So what should we make of today's announcement? Let's begin with what we know. The inspector general's office was created to investigate allegations of criminal or unethical activity or inefficiency in state government. As executive director of ICJI, Bolejack oversees $60 million in federal funding. During Daniels' tenure, the focus of the agency has been to fight the scourge of methamphetamine use.
While it is unclear whether the investigation involves something of a criminal or ethical nature. WTHR-TV reports that its sources say that Bolejack's travel and expense records are under review. Roger Harvey said, "She often travels to Washington, DC, and other cities like New York to discuss federal grants and how to bring those dollars to Indiana." Also under investigation is a several hundred thousand dollar federal grant which was given to a friend of Bolejack's husband according to WTHR-TV's sources.
What should be observed is the highly unusual nature of the head of a state agency being placed on paid leave. Because a gubernatorial appointee serves at the discretion of the Governor, a resignation, voluntary or involuntary, is the typical way an administration deals with a high-level appointee suspected of wrong-doing. Paid administrative leaves are typically reserved for lower-level bureaucrats until it can be determined whether any alleged wrong-doing actually took place. Thomas told WTHR-TV he expected to have his investigation concluded within the next two weeks. So what's different about this case? Did Bolejack resist administration efforts to resign, leaving the Governor no other choice than to place her on paid administrative leave?
Another interesting aspect of this story is what was the impetus behind the investigation. It appears that Thomas' investigation may have been prompted after the Indiana Democratic Party made a public records request from the agency last month. The AP says, "The Indiana Democratic Party later said in a statement that it submitted a records request on March 17 asking the institute for Bolejack's expense reimbursement vouchers and travel and petty cash records. The party said it received a general letter acknowledging its receipt, but the agency had not produced any of the records."
Adding to the intrigue is WTHR-TV's claim that it also requested travel records of Bolejack and other top agency staffers this past week. This might suggest that the administration was trying to stay ahead of this story by publicly announcing the investigation and moving quickly to place Bolejack on administrative paid leave in anticipation of potentially embarrassing disclosures. It is worth noting that Thomas, unlike Bolejack, was not placed on paid leave while Marion Co. Prosecutor Carl Brizzi investigated allegations that Thomas offered a state job to a Democratic sheriff's candidate in Clay County if he would end his campaign.
UPDATE: The Indianapolis Star reports that "Bolejack received $3,369 in reimbursements for travel expenses to regional and national conferences in Washington, Boston, Minneapolis and Hawaii, on topics such as methamphetamine and grants management, according to records from the state auditor's office." If her job required her to do a lot of travelling, that amount does not appear to be out of line. The newspaper also reports that she received a $100 reimbursement for ethics training. The Star article also indicates that agency logs show a complaint about the contract process was made back on Febrary 3, but does not say who made the complaint. This makes you wonder where the Star got this information? Neither the Democratic Party nor WTHR's public information requests had been responded to when this story broke yesterday. Is the administration playing favorites with the release of public records?
This is not the first time this agency has been investigated. In 2004, the state terminated a $565,000 advertising contract it had with WFMS radio station when it was discovered that an agency employee, Nikki Edgar, initiated the contract with WFMS after she had returned from a vacation in Cancun, Mexico with an account executive for the radio station. The agency also fired Edgar.
TDW's Jennifer Wagner, who also serves as communications director for the Indiana Democratic Party tells AI tonight that "the party received a number of anonymous tips that there are travel and petty cash issues as well as some potential working-from-home issues at CJI -- with Heather and at least one other employee." Wagner continued, "We put in the records request, and we got a general letter back in response." Wagner is quite familiar with the ICJI as she worked there under the previous Democratic administration.
With the inspector general's broad investigative powers, the administration is able to contain investigations of high-level administration appointees within the inspector general's office as opposed to an independent investigation by the Marion Co. Prosecutor's office. The prosecutor's office gets the case only if it is referred to it for prosecution by the inspector general. Let's hope that the inspector general is using his powers in this case to find the truth, not whitewash it for public consumption.