Monday, March 13, 2006

Now IU's Buying Legislators With Jobs

Not to be outdone by Ivy Tech, it turns out that our esteemed Indiana University is also buying legislative favors from state lawmakers with job offers, in an even more blatant manner than Ivy Tech. The Associated Press reveals an internal audit that discovered that two Democratic House members were paid $65,800 per year to help obtain training grants throught a state program for which the lawmakers appropriated the funds.

IU's Division of Labor Studies hired Rep. John Aguilera (D) and former Rep. Ron Liggett (D) to "help labor studies keep its state budget appropriation." The AP reports, "In a Sept. 24, 2004, faculty meeting, Davis said paying the lawmakers was 'better than losing $358,000 in a line item' and noted that Aguilera was on the budget-writing House Ways and Means Committee. The story doesn't mention this, but Liggett's son, Troy, served as then-House Speaker Pat Bauer's chief of staff. Bauer served as chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee for many years before becoming Speaker and continued to play a big role in the appropriations process as Speaker.

The audit found that one of the legislators had been successful in obtaining $487,978 for four training grants, while the other lawmaker had a grant approval pending before his job was eliminated. The article doesn't disclose which of the two lawmakers out-performed the other.

IU's Charles Davis, who served as the Division's director and who made the decision to give the jobs to Aguilera and Liggett, resigned after the audit was concluded. He is, however, still employed at the university as a full-time tenured professor. According to the audit, Davis made payments to the lawmakers for their work even though they didn't submit the required time sheets. Each should have turned in 34 time sheets; one reported 2 time sheets while the other turned in 20 time sheets.

Not surpringly, both lawmakers defended their work. "I know we were giving it 110 percent, and the results showed that," said Liggett, a Redkey Democrat who lost his House seat in 2004. He said he often worked more than 40 hours a week calling on businesses and unions around the state for the program.Aguilera, D-East Chicago, issued a statement through his attorney saying he wasn't aware of the audit until it was completed. Aguilera said he met with IU President Adam Herbert about the matter and provided information to IU rebutting the audit findings the AP reported.

Our question is: why hasn't there been a criminal investigation? Was this work not a quid pro quo? Or did Davis mean something else when he said it made more sense to hire the two lawmakers than to lose IU's line item appropriation? If the recent, alleged job-selling case involving the state's inspector general David Thomas warranted an investigation by Marion Co. Prosecutor Carl Brizzi, this case screams for an investigation.

We've been critical of Ivy Tech in the past for giving four state lawmakers, including Senate President Pro Tem Bob Garton, House Democratic Leader Pat Bauer, Rep. Craig Fry and Rep. Bill Crawford, high-paying jobs. We think the men are being paid to ensure that Ivy Tech's budget is appropriately funded by lawmakers--the appearance is undeniable, but at least they have been given jobs with duties not necessarily tied to the school's appropriations. In the case of IU's jobs for Aguilera and Liggett, there is no separation--the linkage between a state appropriation and the lawmakers' jobs is quite apparent.

Today's disclosure may help explain why Democrats have not protested too much about either the Thomas affair or the earlier job offers Daniels' chief of staff Harry Gonso admitting he had offered to Rep. Vern Tincher (D) and Rep. Bob Bischoff (D) as an added incentive for their early retirement. Democrats may have been aware that this extremely damaging audit report was about to be made public. Had they yelled too loudly about Daniels' men and then tried to dismiss this audit report, well, that would have certainly struck some as being a little hypocritical.

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