Question of ethics: Should agency heads be fundraising?

The Indiana Ethics Commission has issued an "opinion" on the matter of state agency heads attending political fundraisers. I say "opinion" because looking over today's article by Niki Kelly, I'm not even sure that the Commission itself really knows what they ruled:

In the end, the members agreed that going to fundraisers isn’t a problem so long as they are just “one in a crowd.”

The official opinion reflects that discussion by saying, “the commission is of the opinion that mere attendance to a political fundraising event by an agency appointing authority on their personal time would not necessarily be contrary to the restrictions set forth in … the political activity rule.

“However, the commission recognizes that each situation is unique and under certain circumstances, the attendance of an agency appointing authority to a political fundraising event could potentially result in a violation of any portion of the political activity rule.”

So it's totally fine, except when it's not. Is that clear?

Latino Affairs: Guv Signs Contract With, Gives Raise To Juana Watson

Moneyman Remember Juana Watson, the Guv's Director of Latino Affairs, who got herself in some ethical hot water in 2006 over an all-expenses-paid vacation she reportedly took to Puerto Rico? (Click here and here for a bit of a refresher.)

Anyway, it looks like the Guv just authorized a $105,000 contract to continue paying her through the end of 2008. It doesn't look like a renewal contract, so it's unclear whether Watson was previously working without a contract or whether she's been moved from state employee status to contract status retroactively. (Either way, she got a monthly income bump from last year to this year, which must be nice.)

Here's a copy of the contract authorized on March 7: Watson Contract

And here are the duties, compensation and term listed in said contract:

1. Duties of Contractor. Contractor shall be responsible for coordinating and supervising Latino outreach efforts on behalf of the Office of the Governor. Contractor's responsibilities shall include, among others: (i) presenting cultural awareness programs in state government agencies, (ii) coordinating with the Indiana Civil Rights Commission to promote the protection of rights for Latinos, (iii) working with the Department of Education to combat the high level of school dropout rates in Latino communities, (iv) working with the Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) to inform the Latino community about rules and regulations, (v) working to develop and form Latino Centers in large metropolitan areas and outreach programs in rural areas of the State, and (vi) working with other immigrant and ethnic groups to help them become integrated to the State of Indiana. This list of duties is not meant to be all-inclusive, and from time to time can be adjusted in accordance with the needs of the Office of the Governor in consultation with and agreement of the Contractor.

2. Consideration. Contractor shall be paid three thousand seven hundred fifty dollars (3,750.00) per month beginning January 2007 and five thousand dollars ($5,000.00) per month beginning January 2008. Total remuneration under this Contract shall not exceed one hundred and five thousand dollars ($105,000.00).

3. Term. This Contract shall be effective for a period of twenty-four (24) months, becoming effective on January 1,2007 and ending on December 31 ,2008.

Latham Revisited: Ethics Panel Takes FSSA, Former Chaplain To Task

Fssa_2UPDATE: If you'd like to read the Inspector General's report on Latham, here it is: Latham.pdf

Oops. TDW somehow missed this gem from the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette on her morning news roundup.

What say we end the day with a recap of another serious ethical lapse that happened on the Guv's watch and was perpetrated by one of the Guv's hires -- in this case, someone for whom the Guv created a brand-new position within his administration.

The Indiana Ethics Commission Thursday cleared the Rev. Michael Latham of ghost employment allegations but said the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration failed to adequately monitor him as an employee.

The case goes back to when Latham was the FSSA chaplain. He was hired in early 2006 at a salary of $60,000, compared with $32,000 for other state chaplains.

He was issued a state car and allowed to work from Fort Wayne, where he is president of the local NAACP chapter.

His performance came under fire in June 2007 in various media reports. By August, Latham was recovering from an unspecified serious illness and FSSA eliminated his position.

In October, he filed for bankruptcy.

According to the final report of the ethics commission, Latham took personal trips to Miami and St. Louis in April 2007 on behalf of Taser International, an Arizona-based company that sells stun guns. But his state attendance forms showed that he worked on those days.

The ethics commission found that though those forms were completed improperly, he made up those hours under an adjusted work schedule. He also submitted weekly reports to his supervisor reflecting that he had worked 37.5 hours during those time periods.

But commission member V. Sue Shields made sure to note the lackadaisical monitoring of Latham by FSSA and mentioned that Latham had a casual attitude during a hearing on the allegations last month.

In the end, the report said both parties failed to adhere to good business practices.

A separate report by state Inspector General David Thomas also released Thursday said he started an investigation into Latham after reading media reports on his productivity and possible conflict with outside employment.

In that report, Thomas also noted that while Latham had a valid driver’s license when he began state employment, it became suspended afterward and he continued to drive a state-issued vehicle as part of his state job.

Officials at FSSA declined to comment Thursday, and Latham thought he was vindicated.

Structural Support: IG Looks Into How Indiana State Museum Is Operated

Magnify The Inspector General releases a report today on the management structure of the Indiana State Museum.

You can read it here.

And Stay Out: Some Get The Boot, Others Get Their Wrists Slapped

Closed Inspector General Dave Thomas has banned three former rank-and-file state employees from public service after they were charged with crimes related to their jobs.

That's fine, but will we ever see similar punishments exacted upon ethically challenged folks higher up the food chain?

What ever happened to leading by example? Did these other folks not waste taxpayer time and money? Shouldn't we send the message that unethical behavior won't be tolerated at any level?

Digging Deeper: What's Going On Out There That The IG Hasn't Found?

Magnify1Inspector General Dave Thomas continues to churn out investigative reports at a record pace.

Today, we read about Natasha Wilson, a caseworker in Allen County suspected of theft.

Is there anything else going on out there in state government?

General Inspection: IG Posts Three New Reports, Two On Employee Theft

Magnify2The Office of Inspector General has posted three new reports on its website. The first deals with an IG Special Agent assisting with the apprehension of an impaired driver.

The other two deal with alleged theft by Department of Revenue employees Deondra Lovette Causey and Trent Alan Evans.

Keeping Tabs: New IG Report Details Status Of Sex Offender List

Magnify2The Office of Inspector General released a report yesterday on the status of the Indiana Sex Offender Registry.

In case you're interested in what ol' Dave Thomas has been spending your tax dollars looking into.

Test Drive? Motor Pool Boss In Hot Water For Taking Home State Cars

Wishtv1_2 The open-ended State Motor Pool question from earlier in the day has been answered by WISH-TV investigative reporter Pam Elliot:

"The Indiana State Motor Pool Superintendent is accused of misusing state property.  Superintendent Ray Malospiriti defended himself during an ethics hearing on Thursday.

"The Superintendent claimed he took home state vehicles five to six times and he was 'test driving' them.  During the hearing Malospiriti called a former service supervisor to testify.  Malospiriti asked Edmond Powell if he asked him to test drive vehicles on occasion to assess a problem, he answered yes.

"But, the attorney from the State Inspector General's Office said Malospiriti is not a mechanic and had no business taking state vehicles home.

"One former employee testified she remembers asking the Superintendent about a state vehicle he brought back after a weekend.

"'I had asked how did it get so dirty? And it was stated there was a church function and at the function it had rained been muddy and wet and that's how the mud got into the vehicle and upholstery,' said Lisa Merrilees.

"The Superintendent admitted on one occasion he was driving his family around in a state vehicle that is also against state rules.

"The State Ethics Commission will consider the testimony and decide if rules were broken and if the Superintendent should be punished.

"The Commission could do a number of things including fine Malospiriti, fire him and ban him from any future state employment."

For Charity: IG Explains What State Workers Can, Can't Do On Public Time

Dollar_signThe Office of Inspector General interprets and clarifies the ethics rules with respect to state employees raising money for the State Employees Community Campaign in this report.

Nothing sinister here. Just thought you might want to see what the IG's been up to.

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