Lewis works for the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute, consulting for the Governor's Commission for a Drug-Free Indiana. She also consults for the Great Indy Neighborhood Initiative, which works to create and implement community improvement plans.
Yes, the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute receives a significant amount of federal funding. The federal Hatch Act prohibits state and local employees who are principally employed in connection with programs financed in whole or in part by loans or grants made by the federal government from engaging in political activities. Those activities include being a candidate for public office in a partisan office. The Act extends to nonprofit employees as well if the statute through which the organization receives its federal funds contains language which states that the organization shall be considered to be a state or local agency for purposes of the Hatch Act.
The Office of Special Counsel, the federal agency charged with enforcing the Hatch Act, recently opined that Terre Haute Mayor Duke Bennett violated the Little Hatch Act by running for mayor in Terre Haute last year. Bennett worked for the Hamilton Center in Terre Haute, which received federal Head Start money for its day care center. Although Bennett's job primarily entailed work unrelated to the day care center, he was still found to have violated the Act. The Indiana Court of Appeals recently ruled in favor of a challenge by former Terre Haute Mayor Kevin Burke and declared the mayor's office vacant because of Bennett's Hatch Act violation. Bennett is appealing the ruling to the state's Supreme Court.
A summary of opinions on the OSC's website indicates that candidates for partisan public office have been found to have violated the Act when they worked for local law enforcement agencies, a county veterans services department, a state department of transportation agency, a transit authority, a local housing authority, a township building inspector's office, a county and a fire department.
Let's take a look at other city councilors whose partisan election to the Indianapolis City-County Council might have posed a Hatch Act problem if a challenge had been made to their candidacies:
- Monroe Gray elected while working as a division chief for the Indianapolis Fire Department. He retired from the fire department at the end of last year.
- Jackie Nytes, originally elected while serving as CFO of the Indianapolis/Marion Co. public library, she is currently serving as executive director of the nonprofit Mapleton-Fall Creek Development Corporation.
- Brian Mahern elected while working for the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission.
- Dane Mahern elected while working for the City's Department of Administration.
- Mary Moriarty Adams was originally elected while working for the Indiana Housing Authority. She now works for the nonprofit National MS Society.
- Vernon Brown elected while working as a battalion chief for the Indianapolis Fire Department.
- Benjamin Hunter elected while working as a sergeant in the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department.
- Lincoln Plowman elected while working as a sheriff's deputy. He is now serving in a top management position in charge of investigations for the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department.
It's something to chew on. I am also a strong believer that some of these folks' service on the City-County Council violates the Indiana Constitution, which bars someone from holding positions in two branches of government simultaneously as a classic separation of powers problems. You would think folks would understand the conflict of interest in participating in budgetary and administrative matters pertaining to the agency of government which employs you but obviously that is not the case. And if any of the named individuals have a beef with being put on this list, then kindly furnish me an OSC opinion you obtained before seeking election to a partisan office. I will gladly share it with the readers here.