Saturday, May 13, 2006

Bolejack Claims She Was Targeted Because She's Black

Following her firing by the Board of Trustees for the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute, where she has served as executive director, Heather Bolejack sat down for an interview with the Indianapolis Star at her attorney's office. To Bolejack, her firing boiled down to just one thing: she was targeted because she was black. "You fight not going there, when you're a person of color,'' Bolejack said late Friday in her attorney's office. "You don't want to throw that card on the table. But how can I turn away from that at this point?"

No, you don't have to throw that card on the table Heather. And by doing so, you are doing a terrible disservice to any person who has truly been discriminated against because of the color of their skin. You have had a career to date that any American whether a member of a minority group or not would feel blessed to have had. Fresh out of law school, you held successive jobs at two of the city's largest and most prestigious law firms. In the case of the your first job, you were hired in large part due to a concerted effort on the part of that law firm to hire more minorities as attorneys. I know Heather. I used to work for that firm. At 30, you were chosen by the Governor of our state to run a state agency. And yes, he chose you, at least in part, in an effort to diversify the ranks of his agency heads.

The Board of Trustees fired you because it believed you improperly handled the expenditures of the agency over which you were entrusted to manage, and because you breached that trust by awarding a very lucrative grant to a childhood friend. As you explained to the Star, "Bolejack said McKenna, a childhood friend of her husband's, approached her last year with an idea for a youth program." As a new-comer to the job, you should have politely found a way to turn your friend down and, if he was a true friend, he would have understood. Instead, you looked for a way to reward a friend.

As an attorney, you should know better than anyone that there are certain legal procedures which must be followed when any public funds are to be spent. The Board concluded that you did not adhere to the rules. To tell reporters that you "did not knowingly or intentionally" circumvent those rules sounds more like a defense to a criminal charge than an explanation for why you didn't adhere to those rules.

As the Star pointed out, this is not the first time someone at the Indiana Criminal Justice Agency has been accused of impropriety. The agency fired Nikki Edgar after she took a trip and accepted gifts from an advertising representative for WFMS-FM and then spent over half of the agency's $1 million promotional budget with the radio station. Another state employee at FSSA, Matthew Raibley, who is white, was not only fired but criminally prosecuted and jailed for his role in using government funds to reward a friend.

For its part, the Board of Trustees for the agency deserves some blame for a repeat of this kind of employee impropriety in such a short period. It should have implemented an oversight in the process to avoid self-dealing by agency employees. As the Star's editorial notes today, "The fact that money was apparently misappropriated again within the same agency, but under a different administration, indicates a lack of structured oversight."

Bolejack conveniently plays the race card for one reason: to avoid personal accountability for her own mistakes. Heather, don't even try to impugn the reputations of the very people who gave you the opportunity of a lifetime to cover up your own indiscretions. Just fold that card right now.

Yesterday, AI was the first to report on Heather's attendance at the grand opening of Sushi On The Rocks with her husband Corey Smith and the friend to whom she awarded the grant, Michael McKenna. Here's Nikki Kelly's take on that in the Ft. Wayne Journal-Gazette: "Then – in a bizarre twist – a photo of Bolejack, her husband, Corey Smith, and McKenna appeared Friday in the “Party Crasher” section of the Indianapolis Star’s Web site. The picture of the three smiling was taken Thursday night at the opening of a new sushi restaurant."

Perhaps just as odd is the Star missing its own scoop on the picture. Today's article carried the photo with Heather's husband, Corey Smith, cropped out of the photo, which was taken by Chris Adams for INtake. It includes the following caption: "Heather Bolejack (left) and Michael McKenna are shown at a party this week. Investigators say proper procedure was not followed when McKenna was approved to receive a $400,000 grant through the institute. It was only partially paid."

25 comments:

Lori said...

So, what do we know about McKenna? Did I read somewhere that he came up here from NO after Katrina?

Advance Indiana said...

That doesn't sound right. He had aleady set up McKenna Consulting, LLC in Indiana before Katrina hit NO.

Lori said...

Hmmmm....someone posted that in the comment section on TDW. I wonder what this dudes background is.

TDW said...

McKenna ran for a Louisiana House seat last February in a run-off. He came in second.

My understanding is that he moved here not long after the loss, and folks down there knew at the time that he was coming here to get a contract from a state agency.

McKenna and Heather's husband, Corey Smith, were close friends when they both lived in New Orleans. I'm not sure if that's where they met.

Advance Indiana said...

Thanks TDW for the insight. That should help answer your question Lori--he did come up from Louisiana last year, but it was not because of the hurricane but because of the prospects of business with Heather's agency.

Advance Indiana said...

I found this info on McKenna on the Best of New Orleans website, which endorsed his candidacy for state representative. It reads:

We are impressed by a number of the candidates, but one stands out: attorney Michael A. McKenna. As state representative, he will work to improve teacher pay by modifying state tax exemptions so more money will go to our under-funded public schools. McKenna also will team with Murray (who has endorsed him) to help small businesses provide affordable health insurance to their employees.

McKenna recently worked as a law clerk for state Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal Judge Ed Lombard, and previously for Criminal Court Judge Arthur Hunter and Civil Court Judge Herbert Cade. A native of the Gentilly area who hails from a Seventh Ward family of educators, McKenna graduated from Jesuit High School, Xavier University and the Loyola School of Law. He is now making his first run for public office.

"I'm running because the city is not what I remember it was growing up as a kid -- that is safe streets, good schools and the opportunity to make a decent wage," he says. We urge our readers in District 96 to elect Michael McKenna state representative.

Lori said...

Thank You Gary and TDW.

jacksonsdaddy said...

Excellent post. I followed this story closely, as Heather was on the Board of Trustees of my employer (The Wellness Community) for a while. She resigned a few months ago, and from I understand, her performance there was lacking, too.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Interestingly enough, McKenna is renting from Bill Mays at

Address:
148 E Market St, Suite 701
Indianapolis, IN 46204
Phone: 317-685-8403
Fax: 317-685-8407
Email: info@indyskip.net
www.indyskip.net
Copyright © 2006 McKenna Consulting, LLC, Saving Kids of Incarcerated Parents (SKIP). All Rights Reserved.

Anonymous said...

Guess where her husband works.....

Jennifer B - LCHS '92 said...

First, let me say that it is an act of a coward to post a comment as 'anonymous' - especially one which is an inflammatory personal attack, degrading and full of out right lies

Second, as someone who knows Heather and where she came from I am appalled that supposedly "intelligent" people are trying to use this tragic situation to further their own political agendas. This has little or nothing to do with Heather and more so to do with Republican-bashing.

I graduated from LCHS with Heather in 1992. I always admired her spirit. She was a very talented young woman. During one conversation, I remember asking her why she never joined the competitive show choir of which I was a member - she certainly was gifted enough. Her response was that our competition season over lapped the track season and running track was her ticket to college and by extension a better life. How many 16 or 17 year olds have to foresight to forgo their immediate wants for their long-term goals....she is someone to be ADMIRED not DISPURGED.

In four years of high school, during the Rodney King era in fact, I NEVER saw Heather play the “race card” that was so prevalently used in our school. It disgusts me that people would claim that her success is ONLY attributed to her skin color. We didn’t have that in common, but that didn’t change the fact that we were both driven and successful in our own right.

I send out my words of support to Heather and would wish that those who are small in mind would open their eyes and see the big picture…..

Go Bears!!!

Jennifer B
LCHS class of 1992

Anonymous said...

People hear what they want to hear and see what they want as well.

I too know Heather, and belive me SHE is not playing the race card. Frankly, it is not part of her upbringing. I would say that Heather is a direct person and spoke directly to an obvious question regarding race. Her comments were taken out of context and look at by whom! The public slaying continues...

As to the Wellness Community comment - does the blogger and everyone else realize that Heather has two children. Her 11 month old has had a bit of a difficult time and frankly Heather had to make some choices regarding her time and priorities.

Anonymous said...

Interesting to see how women in the community treat other women. Women are each other's biggest enemies. Women learn at a young age to compete against each other in a vicious way (unlike men who learn to compete for what they want in a manner which allows each to maintain respect). Frankly, I don't see a woman President in our future anytime soon as evidenced by the spewing women of this city.

Anonymous said...

At Lawrence Central Heather played a significant role in averting a race riot during a school assembly which was on the verge of getting out of control as a result of the Rodney King incident. Neither school officials nor security could calm the students. It was very scary. Heather took the mike and addressed the crowd of students. She made a powerful plea to them to show respect for each other and was able to do what no adult present was able to and that was to successfully appeal to everyone's reasoning and brought calmness to the situation.

Anonymous said...

McKenna's father is a doctor. I believe his family is anxious for him to return to them and away from the hatred of this community. I heard that all the records he presented to the media and others clearly show that he was falsely smeared.

Anonymous said...

What does his father being a Doctor have to do with anything?

Anonymous said...

McKenna also lives with Heather and her husband!

Anonymous said...

Mike, his wife and child live in Greenwood as the paper and media reported. That is where they located when they came here from NO. The media doesn't always get their facts straight, but they did get that right.

Heather lives in Lawrence, she went to LC.

Anonymous said...

I think the Inspector General's Report say's it all!!! Heather is a crook.

Not only that, but she isn't smart either, you'd have to be DUMB as heck to do what she is alleged to have done in the report. She was even bold enough to insinuate to the Marion County Prosecutor's Agency that future grants would be jeopardized if they did not agree to be the legal representative for McKenna Scam Operation. DUMB, DUMB, DUMB.

Falsifying reports, abusing subordinates by requiring they put her expenses on their personal credit cards, my god, she was only in office less than a year, with a portion of that on maternity leave, and she managed to concoct this grand scam!

Stop defending this crook, she had it made...31 years old, no personality, poor social skills, no management skills, dumb as heck, but in a job of a lifetime. But she blew it!!!! Plain and simple. Yes, may she did some good things in the past, but her present behaviour is what she is being measured by. (By the way, most criminals who are in prison did good things in their past, BUT...)

Now, what about the REAL Victims, Children of Incarcerated Parents.

Anonymous said...

I think the Inspector General's Report say's it all!!! Heather is a crook.

Not only that, but she isn't smart either, you'd have to be DUMB as heck to do what she is alleged to have done in the report. She was even bold enough to insinuate to the Marion County Prosecutor's Agency that future grants would be jeopardized if they did not agree to be the legal representative for McKenna Scam Operation. DUMB, DUMB, DUMB.

Falsifying reports, abusing subordinates by requiring they put her expenses on their personal credit cards, my god, she was only in office less than a year, with a portion of that on maternity leave, and she managed to concoct this grand scam!

Stop defending this crook, she had it made...31 years old, no personality, poor social skills, no management skills, dumb as heck, but in a job of a lifetime. But she blew it!!!! Plain and simple. Yes, may she did some good things in the past, but her present behaviour is what she is being measured by. (By the way, most criminals who are in prison did good things in their past, BUT...)

Now, what about the REAL Victims, Children of Incarcerated Parents.

Anonymous said...

You have completely misrepresented the IG's report. And the IG's report is filled with errors in fact and misrepresentation of behavior and events.

Your bias has 'colored' your ability to listen so my thinking is why bother?

Heather is a bright, hard working young woman who was targeted for take down by subordinates who resented the changes she brought to the agency and by others who stood to gain politically by her removal.

You likely don't know how grants are awarded - but if I told you that board members vote on grants awarded to themselves what would you say? Do you know that grants and contracts are REGULARLY given to people known by the people making the decisions? This IS and HAS been standard practice.

There is no crime here - none at all by Heather. The only falsification of anything was Kate Gullen's travel reimbursement.

The IG's report doesn't say Heather falsified any reports. It is inaccurate for you to say it does. Apparently there are some original minutes and then a subsequent set of more detailed minutes, neither of which Heather created and both created months ago..nothing recently and certainly nothing created around the time of the investigation. In my work environment this happens frequently where we have an original document and a later version which is updated. We don't always go around to everyone's PCs and delete the 'old' original, incomplete version. Version control of documents is an ongoing struggle in all modern offices. Just because two version exist is NO SIGN of any wrongdoing. Not at all! If different version exist it is usually no big deal and easily explained to people who WANT TO LISTEN! Look, if Heather had falsified documents the report would have been VERY SPECIFIC about that...IT WASN'T AND SHE DIDN'T!

You will also note the IG's report mentions a subordinate putting expenses on their credit cards. If you'll recall the 'leaks' made to the media made a big 'hint' at a travel scandal associated with Heather. But there apparently was none so the IG, pressed to mention something in his report regarding Heather's travel, had to find something to mention. I heard that there were a handful of times in which a someone from the office put expenses on their credit card that were Heather's. I don't believe the person was asked to do so - just offered to do so. If you'll look closely at the report it doesn't say Heather made anyone do this. In fact, there is even mention about the person agreeing.....read more closely. I work on the private side and can tell you that I too have put expenses of those traveling with me on my cards..for the following reasons:
a) convenience - we're at an airport restaurant and want to get out quickly so we put everything on one card
b) for airline mileage - my personal credit card is associated with an airline and I get free mileage so I use it every chance I get to get those miles.
c) the person with me doesn't have a card or their card is maxed - this does happen
d) not every place accepts all cards so sometimes we have to dig in our wallets to find a card which is accepted

Her maternity leave:
Heather's maternity leave was 'expected' if you'll pardon the pun and was part of her agreement to take the job...so if you don't like it blame the administration, not Heather. Prior to her leave she worked 12 - 16 hour days for the 6 weeks leading up to birth - including working right up till her labor.

Also, while she was not in the office during her paid maternity leave she spent many hours during her leave working while also taking care of an nursing her little boy. Her email and blackberry records should support me on these points.

Let's talk about the ethics of bearing false witness...

Advance Indiana said...

Anonymous 9:38--you speak as though you have first-hand knowledge of all these events, although you assert you are from the private sector. It seems to me you should be talking to the prosecutors instead of me. BTW--My post after the IG's report was made public does indeed raise questions about how grants are awarded in general and the need for a wider investigation of how grants have been awarded at the agency. I suspected the very problem you raise with Board members voting on grants for their own agencies.

Anonymous said...

All I post is known by many - the problem is the outcome of all this was pre-determined. So-called investigation, my foot!

Anonymous said...

Everyone in Law school knows that Heather cheated on her exams and pulled the race card when she got caught. In addition, both her current husband and ex-husband were men that were involved in seroious relationships and Heather schemed and manipilated to get them into bed. Let's not forget her bankruptcy either. No one in theie right mind should trust her with money or around their man. She is NO good and had to learn the hard way. Sorry for her LUCK!!! Oh and all of you that knew her in High School...grow up and realize that she is not that same little girl.