said Bolejack was up front with her staff that McKenna was a close friend of her husband's. McKenna said Bolejack made introductions but then left the decision-making process up to other Institute officials.

"McKenna said he followed the grant process and did nothing wrong, but has been left to twist in the wind by the Daniels' administration."

Bush Approval Numbers Dip Again, But Where, Oh Where, Will The Guv Come In?

DownarrowPresident Bush's SurveyUSA numbers in Indiana hit an all-time low this month: He's now at 36 percent approval and 61 percent disapproval according to data released yesterday.

You know what they usually release a day or two after the White House numbers? It's hard to imagine that the Guv could dip much lower, but time will tell. Especially if they fielded the poll while the FSSA contract scandal was still unresolved.

The Blame Game: Not The Answer To Life, The Universe And Everything

HomeworkThe Guv tried to paint the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute mess as the first to occur on his watch and to be discovered by his Inspector General within his administration. He told reporters last week that 42 criminal referrals from the IG's office have dealt with the past administration. It would appear that he needs to get a rewrite on those talking points, too:

"When questioned about it Monday, Daniels’ press secretary Jane Jankowski said the number '42' refers to the 31 names submitted to prosecutors in 2005 as well as 11 more so far in 2006.

"The 2005 total is also listed in the inspector general's annual report but doesn't differentiate between activity that occurred in the current or previous administrations

"Jankowski said, 'the point (Daniels) was trying to make was that this was the first case of an employee either hired or appointed by this administration involved in a criminal prosecution.'

"The most serious cases uncovered by the inspector general so far did occur under former Gov. Joe Kernan and Gov. Frank O’Bannon – including a major welfare fraud scheme and fraud in the First Steps program.

"But the first-ever inspector general case to result in a criminal charge ocurred in March 2005. A Department of Natural Resources employee told her supervisors that someone bidding on a contract offered her a bribe to make sure it was awarded to him.

"The contractor was charged with felony bribery.

"In addition to the DNR bribe case, The Journal Gazette used information on the inspector general’s Web site and newspaper archives from around the state to find at least three other cases that resulted in criminal charges under Daniels’ watch.

"•Fort Wayne woman Marilyn J. Schaab was charged with ghost employment and theft after an IG investigation that found the Department of Labor investigator operated her own business on several Fridays in the summer of 2005 while she was supposed to be on the clock working for the state.

"•A woman in Grant County was charged with forgery after she allegedly forged a letter in July 2005 from the director of the Indiana Small Business Development Center in an attempt to establish a small business in Marion.

"•Also included in the referral statistics is when two agents for the inspector general who had met at a truck stop plaza helped catch a man after he allegedly took money left on a table by a previous customer. The man was charged with theft."

Reap And Sow: How Far The Mighty Have Veered Off The Campaign Trail

Whiteflag_1Here's a column from Mike Smith of the Associated Press that the Guv probably didn't appreciate, given the kind of month he's been having. What is that old saying? Golden something or other? Ah, yes. Rule. That's it. The Golden Rule:

"For a governor who has hailed his commitment to running an open and clean administration, Mitch Daniels has taken some hits to that pledge in recent days.

"Daniels and the Indiana Republican Party spent months during the 2004 gubernatorial campaign blasting the previous Democratic administrations of Frank O'Bannon and Joe Kernan for running a sloppy shop riddled with scandal and waste.

"Daniels and his inspector general, a post he first created by executive order and then got put into state law, have spent months alleging transgressions from the past. Daniels inherited some agencies that were disasters, he has said; this previously hired employee did this unlawful or unethical act, and this one did that, the new team alleged.

"Now, in just the past two weeks, the administration has done an about-face on a private contract awarded to one of its top officials; the state's public access counselor said the Indiana Department of Transportation violated the open records law and the governor's office had been unreasonable in responding to separate records requests; and an agency head appointed by Daniels was fired at his request.

"The Indiana Democratic Party cited two of those incidents and some previous ones in saying that 'The governor's record illustrates his lackluster commitment to open and ethical government.'

"It's the same kind of claim Daniels made about Democratic administrations during his campaign."

Here We Spin Again: ICJI Clusterwhat Drags On And On In Media Court

Icji_1It would appear that the administration has adopted a pretty sound strategy to deal with this seemingly endless Heather Bolejack tirade. It's similar to what attorneys do when they let witnesses impeach themselves on the stand. And it's pretty simple, really: Just let her keep talking, and eventually she'll say something that contradicts something she said earlier.

Case in point: It's all Kate Gullans' fault! No, wait, sayeth the state. Kate raised a lot of questions about this deal. Dang. To tell the truth, this is becoming kind of dull and predictable, but we'll still post it for public discussion.

"In the e-mail released Monday and dated August 2005, Gullans wrote to another staff member that she had 'major concerns' about the grant to McKenna.

"'Outside of me writing the grant . . . which I feel I almost will need to do . . . it is still very weak in the project description as to what they will actually be doing,' Gullans wrote. She also pointed out the Criminal Justice Institute initiated the grant through a meeting Bolejack called.

"Bolejack on Monday acknowledged helping McKenna navigate the grant process and introducing him to staff but said she then removed herself from the decision-making process.

"Under the grant agreement, McKenna Consulting planned to spend $185,000 on salaries, $25,000 on travel and $4,500 on equipment. The grant was to help children of prisoners.

"Bolejack said she was not the program manager and therefore wasn't monitoring to see if the grant money was spent wisely.

"McKenna would not comment Monday.

"Daniels appointed the 31-year-old attorney to her $86,716-a-year job as executive director of the justice institute in April 2005. She was one of his few minority appointees.

"'My battle isn't an issue of race,' Bolejack said to the radio show's listeners who appeared mostly sympathetic. 'My fight is for the truth and for my personal dignity.'

"She said her experience would discourage people from entering public service.

"'I think it's scary to any person who has a lot to risk,' she said."

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