Saturday, October 30, 2010

State Ethics Commission Never Saw A Revolving Door Case It Didn't Like

The IBJ's Francesca Jarosz has a story today that confirms what we already knew. The state's revolving door law has no teeth, or at least how it is interpreted by the people Gov. Mitch Daniels has appointed to the state ethics commission.

A state ethics panel that’s been under fire for allowing a state regulator to take a job with a utility has a long history of lenient decisions.

An IBJ review of 27 rulings by the Indiana State Ethics Commission dating back to 2006 shows the five-member body has not prohibited a state employee from taking a private-sector or not-for-profit job in the last 4-1/2 years.

On only a few occasions has the panel [3 to be exact]  which advises state employees on ethics laws, required a 365-day “cooling off” period between jobs.
Jarosz explains what Indiana's revolving door law supposedly requires.
The law dictating state employees’ moves to jobs outside state government says they cannot take a job if the employer offered it to influence the employees in their state positions.

The law also stipulates that employees take a 365-day cooling-off period under certain circumstances, such as if state employees accept positions as executive-branch lobbyists or had negotiated or administered contracts with the employer on behalf of the state agency.

The law also bars state employees from working on certain contracts, lawsuits, claims or other matters involving the state if the state employee was “personally and substantially” involved in those issues while with the state.

It’s up to the ethics commission, whose advice employees seek only on a voluntary basis, to interpret whether those laws apply.
Jarosz goes on to explain how Daniels' ethics commission has gone on to waive the one-year cooling off period for two of his budget directors who accepted jobs with companies for whom they had approved bond issuances or state contracts. As she explained, the ethics commission saw no problem with their hiring because they had not actually negotiated the agreements; they only voted on them. What a total joke the state ethics commission has become.


Paul K. Ogden said...

We've known this for a long time. I hope the article talks about Inspector General David Thomas. Much of the problem is his prosecution of political foes while ignoring true ethical problems in the adminstration.

Bradley said...

Paul - Agreed. The Governor was very smart to create an office of Inspector General, which shows he is an "Ethics Crusader", while keeping the office directly under his control (instead of being either independent or under the General Assembly or judicial system). I think the people who work in the IG office are probably hardworking and honest, but unfortunately they have to answer to the Governor who wants nothing answered.

Marycatherine Barton said...

All three of you, Gary, Paul, and Bradley, are exactly, sadly, correct.