INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The State Ethics Commission is set to review a
proposed settlement Thursday in the ethics case against former Indiana
Schools Superintendent Tony Bennett.
David Thomas filed charges last November alleging Bennett violated state
ethics laws by using public employees and state resources for "political
campaign fundraising, responding to a political opponent's assertions,
scheduling campaign meetings, scheduling campaign telephone calls, and/or
other political and/or personal activity."
Both Thomas and
Bennett's defense attorney, Jason Barclay, declined to discuss the details
of the settlement before Thursday's commission meeting. It will be up to
the five-member ethics commission to decide whether to approve the
Press investigation found that Bennett and his staff had kept copies of
Republican Party fundraising lists on state computers. One list, dubbed
"The Big Hitter List" included contact information for mega-donor Christel
DeHaan and a suggestion that Bennett press her for more money.
changed Indiana's school-grading system in 2012 to benefit DeHaan's
Indianapolis charter school, Christel House Academy. Bennett resigned as
Florida's schools chief last August, shortly after the AP published emails
showing his efforts to benefit DeHaan.
In both the
ethics case and the grade-change scandal, Bennett has said he did nothing
wrong. Bennett hired two of the state's most prominent defense attorneys,
Larry Mackey and Jason Barclay, to represent him in the ethics case.
Mackey previously led the prosecution of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy
McVeigh and Barclay rewrote the ethics laws in 2005 that Bennett is
accused of breaking.
Mackey has become
the state's most prominent white-collar criminal defense attorney,
defending convicted Ponzi-schemer Tim Durham at the start of his case and
successfully defending developer John Bales against fraud charges last
It is unclear if
anyone else is investigating Bennett. A spokeswoman for Marion County
Prosecutor Terry Curry, whose office handles prosecutions of state
officeholders, did not return a request for comment Monday. Tim Horty, a
spokesman for U.S. Attorney Joe Hogsett, said he could neither confirm nor
deny any federal investigation of Bennett.
"We are aware of
the IG's investigation and the existence of a report," Horty said.
It is against the
law for public officials to use state resources for campaign work. Almost
30 years ago, former Schools Superintendent Harold Negley was indicted on
charges of ghost employment and misuse of state resources for having his
employees perform campaign work. He submitted a guilty plea in 1985, and
was fined $1,000 and forced to do 2,000 hours of community service.
In one email from
Bennett, dated August 28, 2012, he asked then-Chief of Staff Heather Neal,
then-Deputy Chief of Staff Dale Chu and other top staffers to dissect a
campaign speech from his opponent, Democrat Glenda Ritz. Ritz upset
Bennett in the 2012 election a few months later.
"Below is a link
to Glenda's forum in Bloomington. It is 1:35 minutes. I would ask that
people watch this and scrub it for every inaccuracy and utterance of
stupidity that comes out of her mouth," Bennett wrote.
calendar also listed more than 100 entries of "campaign calls" during the
day, although it is not clear if he made the calls from inside the
Statehouse -- a violation of state law -- or somewhere else.
Communications Director Cam Savage downloaded one of the fundraising lists
to a Statehouse computer in 2009. In other emails, Bennett's staff talked
about doing campaign work during normal work hours. Neal resigned as Gov.
Mike Pence's chief lobbyist two weeks after the grade-changing scandal was
uncovered and took a job with Savage at the campaign firm Limestone