Tuesday, June 28, 2011

A Sad Day For Local Goverrnment In Indiana

The last twenty-four hour news cycle has not been a good time for local government leadership in Indiana. Here's a sampling of local government officials in the news who are too representative of the sorry state of affairs we face in government leadership today. In West Terre Haute, a clerk-treasurer is arrested for embezzling city funds:

Western Indiana police have arrested a town's deputy clerk-treasurer for allegedly stealing more than $100,000 from its water department.
WTHI-TV in Terre Haute reports that 66-year-old Vickie Ashburn has been charged with theft and corrupt business influence. She's jailed on a $50,000 bond, pending a Wednesday court hearing.
Ashburn is the deputy clerk-treasurer for West Terre Haute, where on Tuesday state police detectives descended on the town hall.
Investigators believe more than $360,000 has gone missing from the town's water works department since 2007.
Sgt. Joe Watts says more arrests may follow "and we may find out where all the money went." State auditors found this year that the amount of cash customers used to pay their utility bill didn't match the amount of cash deposited in the bank.'

In the small town of Mecca in Parke County, the fire chief apparently poses the greatest public safety  threat to the town's residents:
Police say a western Indiana fire chief is being held on a preliminary drunken driving charge after his car crashed into a house, killing a man and critically injuring his wife.
Parke County Chief Deputy Sheriff Bill Todd tells the Tribune-Star of Terre Haute that 43-year-old Stacey Williamson was pronounced dead at the scene of early Tuesday's accident. His 46-year-old wife, Mary Williamson, is in critical condition at an Indianapolis hospital.
Todd says Mecca Fire Chief Michael R. Collom was driving a 2006 Ford Mustang when the 38-year-old lost control of the car about 4:45 a.m. and crashed into the Williamson's home in the town of Mecca, entering their bedroom. Four children in the house were not injured.
Collom is being held without bail on a preliminary drunken driving charge.
 The emergency services director in another western Indiana community poses a danger to his family:

A Central Indiana emergency management director was taken off the job Tuesday after being arrested.
Putnam County Director Kim Hyten faces charges including strangulation and criminal confinement related to an incident with his wife. His wife told state police Hyten threw her off the porch, dragged her around by the foot, and assaulted her.
Hyten was removed from his position by the county commissioners in a unanimous vote and will remain on leave indefinitely.
And a police chief closer to Indianapolis in Zionsville faces charges of official misconduct:

 Zionsville's embattled police chief is expected to learn Wednesday if he'll be charged following a state police investigation into accusations of misconduct. 
Special prosecutor David Powell said a key document would be filed with the court Wednesday, one he expected would be a major step forward in the investigation into Rick Dowden.
The probe began last summer when a confidential informant came forward and accused the chief of stealing a 50-inch plasma TV that had been recovered as evidence in a Boone County burglary.
The TV was later found mounted in Dowden's home, investigators said.
Dowden placed himself on leave after becoming angry during a November roll call when several witnesses said he drew his cocked service revolver, pointing it in the air while simulating the sound of gunfire. 
In a controversial move, Dowden returned to his job in February, continuing to lead the department even as his career is in question.
Board of Police Commissioners Chairman Art Harris said he hopes progress will be made in the case soon.
"Nobody knows what the outcome of this is going to be. Our police chief could be exonerated, or he could be charged," said Harris, who said officers were in limbo. "I mean, when you have that cloud hanging over your head, it's hard to focus on what you're supposed to be doing."
Harris said the investigation has most recently been focused on the handling of a stolen car seized by police.

1 comment:

Bradley said...

I know the first story from West Terre Haute is just a snippet, but I wish, when they say "state auditors", they would clarify and say it's the State Board of Accounts who made the discovery. That state agency was specifically created over 100 years ago to ferret-out fraud, theft, and wasteful spending across the state in various levels of government. Instead of creating more positions to figure-out why there are problems in government (as so many leaders and legislative bodies tend to do), there needs to be more auditors and oversight of government functions created instead.

I know under Mitch Daniels, who is not alone in his narrow thinking, SBOA auditors/accountants have been laid-off. Indiana saves a buck now, but with less people and time to perform audits, we lose a lot more down the road (and will be losing more soon). Much like the Inspector General's Office, SBOA should probably not be under the direction of the Governor's office any more, which would increase independence and retract politics as much as possible to really try and root-out corruption, bad ethics, fiscal mismanagement and malfeasance.

But good government is not something Indiana seems to reach for nowadays. I do know, overall, what the SBOA does is what we need more of in this state.