INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Top Statehouse Democrats called Thursday for a review
of the Indiana inspector general's office following several cases that
they say raise questions about the ethics code applied to those in the
executive branch of state government.
Sen. Tim Lanane and Rep. Scott Pelath sent a letter to Inspector General
David Thomas seeking a "fundamental review" of the office's duties. They
cited a number of troubling cases, including a scandal over former schools
chief Tony Bennett's changes to the school grading formula to benefit a
top Republican donor's school.
The Associated Press last week published emails showing Bennett and his
staff changed the grading formula to raise Christel House Academy's score
from a C to an A. School founder Christel DeHaan has donated $2.8 million
to Republicans since 1998, including $130,000 to Bennett.
Indiana's school grades are used to determine how much money schools get
and whether "failing" schools are taken over by private operators. They
also have become critical economic development tools in recent years, used
in part by homebuyers picking locations based on the quality of their
Bennett denies any wrongdoing, but he resigned as Florida's education
commissioner. He has asked the Indiana inspector general's office to
review his handling of the formula change.
The Democratic lawmakers called Bennett's request "rugged new terrain" for
the office and questioned its role in absolving Bennett of any ethical
They also cited concerns about rulings involving Interstate 69 land deals
by an Indiana Department of Transportation official and his family and
former Gov. Mitch Daniels' appointment as Purdue University's president
upon leaving office in January.
Pelath and Lanane also ask Thomas whether he intends to pursue an update
of the executive branch's code of ethics.
Daniels established the Inspector General's office on his first day in
office in 2005. The office is charged with investigating criminal and
ethics violations by state employees and contractors and writing the
Indiana Code of Ethics.
Thomas, who was appointed by Daniels, did not immediately return a message
from The Associated Press seeking comment.