Wednesday, November 24, 2010

More Bad News For Daniels Administration On IURC Ethics Flap

A new report by the Star's John Russell suggests Daniels' own office knew more about the controversial hiring of former IURC general counsel Scott Storms by Duke Energy a bit sooner than had earlier been claimed. Russell writes:

More than a month before a state ethics panel gave a green light to the top lawyer at the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission to take a job with a major utility, Gov. Mitch Daniels' chief of staff seemed to be raising doubts that such a move would clear ethical hurdles, according to e-mails obtained by The Indianapolis Star.

By early September, those hurdles disappeared.

In a series of back-and-forth messages in August, two key players involved in the revolving-door case discussed the doubts and how to handle them.

The messages concerned whether Scott Storms, then general counsel and administrative law judge at the regulatory commission, would face ethical issues by seeking a job at Duke Energy Corp., over whose cases he had presided for several years. Storms had played a key role in administering one of Duke's biggest ongoing cases before the commission, construction of the utility's massive $2.9 billion coal-gasification plant in Edwardsport.

Mike Reed, then president of Duke Energy's Indiana division, wrote an e-mail on Aug. 1 to David Lott Hardy, the chairman of the regulatory commission. Reed said he had recently played golf with "EAG," presumed to be Daniels' chief of staff, Earl A. Goode, and the subject of Storms had come up.

"EAG told me during golf he will be surprised if IG [inspector general] OK's SS to join us. Reason: Eport," Reed wrote to Hardy, using shorthand to refer to the Edwardsport plant.

A few minutes later, Hardy shot back his answer: "What a crock."

But Reed had an idea. "Now we know the challenge," he wrote to Hardy. "Let's not give up. Focus may need to be how to convince that we can wall him off."

He told Hardy that the commission's ethics officer, Loraine L. Seyfried, "must clearly spell out how (Storms) would be walled off from Edwardsport, and therefore meet the test."

A few weeks later, on Aug. 25, Seyfried sent a three-page memo to Storms, stating her opinion that his prospective employment with Duke would not violate the state ethics code, as he had not negotiated or administered a contract with Duke while with the IURC. She stated that Storms had screened himself from pending Duke cases after submitting his resume to Duke, and the cases were reassigned to other administrative law judges.
So who told Seyfried what she had to write to make Storm's hiring look kosher? And why is the Governor's chief of staff playing golf with Duke's president and discussing the hiring of IURCs top attorney by the utility? It all sounds a little too cozy to me.


Paul K. Ogden said...

Daniels runs a frustratingly loose ship when it comes to the departments and agencies. Giving Barnes & Thornburg that $5.25 million contract to represent FSSA when its own client, ACS, is in the middle of the mess, is possibly the worst legal conflict of interest I've ever seen. Betsy Burdick, the Governor's chief of staff is sister of Brian Burdick, one of the B&T attorneys who got the contract.

At the same time this conflict-ridden contract is handed out, the Governor tries to take the high road with the IURC mess. Turns out they knew about the ethical problems early on and didn't take action.

Bradley said...

I had to go back and look, but I knew somewhere on your blog I had left a message about this:

Bradley said...

I don't buy Daniels' sudden interest in ethics conflicts at all -- not based on his past stance of ignoring ethics problems in his executive departments. I also have little faith a Republican-controlled legislature will beef-up ethics and revolving door laws. Don't get me wrong, if the Republicans do win the House back, I hope they do, but I won't hold my breath.
10:54 PM EST

And I also left a message at Paul Ogden's blog on the same subject:

I know I shouldn't be bragging like this, but I have been waiting on this story to break for a while -- a connection between the Governor and the IURC deal that I (and others) knew was there. It doesn't get much closer than Earl Goode, and you know Daniels talked with Goode about it all. I knew darn well Daniels would not have acted so quickly to squash this story and appear as an "ethics warrior" unless he had some personal connection that might make him look bad.

This news story certainly makes him look bad. The only really shocking part of this is the Indianapolis Star broke the story (haven't seen anyone else with it yet). As I have said, Daniels DOES NOT CARE ABOUT ETHICS. He creates and Inspector General's office to look into ethics problems, but leaves the office under him. They report to him, and he can tell them what to investigate further (to make him look good) and what they can keep hidden (to also make him look good).

Based on what I experienced at Workforce Development and what I have read from others who have personal dealings with the Daniels' gang, this administration has very little in the way of ethics. Today's news story shows how truly little Daniels has cared about ethics -- and oh how that will not be pleasant for him in the future.

guy77money said...

No ethics! Sounds like Daniel's would make a perfect president! ;)