Sunday, May 14, 2006

Bolejack's Problems Deepen

A report in today's Star by Kevin Corcoran suggests that Heather Bolejack's problems are far from over after her firing by the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute's Board of Trustees on Friday. If the findings of Inspector General David Thomas as laid out in the report are sustainable, she and others will no doubt face criminal prosecution.

Her big problem revolves around the awarding of a $417,000 grant to a firm owned by a childhood friend of her husband's, McKenna Consulting. Bolejack has stated publicly that the idea of the grant, which was to aid the children of incarcerated parents, came from Michael McKenna, an attorney who until last year lived in New Orleans, Louisiana where he unsuccessfully sought election to the District 96 seat in the state House of Representatives (the Gentilly area of New Orleans); he lost a primary runoff race in February, 2005. McKenna approached Bolejack after losing his bid for elective office about obtaining a grant for the program he called S.K.I.P., an acronym for Saving Kids of Incarcerated Parents.

Bolejack previously claimed that she referred McKenna's idea for a grant to her deputy Katalina Gullans to handle because of she and her husband's close personaly relationship with McKenna, which she had disclosed to the appropriate persons. According to Corcoran's report, that did not happen. Instead, Bolejack signed the documents awarding the $417,000 grant for the S.K.I.P. program directly to the ICJI and then immediatly awarded it to McKenna Consulting, LLC as a sub-grantee "outside the review and approval process," failing at any point to disclose her relationship with McKenna. ICJI has a 3-step approval process for grants, which was completely ignored. That process provides for:

• A review by the eight-member Juvenile Justice State Advisory Group, which either recommends or rejects grants.
• A review by the juvenile division subcommittee of the justice institute's board of trustees.
• Approval by the full board of trustees.

McKenna Consulting, LLC, according to the Secretary of State's records, was not created until August 8, 2005. It received one payment of $80,000 previously, and a second payment in the amount of $100,000 was intercepted by the state before it could be cashed by McKenna. The Inspector General's office concluded that no services had been provided to date by McKenna Consulting, and that McKenna planned to spend over half of the grant money on salaries, cars, office space and out-of-state travel. Notwithstanding those conclusions, a website had been established by the S.K.I.P. program, and a not-for-profit with that name had been established late last year according to the Secretary of State's records.

What Bolejack and her chief deputy Gullans did after questions began being raised about the legality of the grant is what could cause serious criminal charges to be brought against either or both. The IG's report indicates that Gullans falsified travel reimbursement records and then lied to the IG's investigators. It is not clear what those travel reimbursement records related to, or whether they in any way pertained to the McKenna grant. Once she was caught lying, Gullans offered her resignation, but the state insisted on a firing to send a message to other employees. Bolejack's firing, however, was largely due to her failure to follow appropriate procedures in awarding the $417,000 grant to McKenna according to Corcoran's report.

Bolejack has insisted that the Board approved the McKenna grant, although she acknowledges she did not disclose her relationship with McKenna to anyone on the Board. But Attorney General Steve Carter, who also sits on the Board, thinks differently. "The board did not approve the grant," he said. Carter told Corcoran that the state will bring a civil suit against McKenna to recover the $80,000 he's already been paid.

Here's where it really becomes sticky. According to the IG's findings, there exists two sets of board minutes for a September 8, 2005 meeting. One set of minutes shows that the grant was approved by the board, which Steve Carter insists never happened. Although the charge has not been publicly leveled by investigators, the implication is that someone doctored a second set of minutes to give the appearance of Board approval.

If the original $417,000 grant wasn't enough to satisfy McKenna's appetite, Bolejack had even more planned for him. The IG's investigation determined that she had directed another $80,000 grant be awarded to McKenna only a short time before the investigation was launched. According to Corcoran's report, employees within the agency refused to process the grant. Bolejack denied the allegation, but she acknowledged that she had helped with a grant for Black Expo which would have involved McKenna. She insisted she had done "nothing untoward."

Whether the grant to McKenna or other actions by Bolejack, Gullans and others involved criminal wrondoing will have to be decided by federal or state prosecutors. The IG's office plans to forward all of the evidence gathered to both the Marion Co. Prosecutor and the U.S. Attorney's office in Indianapolis for further action. McKenna's attempt to create the S.K.I.P. non-profit after-the-fact may draw particularly close scrutiny by federal investigators. It has all the appearances of being a sham organization. Because the Marion Co. Prosecutor's office has previously received grant money from the ICJI and because the investigation involves federal funds, it is most likely that the federal prosecutors will take the lead on this investigation.

When the Board voted to fire Bolejack on Friday, the vote in favor of firing her was 10-1. The question is how any Board member could have voted against her firing based upon the findings disclosed in Corcoran's report today? Both WTHR-TV and the Ft. Wayne Journal-Gazetter confirm that Larry Landis, the executive director of the Public Defenders Council was the lone dissenting vote. Landis declined to comment on the reason for his vote.

One major irony in this story is the fact that it was Heather Bolejack who was at the center of the investigation that led to the downfall of former Indiana Court's Clerk Duane Brown about 10 years ago. Bolejack, then working as an employee of that office, accused Brown of misusing court staff employees for personal and political purposes. He was ultimately convicted on charges of ghost payrolling. In Bolejack's case, it was one of her own employees who blew the whistle on her alleged wrongdoing. Will Bolejack meet the same fate as Brown?


Anonymous said...

She is going to be fine. She is a strong young woman who has the truth going for her. Certainly each of us has supporters and detractors and she is no different. However, she has a strong record of achievement and that's something not everyone has. Her personal strength and support from those who know her will get her through this. It is unfortunate that people who don't know her have joined in the public 'piling on' and chosen to be so publicly mean spirited.

I'm sure those who study people for a living clearly see there must be much missing from the personal lives of those who devote the time and energy to the unwarranted destruction of others.

Anonymous said...

When a report like this is published to the public, it's just the tip of the iceberg, the deeper you look under the surface, and worse is actually gets. Huge egos like hers can't fathom why "lesser people" would dare challenge them. This one is really all about ego. It's unfortunate she's played the race card - a great disservice to true leaders.

Anonymous said...

Ridiculous comment and again you have said what? Nothing - just tossing around mean-spirited comments out of some jealousy or hatred.

You also mistate the facts - get them straight. Did you hear her on Amos Brown show? Did you hear the channel 13 interview? If so, please quote where she 'played the race card' you mention. She did not. In fact just the opposite.

Advance Indiana said...

Anonymous 12:08--The Star clearly reported that she raised the issue of race during an interview with one of their reporters. Are you saying the Star misquoted her?

Anonymous said...

THEY raised the race question...then reported it as if she did.

Most of the local media isn't interested in the truth - they just want sound bits and catchy headlines for ratings and then on to the next victim.

Knowing many of the facts, I am outraged by the injustice and manner in which Bolejack has been railroaded in this manner.

I have heard of this happening but until seeing it happen to someone like Bolejack one doesn't fully appreciate how the media and public can be manipulated to a conclusion which is false.

If they can do this to her what are they doing to people who lack education and power?

It's just wrong!