Saturday, March 04, 2006

It's Bedtime For Gonso


Gov. Daniels' chief of staff, Harry Gonso, confirmed to the Star's State House reporter, Mary Beth Schneider, that he had offered state jobs to two Democratic House members, Rep. Robert Bischoff (D-Greendale) and Rep. Vern Tincher (D-Riley).

Both House members are from marginal districts, and the offer came as the Governor was lobbying the legislature hard for support of his Major Moves' initiative. At the time, both members were widely rumored to have been considering retirement in order to take advantage of the health insurance for life perk House Speaker Bosma is ending after this year. If they had accepted the jobs, Republican hopes of maintaining control of the House would have improved with these two seats in play.

Rep. Bischoff was offered a $60,000 position on the state's Workers Compensation Board and Rep. Tincher was offered a $55,000 position on the Indiana Parole Board. According to the report, "Gonso said his focus was finding qualified people for the jobs, which remain unfilled and which, by law, must be filled by Democrats to preserve political balance." "Governor Daniels thinks highly of both of these representatives," Gonso said. "It's nothing more than that."

Baloney. If Gonso had truly been seeking qualified Democrats to serve in these critical positions, he wouldn't have had to look far to find persons more qualified than Bischoff or Tincher, who are among the dimmer bulbs in the House. While Advance Indiana has been a strong advocate of most of Gov. Daniels' policies, we are appalled by this revelation. Gov. Daniels promised he would find the best and brightest people to serve in state government. Neither Bischoff nor Tincher come close to meeting his high standard for service in state government. He also pledged the highest of ethical standards in the conduct of state government.

The motivation behind Gonso's job offers to the two legislators is quite transparent. It's called bribery. We send people to jail for committing these types of public crimes. Unfortunately, prosecutors rarely prosecute these types of cases because of the difficulty in proving the quid pro quo. Former Gov. Evan Bayh's legislative director, Ann Delaney, got caught offering jobs to three Republican lawmakers during the 1990 legislative while she was lobbying to get legislative support for Gov. Bayh's plan to use lottery proceeds for economic development and highway projects. A criminal investigation by then-Marion Co. Prosecutor Steve Goldsmith ended with no indictments. Delaney did, however, make a quick exit from the Bayh administration in the fallout of the investigation. And so should Gonso.

If Gov. Daniels does not immediately fire Gonso for this serious breach of the public trust, then he is telling us that he really isn't serious about cleaning up corruption in state government. The high ethical standards he has set for state employees should extend to everyone, including the people who work in his office.

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