The Indiana Inspector General’s Office keeps a daily log of every complaint filed with the ethics and efficiency watchdog.
But finding out what happened to them is another story, as the complaints slip into a bureaucratic black hole of confidentiality with Hoosier taxpayers often unaware of the findings.
Inspector General David Thomas says he isn’t at liberty to even confirm the existence of a specific complaint, though some are publicly known.
Kelly cites the three following cases as examples of cases falling into this black hole:
• In June 2006, an anonymous complaint was filed with the inspector general regarding then-Hoosier Lottery Director Esther Schneider. The complainant also gave copies to various media outlets, which were quickly placed on several blogs. Schneider responded to the complaint personally, denying most of the allegations while admitting a few. She also told reporters she welcomed the inspector general’s involvement and felt it would vindicate her.Although David Thomas' office has received over 1,000 complaints since he became the state's first Inspector General and he has written a report on every case, he tells Kelly he's only publicly released 58 of those reports. The new law gave Thomas discretion to withhold the reports from the public. Kelly explains:
• In November 2005, the Indiana Democratic Party asked the inspector general to look into then-Indiana Department of Transportation Commissioner Tom Sharp for meeting with transportation-industry officials who also are GOP political donors. That meeting was coordinated by the Republican Party’s state fundraising unit, and the issue was first raised in an Indianapolis Star column.
• In May 2006, the Indiana Democratic Party publicly filed a complaint seeking the inspector general to investigate a contract between Fort Wayne businessman Richard Rhoad and the Family and Social Services Administration. Rhoad had been
chief financial officer of the agency since the beginning of 2005, receiving a $100,000 base salary. After complications over housing and travel expenses, Rhoad resigned as a state employee Jan. 13, 2006, and signed a personal-services contract the same day with FSSA to continue as CFO with pay of $180,000 a year. Rhoad has since left state government altogether.
For instance, in criminal cases he makes the report public only after he has forwarded it to a local prosecutor and charges have been filed. If a prosecutor chooses not to file charges, Thomas evaluates the confidentiality of the reports on a case-by-case basis.
Thomas also undertakes efficiency cases, such as when he determined that state government could save money by not leaving on the lights in the downtown government center complex at night. Those reports are handled on a case-by-case basis, though all have been made public.
It is the third and largest category – possible ethics violations – that appears to create confusion.
Thomas said these reports are confidential until the State Ethics Commission finds there is probable cause for an ethics violation or the target of the investigation waives their right to confidentiality.
In the case of Daniels' use of a donated RV for political purposes, Thomas quickly concluded an investigation and released a report to the public at Daniels' urging. In the case of Heather Bolejack, the former executor director of the Indiana Criminal Justice Agency, Thomas said he released it because Bolejack had involved the media so much in the case. In Thomas' defense, the way he is applying Indiana's law on the public release of reports is not all that different than other states according to Kelly's report. "But Fred Palm, executive director of the Association of Inspectors General in New York, said this type of confidentiality is commonplace in other inspector general offices nationwide." “It doesn’t mean (Thomas) is not doing his job,” he said. “There are all sorts of protections and prohibitions with respect to investigations. They need to preserve the integrity of the process."